A decade ago, five teenagers living in Chicago, albeit a post-apocryphal dystopian version of the Windy City, risked everything to confront and defeat the Dark One, stopping him from destroying the world. Now, as adults the world around them has returned to normal but they haven’t. After all, when it comes to second acts, what can beat saving civilization?
“What do you do when you finally obtain what you wanted to do?” says Chicago author Veronica Roth about her first adult novel, Chosen Ones, a continuation of sorts based on the characters from her bestselling Divergent series. “It’s like when you graduate college, you wonder is this it?”
Of the five, Sloane, the leader of the group Sloane is having the most difficult time adapting—some say it’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, others credit her attitude—but whatever, she’s struggling big time.
“Chosen Ones is about learning that the battles you fought to get where you are aren’t over,” says Roth who grew up in Barrington and attended Northwestern University. “They’re never really over, but you get to fight them differently when next time comes.”
The next time is now. The celebration of the tenth anniversary of their victory is overtaken by the tragedy of the death of one of their group. But it gets worse. As they gather for the funeral, they learn the battle may not be over. The Dark One may still live and that means the prophecy forecasting his death wasn’t true.
Roth’s attention to detail is meticulous. In the book, Sloane submits a Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents about the government’s involvement in what happened ten years ago.
“I wanted to know everything I could,” she says. “It’s my life and they have all these…records of it.”
To make the book realistic, or as realistic as fantasy and magic can be and to understand and recreate the FOIA records Sloane received, Roth studied hundreds of declassified government documents that she found on the CIA website and other Internet sites.
“I read a lot about UFOs, propaganda and Project MK Ultra which is the government’s research on the effects and use of LSD,” she says.
That’s not all that went into the novel. Roth’s characters inhabit an alternate Chicago, one she had to create. It was a complex undertaking to make the unreal seem real.
“World building is very humbling,” she says, noting that her editor encouraged her to deep dive into devising the Chosen Ones’ city. “Chicago’s architecture is such a significant part of the story because architecture reveals history and also, just aesthetically, the skyline is so important to my experience of the city and what I love about it.”