Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones is billed as the first novel by Roth written for adults, but having read the Divergent series as well, I’m not sure what makes it adult… maybe the slightly more frequent profanities? It’s certainly not any more descriptive sex scenes, as ‘adult’ sometimes can indicate. Perhaps it’s just because the characters are approaching 30 as opposed to approaching 20? Anyway…

What it’s about

From the Goodreads blurb:

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.

That’s the basic premise, but this book has a whole lot more going on.

My thoughts

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this new series, but while I did like it, I wasn’t exactly blown away. I really enjoyed the Divergent series (right up until that last book, anyway), and was intrigued with the billing of Chosen Ones as an ‘adult’ book about a group of 5 heroes, ten years after they apparently saved the world as teenagers.

The book is actually a whole lot more than what the blurb lets on: much of it takes place in an alternate-dimension Chicago, and this world is full of magic. Nothing is quite as it appears, and the whole concept is very original.

Roth’s writing is strong, and the plot is clearly developed. The book is very compelling at the beginning, but there is quite a lull in the action towards the middle. Fortunately, things pick up again near the end, which is really quite brilliant. No cliffhangers, but I’m definitely down for a second book.

From the blurb, you would think that the book is about all of the 5 heroes… but really it’s about Sloane. One of the 5 dies near the beginning, another is nearly absent from the rest of the book, and the other two are peripheral at best. I’m not sure if the next book will deal more with the other ‘chosen ones,’ but I would love more development of those characters. For much of the book, I didn’t like Sloane very much, and she felt a lot like a YA character trapped in an adult character’s body, but she grew on me. Esther and Mox are really fun characters, but again, I would love more about them.

I chose to listen to the audiobook, currently only available on Audible (boo), because I am a sucker for a ‘full cast’ production. Dakota Fanning is the main narrator, and she did a great job, but there’s a whole list of other narrators who had parts, including the amazing Robin Miles, who is one of my favorites. I do recommend the audiobook, if you can get it.


Review: You Can See More From Up Here by Mark Guerin

First, a confession: this book was one of the first ARCs I received when I joined NetGalley a year ago, so I am way late reading this. I can only apologize and promise to do much better moving forward. Oh, and I can also chastise myself for not ready this book sooner, because it’s a real gem.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

In 2004, when middle-aged Walker Maguire is called to the deathbed of his estranged father, his thoughts return to 1974. He’d worked that summer at the auto factory where his dad, an unhappily retired Air Force colonel, was employed as plant physician. Witness to a bloody fight falsely blamed on a Mexican immigrant, Walker kept quiet, fearing his white co-workers and tyrannical father. Lies snowball into betrayals, leading to a life-long rift between father and son that can only be mended by the past coming back to life and revealing its long-held secrets. You Can See More From Up Here is a coming-of-age tale about the illusion of privilege and the power of the past to inform and possibly heal the present.

My thoughts

This book was a very pleasant surprise for me. I admit that I was interested by the description, but not exactly excited to read it. Once I got started, I was completely engaged and enjoyed it so much.

The writing is very good—hard to believe this is Guerin’s debut novel—and the story is well structured. You Can See More From Up Here is dual-timeline story: Walker’s coming of age tale in the 1970s, and then a coming-home reckoning tale in 2004. The story unfolds beautifully in both.

Walker is a sympathetic character and his struggles with his father make for some achingly poignant reading. In 2004, he sits at his father’s deathbed, having been estranged from him for 30 years, and begins to to write the story of the summer of 1974 and the years of his childhood leading up to it.

The book deals with class, race, immigrant workers, working class struggles, violence and abuse, and family division, all while illustrating the hold that past mistakes and betrayals can have on our present. All of these issues are handled gracefully and in a realistic manner. All of the characters are flawed and very human.

I highly recommend You Can See More From Up Here to those who enjoy well-written literary fiction that makes you feel and doesn’t shy away from difficult issues.