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  • Alternative Character Interpretation;
    • America’s Attitude towards the other girls crying during the first rebel attack. She comments on how none of them are fit to be queen because they broke down crying and because Queen Amberly is put together. In-universe, this is seen as America being smart, yet she ends up coming off as unempathetic. Of course, Amberly is put together; she’s been living at the palest for at least twenty years and the palace is attacked regularly. This is the first time any of the contestants have experienced a rebel attack, of course, they’re going be scared, the rebels could kill them.
      • Would America even make as good a queen as she thinks? She’s shown repeatedly to be unable to keep a secret by revealing the existence of secret information to her father and on national television. Then she let it slip that she saw Maxon with his shirt off. When she’s given a philanthropy project she puts it off until the last minute when everyone around her says it should be easy for her. Continues to see Aspen behind Maxon’s back despite seeing what the penalty for that could be through Marlee and Carter. And when she knows she’s being set up by Clarkson, she still plays right into his hand anyway and shows that she can’t make a difficult choice if it ever comes to that. So America can’t keep secrets, can’t follow the rules, puts off important work, can’t make the tough choice, and is played like a fiddle.
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    • Are Aspen’s claims that he won’t stop fighting for America even when she expresses no interest in continuing a relationship romantic, or creepy considering that he won’t back down.
    • Eadlyn at the end of The Heir. Did she finally decide to take the Selection seriously and seriously consider finding a husband because she realizes the value of love and companionship… Or is she really just looking for someone to leech onto after Arhen eloped?
    • Josie. Is she an annoying brat who wants to be a princess so bad to the point of annoyance, or a girl who is constantly overshadowed by her family friend’s daughter and just looks up to her as an older sister?
  • Angst? What Angst?
    • Maxon is shown to be controlled by and abused by Clarkson to the point where he prepared himself to fight back one day should the day ever come. Yet he seems pretty well-adjusted. Which is kind of jarring, as it’s likely Clarkson’s own upbringing that made him what he is.
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    • Maxon also doesn’t seem that bothered when his parents (or at least Amberly) are killed at the end of the One. Heck, America’s more torn up over Amberly’s death than Maxon!
    • Neither Marlee nor Carter seem to have been affected that much mentally by their public caning.
  • Ass Pull
    • Aspen falling for Lucy in The One. There was little build-up outside of Lucy developing feelings for him and some minor Ship Tease in the novella, The Guard. However, despite this, Aspen spends the better part of three books, plus the novella, pinning for America only to end with Aspen telling her point blank that he doesn’t love her anymore out of nowhere. It ends up coming across as a forced and clunky way of settling the Love Triangle.
    • Ahren eloping with Camille. Most of his country and France are okay with this relationship, and he only really does it because supposedly Eadlyn won’t forgive him for leaving her. Even though she essentially wanted to keep him tied to Illea because she couldn’t stand the thought of him living in another country…despite her always talking about keeping her autonomy all the time. This makes America have a heart attack and is just a way to build tension in the story that was lacking it for much of the book.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
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    • America. While some find her to be a fiery and passionate girl who is a Single Woman Seeks Good Man, she can come off as quite unempathetic (such as when some of the girls are crying during the first rebel attack, where they could die) and can sometimes have deep contempt for the other girls in the Selection. It doesn’t help her character in The Elite when she’s so indecisive in her Love Triangle, shifting from Maxon to Aspen the minute there’s a slight problem with one relationship.
    • Aspen to some extent. While some love him, other’s find him to be whiny, a jerk to America, someone who would put America in danger just because he wanted to love her, or simply not Maxon.
    • Eadlyn is a pretty controversial lead. Some disliked her for her selfish attitude and felt that her novels were Sequelitis. Others like that she had a different personality from America and that she experienced Character Development.
  • Broken Base:
    • The character’s names. While some find them perfectly acceptable for the books setting, others find them either downright ridiculous or far too on the nose (America Singer, Anna Farmer, Tiny Lee). Some readers have seen this as a poor attempt in following The Hunger Games footsteps, but lacking the self-awareness when the Meaningful Names became ridiculous.
    • Many found the Selected girls themselves to cliché. The girl who’s Not Like Other Girls and doesn’t fall for the guy everyone likes, the sweet best friend who could do no wrong, the Rich Bitch who will do anything to get what she wants, the Token Minority and so on.
    • The whole world building seems very loose and confusing. A lot of readers felt it was better to have it in a fantasy setting since it wouldn’t concern the state of the real world, therefore making the world building a little easier. In-universe, the reasons China gives to invade America (…the country) comes off as the book needing a reason for Illea to exist, as the way to get back the money you loaned someone is to not go into a war that’s just going to drain even more money and resources.
    • The Love Triangle. Not only is Aspen and America’s break-up rather contrived and possibly sexist (he realized it wasn’t going to work because she made him dinner with money she earned, but he’s a "man" so he should be providing for her) but he’s soon after drafted into the guard, that not only elevates him to a Two but pays really well. But America herself quite literally goes back and forth between Maxon and Aspen. One minute she’s in love with Maxon, the next there’s a misunderstanding, she hates him, goes back to Aspen, makes up with Maxon and is in love with him again. It’s only really settled by a contrived Pair the Spares moment when Aspen is inexplicitly in love with Lucy. The whole issue is made worse by the fact that America looks awful, and just stupid, throughout. By waffling between the two she’s essentially stringing them along, which is never treated as wrong, but she saw first hand what could happen if she’s ever caught with Maxon. (And hypocritical as America throws a fit when she catches Maxon with Celeste.) This is made worse by the fact that poor Maxon is largely in the dark about what’s going on (though he does admit he suspected late in The One).
    • The depictions of abuse. Is it a good description, or does Cass not know what she’s doing? Maxon has a bit of a case of Angst? What Angst? despite receiving physical abuse on more than one occasion. He suspects Clarkson of at least emotionally abusing Amberly and their relationship is a clear case of All Take and No Give. But she’s shown to be more or less the same person she was in The Queen novella. The most we see is that Maxon does have something of a temper…that isn’t revealed until just before The Reveal. And some slight control issues…that never showed up before The Reveal. Previously, most interactions between Maxon and Clarkson generally paints Clarkson as just emotionally distant. So, is this a good depiction of an abusive household, or did Cass no know what she was doing and only added it for shock value?
  • Captain Obvious Reveal
    • Toward the end of The Elite, America discovers in Illea’s diary that he forced his daughter to marry a foreign prince in order to make himself royal, thus the king of his own country. The problem is the readers already knew this. Not only did the Selected girls have a history lesson discussing this, but Illea’s princesses also marry foreign royals to secure alliances. America even describes them as being sold off. So all we really find out is that Illea wasn’t nice about it.
    • Was anyone honestly surprised when it turned out Josie filled out Kile’s application for the Selection behind his back?
  • Fridge Logic: China invaded America (uh…the country) because America wouldn’t pay back its debts. Not only would this never happen, but no country around the world would also just stand back as China destroys a country for a petty reason as they haven’t been seeing their Renminbi returned.
  • Idiot Ball: America more often than naught. But her crowning achievement is revealing the existence of Gregory Illea’s diaries on national TV without thinking of the consequences it would have for not just her, but Maxon for telling her of their existence in the first place.
  • Internet Backdraft: Kiera Cass received this for her conversation with her editor. In it, she expresses extreme anger towards a one-star review of her book and talking with her editor to upvote positive reviews to push the negative one down. Her editor also calls the reviewer a bitch for daring to write a one-star review. This prompted even Scholastic to write an article warning authors of this type of behavior.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Celeste. While bitchy and rude, her revealing her fears that she only has her looks to live on to America drew a lot of sympathy from readers.
    • Kile as well. Even though he can be a little rude at times, many can sympathize with his struggle of feeling he won't be able to go to the school he wants due to his overprotective mother.
  • Les Yay: Celeste really grows attached to America after their talk in The One.
  • Narm: There are a few actions that end up being more than just a tad bit silly. Such as most of the Selection collectively signing wistfully at the prospect of meeting Maxon for the first time. America enjoying palace food so much she makes a "little moan" that somehow manages to silence the entire breakfast table and cause them to look at her.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: America guiltlessly sees Aspen behind Maxon’s back whenever the relationship gets too hard for her. But the instant Maxon is caught fooling around with Celeste then that's wrong.
  • Sequelitis:
    • There are some readers who felt that this series did not need to be a series in the first place. The Elite was seen as padding (not helped with America being so indecisive in her Love Triangle).
    • The Heir and The Crown. While there were readers who did enjoy them, some were left wondering why Eadlyn’s story needed to be told when The One had a decent ending. It doesn’t help at all that Eadlyn was such a Base-Breaking Character.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Overall downplayed but both generations had two contenders
    • Books 1-3: America/Maxon vs. America/Aspen
    • Books 4 and 5: Eadlyn/Erik vs. Eadlyn/Kile
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped:
    • The abused usually become abusers. While it's never explicitly stated whether King Clarkson was abused, it's probably likely considering his parents' problems: his father was implied to almost hit his mother, his mother is constantly drunk, and culminating those two things together probably resulted in quite a lot of emotional and perhaps physical turmoil. That shaped him to be Maxon's abuser, but thankfully the cycle stopped with him.
    • Life will throw rocks at you, but you will get up and heal and become stronger. Natalie loses her sister in a rebel invasion, and completely breaks down and leaves the Selection. Her parents are so shocked and broken that they want to divorce, but Natalie reminds them that her sister would never want that to happen to them. She eventually becomes a very successful businesswoman.
    • Sometimes your first love won't work out, and that's okay. Kriss was pretty upset over Maxon marrying America, faking smiles throughout their wedding. She eventually meets a man she loves and marries him.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Aspen and Lucy had very little build up. While Lucy is heavily hinted to be attracted to him by The Elite and she does get a bit of Ship Tease with him in The Guard. However, Aspen spends most of that time pining for America. It’s rather jarring to see Aspen spend the better part of three books all but begging her to take him back to Aspen flat out telling America that he doesn’t love her anymore.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Both sets of rebels have gotten into the palace on multiple occasions with no mention of having captured a rebel or finding out anything to put a stop to the attacks. This could have been a good setup to reveal that some of the guards are rebels. It could help explain why they successfully get in every time. But outside of the climax of The One, there’s nothing to suggest this is the case and only proves that the guards are awful at their job.
    • In the climactic battle at the end of The One, America is locked into a safe house with a pistol. She tries to shoot the door open so she can find Maxon and...it doesn’t work. A bit of Reality Ensues no doubt, but the scene ultimately proved to be pointless since America ends up waiting it out anyway.
  • Unfortunate Implications: Clarkson and Amberly's early relationship in The Queen can come off as off settling. Clarkson, living in the palace his whole life, is disgusted when Amberly tells him of her family's medical problems, despite her being born in an area with terrible air. Other moments come off as him telling her what to do and just, in general, being overly commanding.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic
    • Many readers found it all too easy to feel for Josie Woodwork. Her biggest crime is being fifteen. And as Kile spells out to Eadlyn, she’s grown up under her shadow. While it is annoying for Josie to be stealing Eadlyn's things, she doesn't deserve what Eadlyn gives her. Eadlyn ends up being needlessly cruel and rude, calling her a commoner, and putting her down for having a crush on Ahren and other celebrities.
    • While no doubt a jerk, if Celeste’s treatment of America for being a Five is a common occurrence, as well as living in the conditions America described, then it’s little wonder Kota ended up being how he is.
    • America's mother is seen as a desperate caste climber who isn't satisfied, but when you look at the condition of her current life, and the condition of those below a Five, it's no surprise why her mother wants her to marry a man of a better class. She's not doing it to see her daughter have a glamorous image, but rather a better life where she is financially affluent. Especially in the environment of Illea, sometimes love isn't enough to sustain yourself with a secure life.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • When you get down to it, there isn’t anything wrong with America wanting a simple life. However, America doesn’t seem to understand that just because she was content as a Five, doesn’t mean others are. While preparing to leave for the palace America, in her narration, wonders why her mother isn’t happy or content with her life. However, America herself recounts a time when the Singers has to sacrifice lighting and heating in order to feed the family and went without presents one Christmas. It’s really not that hard to understand why Magda (or even Kota) would want something better as soon the opportunity came. It ends up making America look like a brat who can barely see two inches beyond her love life.
    • Aspen can be forgiven for not wanting to make America a Six upon marriage, a servant who's generally worse off than Fives, and breaking up with her when it really hit him. But what brought this about? America made him dinner with money she earned. Because he's a man and he's supposed to be the one providing for her. But then we learn that he was waiting to be drafted, which instantly makes him a Two and could marry America in four years. So, really, he only broke up with her in the first place because America wounded his precious pride.
    • Oh Eadlyn, Eadlyn, Eadlyn...
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Maxon stresses to America that the Illea's diaries and the room they're found in are top secrets. Not only does she reveal their existence twice (once to her father and once on national TV) she has the gall to be surprised there are consequences for her and Maxon.
    • The palace guards really suck at their jobs given how often rebels get into the palace at any given time. In Aspen’s novella, he explains that you can get far by just acting like you know what you’re doing even if you’re just a novice, and senior officers will listen, showing they have little in means discipline. Marlee’s novella reveals that Carter is illiterate. And remember that scene where the Elite oogle the guards running laps while they have their shirts off? That wasn’t a mandatory training session. Aspen explains that after their ill-defined shot, they have excess energy they want to work off. And there is absolutely no indication that they’re doing anything different to prevent more rebel attacks. The books claim security has gotten tighter for the Selection, but with how many times the rebels have gotten in, that was likely a massive lie. This could have been salvaged if it was revealed that some of the guards were rebel spies letting them in. But no, they really are just a much of undisciplined, uneducated, muscle-headed morons.
  • The Woobie:
    • Amberly. She's loved a man from afar, and when she meets him, he shows no sympathy for her terrible health or her family's illnesses, and then even insults her when she finds out she probably can't have kids. After she marries him, it gets worse. He emotionally and physically abuses her son and has affairs, one resulting in the birth of an illegitimate child. She really deserved better.
    • Marlee as well. Many readers were so heartbroken when she was caned, as well as having to watch Carter get caned on his back. Even worse when you consider that they took extra measures to make sure it was the most excruciating pain.
    • Lucy, big time. She fell in love with the son of the family she was working for to pay for her father's illness, only to be sent away all because his mother doesn't approve of her caste. She was implied to almost get raped in one rebel attack and suffers panic attacks because of this. To top it all off, she can't have children either and has trouble getting a surrogate or adopting a child.
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