Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth
A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens—Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther—had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesized to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.
Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift—no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Getting my hands on this book was nothing short of a surprise.
I didn’t really care for Divergent back when Veronica Roth was the be all, end all of YA, and I was initially hesitant to even consider this book. When NetGalley granted my skeptical wish for it, though, I figured it was worth giving it a shot. After all, this is adult rather than YA, and it follows five Chosen Ones after their fight is over. The concept is incredibly intriguing to me, as I love asking “okay, but what happens after that?” when I encounter prophecies and such, and sometimes, authors have very different voices depending on which genre and age range they’re working within.
In the end, why not give it a try, and see how the saviors of the world are faring ten years after they’ve fulfilled their prophecy?
“Sometimes Sloane wondered if the world had been worth saving.”
Easily my favorite part of Chosen Ones is the fact that the main character, Sloane, is traditionally “unlikable” in many senses. She’s abrasive and distant and to the point, some of which comes from her early history, and some of which stems from the trauma she experienced during her years fighting against the Dark One. More than that, though, she doesn’t know what she wants. In some ways, she’s aimless, and she’s frustrated because she recognizes that she’s adrift. It makes for a really compelling character, at least in my eyes, because her flaws are front and center. And not only that, but her flaws are sometimes her greatest strengths as well, the steel in her spine that no one else comes even close to having.
In short, I love a good unlikable character, especially one who’s on the side of good, but still feels a little lost at the end of the day.
The other major part of Chosen Ones that I appreciated, though, was the inclusion of reports and articles and such, especially in the first half of the book. It’s a clever way to give further insight to the events that led up to the fight against the Dark One ten years ago without forcing the characters to info-dump. This is especially crucial since the main characters went through (mostly) the same things, and feel little need to discuss that period of their lives and the trauma that comes along with it.
Yet Chosen Ones was destined to let me down.
Here I thought I’d get to read a story about shared trauma and healing from it, whether together or apart. Here I thought we’d see a group cast utilized to their fullest, whether or not they cooperated at the end of the day.
Instead, I got one character abandoning all the rest to run off with a new character, and one of the original Chosen Ones’ suicide was a plot point to put everyone else in place for the rest of the book. There’s so little examination of healing, whether from the trauma of fighting the Dark One or the suicide of a dear friend, and while I suppose some of the righteous anger in the book could be considered healing, it still irritates me to no end to see a suicide brushed off so lightly.
It’s difficult to capture the full depths of my disappointment. I was so much looking forward to seeing the group cast evolve. Working together again after ten years drifting apart is bound to see both triumphs and a boatload of friction. But one character is dead, another is essentially written out of the book for no reason I can fathom, two boil down to props by the end, and the last is a reasonably solid protagonist who would have been a thousand times better interfacing with her friends more often.
This book could go either way for most people, and I think it depends on your expectations going in.
Since I had a very particular concept in mind, as the summary suggested, I was let down hard. Chosen Ones was nothing like the book I thought I was going to read, especially after the first third passed. I could love Sloane with my whole heart (which I don’t quite, not really), and this would still not be a book for me at the end of the day.
But if you’re into backstabbing, ill-advised romantic entanglements, musical magic, and parallel worlds, you might get some mileage out of this one.
Still, I have to admit that I can’t wholly recommend this at the end of the day. It’s the pinnacle of cool concept, terrible execution, and that stings.
On the bright side, though, it’s the only book I read during my hiatus that didn’t live up to expectations, so I guess I’m in good shape still!
CW: loss of a loved one, gore, racism, alcoholism, parental neglect, drug use, addiction, overdose, suicide, graphic injury, sex scene, torture