The toll of a happily ever after for chosen ones- those heroes and heroines fate chooses to save the world – is not normally something readers get to see; Mockingjay is the only book that comes to mind, and most people vilified the epilogue for this very reason. Yet, to assume that such chosen ones get a happily ever after is dangerous given what authors put such characters through. For this reason, Veronica Roth’s new novel, Chosen Ones, is a thoughtful look at what the lives of certain chosen ones would be like after they save the world.
For one thing, Ms. Roth does not shy away from the severe mental and physical trauma chosen ones incur in their battles to save the world. Ten years later, Sloane still struggles with severe PTSD to the point where it continues to impact her relationships and her ability to function. In addition, there are allusions to her fellow chosen ones’ suffering, the intense therapy they sought to recover, the drugs they used to blur their memories, and their many other coping mechanisms used to be able to deal with or forget everything they saw and did while saving the world. It is a brutal portrayal of a hero, but one that fits with everything we know about psychiatry and long-term exposure to traumatic stress. Such chosen ones may provide the world with a happily ever after ending, but they certainly struggle to obtain the same type of ending themselves.
To counteract the damage, Ms. Roth also highlights the bonds forged through such combat. The five chosen ones are legitimately friends for life. They alone know what each other suffered and experienced. They alone can relate to each other. No one else has their memories or their experiences, and these are the ties that bind them together forever. Plus, even if they wanted to drift apart, they cannot do so because the world will always see them as a group. Every memorial, every anniversary will force them to come together again as the united front that defeated evil.
Ms. Roth immediately draws you into this dark story with its unusual combination of magic, astrophysics, and psychology. Sloane is one of the prickliest heroines you will meet, but she is honest in her ongoing suffering. Sloane is the type of character you want to heal because she is so broken and fragile no matter the solid facade she portrays to those closest to her. In spite of her ongoing issues though, she is one of the first ones to step up when it appears that they might not have saved the world after all. You can’t help but admire someone like her, right on the edge of breaking into a million pieces but not afraid to do her duty when called to do so.
As always, Ms. Roth knows how to write and write well. From the very first page, she hooked me into the story. Chosen Ones suffers slightly from a tendency towards redundancy, especially about Sloane’s height, which gets mentioned almost every chapter. Yet, it was not enough to stop me from devouring every page and wanting more. In fact, I loved it so much that I am willing to say I think it is Ms. Roth’s best novel to date, and I look forward to seeing what else she has in store for Sloane and her friends in future novels.