When Veronica Roth was writing her latest book, Chosen Ones, an adult fiction novel following five young people after they save North America from destruction, there’s no way she could have known she would be releasing the book in the middle of a pandemic. But it turns out the best selling author of the Divergent series could not have picked a better time to debut her book. It seems like right now, life is truly imitating art.
Chosen Ones opens ten years after five formerly ordinary teens saved the world from complete chaos descending all over North America. After their act of heroism, the world slowly went from total chaos back to business as usual—for everyone except them. Instead, the protagonists, a ragtag group of former adolescents who have grown into cautious and paranoid adults, become famous for their bravery. The book follows their story when these friends must reunite for another battle against evil, even as they cannot let go of their dark past.
Roth’s latest novel shines on a number of fronts. The prose is fast paced and engaging, and the author has a knack for blending fantasy with elements of reality that are so compelling they almost feel tactile. The characters in Chosen Ones also drive the book forward. Between Sloane, the cautious and intuitive leader, Matt, the easy going and protective optimist, and Esther, the rambunctious and assertive rebel, the book shows the range of personalities that could still be considered a “hero”.
The plot, of course, is the main attraction of the novel, and Roth allows a good deal of suspense to drive the novel forward. Throughout the beginning of the book, the author alludes to the characters’ defeat of “The Dark One,” a number of times, drawing intrigue from the reader on what trauma exactly the protagonists faced, and why they are so anxious to be brought into battle once more. Through a combination of present action and much needed flashbacks, Roth allows the readers to both watch the characters move forward in their current journey and understand their fears and anxieties through context. Though the book takes many dark and serious turns, Roth also finds ways to imbue her trademark humor into the plot through the lovable relationships between its main characters.
Chosen Ones is certainly not the first novel to propose that young people are responsible for saving the world when chaos descends. In fact, Roth’s own Divergent series is based upon this very premise. However, in the time of the coronavirus, where young people are adversely affected by the political decisions being made in this country, the groundwork of Chosen Ones seems particularly relevant. The novel’s assertion that many older folks will be able to regress back to their old lives after the action has passed while some young people will be stuck reliving the chaos seems like an extremely likely scenario these days as well. In this way, the novel seems like not only a great read for Roth’s intended adult audience, but also a relevant choice for many younger readers as well.
Although the novel meditates on the trope of teenage heroism, Roth’s adult fiction debut differs from the Divergent series in some interesting ways. While the action of the Divergent trilogy followed the protagonists as they save their futuristic universe from war, Chosen Ones takes a different approach. The book opens after the five protagonists have fought the battles that defined their young adulthood. Instead, this novel asks different questions: what happens to teenage heroes? What becomes of the people who become famous for their heroism, but also for enduring hardship and trauma? And are these people willing to go back into battle again?
Roth also asks us what we will remember most of chaotic and uncertain times. One of the most interesting literary tools that Chosen Ones employs is its use of various media to mark the passage of time. Throughout the novel, Roth introduces different memorabilia—magazine clippings, song lyrics—to show the passage of time or indicate the time period where the plot is taking place. In doing so, Roth poses interesting questions about how we remember times of crisis. In the novel, the characters remember their journeys not just by the events that took place but by the songs they listened to or the media they read. This depiction of political or social memory disrupts our common understanding of how we perceive crisis but perhaps offers us a more realistic depiction of how we keep memories alive.
In these chronically uncertain times, Roth’s Chosen Ones offers us reassurance that we will make it to the other side of crisis and live to tell the tale.
Mary is a freelance writer covering culture, identity, sexual politics, and wellness. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, The Nation, Glamour, Teen Vogue, Bitch Media, Vice, Nylon, Allure, and other similar outlets. When she is not writing she can be found scheming, watching cartoons, or sending unnecessarily long emails. To see more of Mary’s work and adventures, follow her on Twitter.