Photo courtesy of HMH Books
Veronica Roth, most famously known for her the successful Divergent series (which then turned into movies) really changed her traditional “coming of age” style with her newest novel Chosen Ones. In interviews, Roth stated that she wanted to focus more on an adult novel: in an interview with TIME Magazine, she stated, “You work your entire adolescence to either get a job or go to college and once you’re there it’s like, now what? That feels like a fundamentally adult question.” Ultimately, this was the kind of question that she wanted to answer with Chosen Ones–how would the “chosen one” from novels such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings live their lives after the big final battle. Roth successfully answers this question in a thrilling novel that still appeals to fans who prefer her coming-of-age style.
The five titular “chosen ones” in the novel have already fought a magic source called The Dark One by the time the novel starts. The conflict is not taking down the enemy–instead, the main character Sloane reflects on her time as a chosen one and the consequences that it has had on her and her fellow fighters.The other four chosen ones, Matt, Esther, Ines, and Albie, also battle their own post-traumatic stress symptoms and reactions, such as being afraid of sounds and friends: “She was pulling a butcher knife when she heard something creak behind her…she swiped with the knife…” There is a slight love story that develops throughout the novel between Sloane and a childhood friend, which influences a lot of the decisions she makes and who becomes her main motivation toward the end of the novel.
From here, problems arise that lead each chosen one to unearth deeper ties with their past as the reader starts to see that the past is repeating itself. Each character faces a struggle with not knowing whether these magical forces they have faced in their earlier years will ever leave them. Sloane continues to try to be the strong leader of the group and fulfill the needs of her fans while her vulnerability starts to show: “Sloane’s vision went blurry, and she crumpled the paper in her fist. In the time that Dr. Hatrford has delivered the news, she hadn’t even cried, hadn’t even come close.”
The novel is written in an epistolary style and goes back and forth between interviews and articles within the media. These articles help to explain what happened in years prior, and when added to flashbacks from the chosen ones, allow for a clearer picture of the events that The Dark One brought upon them. These are often the most interesting parts of the novel, proving that the good vs. evil conflict skipped over by the events of the novel is still intriguing to readers. While the prose style of this novel is identical to Veronica Roth’s other books, the way that she goes about explaining emotion is much more mature than usual. One thing that caught me off-guard about the text was the amount of adult language, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was an adult novel and not her usual teen-friendly diction. I do think that the choice to use more vulgar words suits the raw view of the novel and made it feel more mature.
The characters, unfortunately, were slightly cliche. They all had the typical YA-mental illnesses and the way each handled situations were quite predictable in some cases. With that being said, they developed a lot over the course of the novel and really did grow. The characters’ emotions are also extremely relatable and quite believable when taking into consideration what they have been exposed to throughout their life. They are easy to imagine, embodying emotions and reactions that feel realistic, though the reactions would be much more intense in real life. A lot of the novel tries to emphasize how the characters have to put on a front for those who are rooting for them–after all, they are the “heroes” of their generation. Their emotions sometimes get overshadowed by the author trying to mask their feelings, and since Roth is categorizing this novel under the Adult Fiction genre, there could be more honesty within their thoughts, specifically Sloane.
The main theme in the novel helps ground it: that you must face your problems in order to overcome them. While the Chosen Ones defeated The Dark One as kids, this was nothing compared to the pressures to constantly play the heroic part, even while facing the death of loved ones. Without the help of one another and the support from those who were willing to listen, every character was able to learn more about themselves after the fact than they did when they were at battle with the dark magic. The adult fiction genre is very evident and Roth focused greatly on making sure her characters were not too mature nor too young in terms of their mental representations.
Whether you are a Veronica Roth fan or not, this book is worth a read. I am not a huge fan of YA fiction that involves alternate worlds with magic, but I was pleasantly surprised at how this novel didn’t get caught up in the world building and stuck to the inner turmoil of the main characters. Roth managed to keep a perfect balance of realistic events in response to unrealistic ones, which was refreshing among books like Divergent and The Hunger Games. With the popularity of her first series, I imagine it was hard for Roth to stay in the more mature, self-reflective lane instead of getting caught up in the magic that many people resort to to make their novels interesting, but she fortunately did. If you are looking for a book that still allows for your imagination to run wild while still encompassing reality, this book is perfect for you. And if you are more interested in the magical, fictional side of literature, you will get a unique fix with the Chosen Ones.