Chosen Ones is another winner by Veronica Roth! 😻💖

Title: Chosen Ones
Series: The Chosen Ones #1
Author: Veronica Roth
Publication: 7th April 2020, Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 419 Pages, Ebook
Source: Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected the contents of this review.
Rating: 4.5/5 cupcakes!

The first novel written for an adult audience by the mega-selling author of the Divergent franchise: five twenty-something heroes famous for saving the world when they were teenagers must face even greater demons--and reconsider what it means to be a hero . . . by destiny or by choice.

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. 

Veronica Roth is one of my favourite authors and her books always evoke nostalgia and sentimentality in me. Divergent was one of the first YA books I read and also one of the first books I received to review. It came out the year I started blogging and the love, enthusiasm, and support for the trilogy saturated the blogging community when I first started. When Allegiant came out, my best friend slept over and we both read the final book together. Carve the Mark came out when I finished my A-level exams and my dad bought it for me, as we both love Veronica Roth's books. I've never been disappointed by a Veronica Roth book, so my expectations were sky high.

Were those expectations met? 
Yes, but at first I thought they wouldn't be. 
Me and Chosen Ones had a rough start but by the time I had turned the last page...I knew I was completely in love with the story I had just read.

This is Veronica Roth's first adult book and from the first few pages she firmly establishes that. There's swearing and adult themes...and more swearing. As someone who hates swearing, I was quite put off initially, and it had a heavy impact on my enjoyment of the novel. The second reason I wasn't in love from the first page was because Chosen Ones started out quite dark, darker than I was expecting. As someone who is quite a sensitive reader and shies away from heavy topics, it threw me slightly. However, as the book continued and I began to fall deeper into the story...I also began to fall more in love with it.

What first drew me to Chosen Ones (besides the fact that it was written by Veronica Roth) was the concept. I've grown up on a steady diet of "chosen one" stories, as I'm sure most readers have. Veronica Roth takes that concept and asks the question of what comes after. Once the villain has been defeated and the world continues in it's new normal, how do the heroes of the stories continue with their lives? How are they affected, physically and mentally? How do they try to live a normal life after all they've been through? How does the world view them? We are all familiar with the journey and the victory...but what happens once the dust is settled? It was such an intriguing, refreshing idea, and I think Veronica Roth showcased what a talented writer she is through exploration of the "chosen one" trope.

Chosen Ones is essentially about five characters who, in their, teens were chosen by a prophecy to defeat the Dark One. Ten years later, the toll it has taken is showing more severely. Sloane, the narrator of the story, has an uneasy feeling that things aren't what they seem. When something happens that splits her world in two, she realises that the reign of the Dark One had never ended. 

Chosen Ones is split into three parts. Part one is heavy and Veronica Roth delves deep into the psychological impacts the past has had on the characters. I wasn't expecting there to be such heavy emphasis on the characters' mental state. It's uncomfortable, it's frustrating, and it's quite simply heartbreaking. The characters are suffering with PTSD, depression, and substance abuse issues. A decade later and they're still trying to find their feet and trying to deal with demons of their past. The first part is very character-driven and although I LOVE an in-depth analysis of characters, I wasn't expecting it. 
Chosen Ones is narrated by Sloane. I think that's one of the reasons why I struggled to connect to this book initially too. Sloane isn't a very likable character. She's bitter, acerbic, authentic to the point of being considered rude...I think the way to describe Sloane would be prickly. HOWEVER, due to Veronica Roth's incredible characterisation and exploration of the impact Sloane's past has had on her, I could completely understand Sloane. I understood her thirst for privacy and normality, her exhaustion and her the end of the book, I deeply respected Sloane. She's battling every day with PTSD, unwanted fame, guilt, and the feeling of disappointing everyone...yet she soldiers on, all the while remaining true to herself.

The other characters were brilliant too. There's Esther, who is confident and sassy. On the outside, she seems to have it all together. She loves Instagram, fashion, and make-up but on the inside she's scared and hurting. There's Matt who, even though I understood Sloane's frustration with him, I appreciated how selfless and optimistic he was. He was always trying to find the good in people, and I really liked that about him. There was also Ines, who I can't say much about, as she didn't feature that heavily. Then there was Albie, dear, sweet Albie who sneaked into my heart. I absolutely adored his and Sloane's friendship. They had experienced personal torture at the hands of the Dark One so together they alone understood each other's pain and turmoil. I loved how different each of the characters were.
"'You don't think I don't make myself consider things from other angles?' She had spent a lifetime reacting and then questioning the reactions - a lifetime of second-guessing, self-interrogation, badgering her brain into thinking about things the right way."
"They all fit together in different ways, knew different pieces of each other best. Esther knew how to make Albie laugh, Ines could almost read his mind, and Matt knew how to get him to talk. But Sloane was the Albie expert on his bad days, and there was no way today wasn't one of them."
 I loved the way Veronica Roth depicted the strength of their friendship. They had saved the world together and although they each frustrated each other at times, they knew each other so well, sometimes better than they knew themselves. Their friendship was so special - complicated, flawed,  loyal and loving. Together, despite all their jagged pieces.
"'I don't think she's very good at sarcasm,' Esther said to Sloane.
'She's going to love us, then," Sloane replied."
"'The less thinking involved, the better, at this stage.'
'This should be easy for Esther, then,' Matt said.
'Kindly shut the hell up,' Esther replied."
Another character that featured heavily was Mox. Man, I loved Mox. He was also incredibly complex and felt so real. He was powerful and strong yet vulnerable and desperately lonely. The depth of his loneliness and the subtlety of his inner turmoil made my heart break for him. 

The villains were masterfully created too. Veronica Roth fully fleshed them out. They weren't 100% bad in being but were the result of consequences and choices. Their motives and actions were explained which made me, the reader, understand the reasoning behind their choices. 

I am so incredibly impressed with Veronica Roth's characterisation. Books that delve deep into the characters and reveal their layers, not merely focusing on the surface, but laying bear the core of who they are, generally becomes one of my favourites - as was the case here. Sometimes it's shocking and unpleasant and uncomfortable, but it makes it worthwhile.

I feel like I could write a whole essay analysing the complexities of their characters, but I'll spare you.
"And the second she had a little bit of herself back, she was desperate to get the rest." 
Another thing I loved about Chosen Ones was the romance. I can't say too much because I'm trying to keep this as spoiler free as possible. The romance in the latter half of this book has me sighing and saying "I love this book". They complemented one another so well and understood the complicated, difficult parts of each other that everyone else tried to pretend wasn't there. They understood the loneliness and the burdens they carried. This was profound as the one character had lost the only other person who she felt could share in her pain. It was vulnerable and intimate. It was simultaneously heart-wrenching and heartwarming to see people so marred with mental and physical scars who were drowning in loneliness and guilt finding each other. It made me feel ALL THE FEELS.
"'I'll never apologize for defending my life,' he said, his dark eyes finding hers with that focus that made Sloane feel like she was under a blowtorch. 'I'll never ask you to,' she said. He gave her a peculiar look, like he had never heard such a thing before."
"But his hands were relaxing, his body uncurling. He was, she thought, a thousand things at once. A language she did not know."
I've never been someone who focuses heavily on plot, so as long as the story is going somewhere, then I'm happy. The pacing is quite slow in the beginning and the plot is lacking due to the focus on familiarising ourselves with the characters. The first part also explores the affect the media, fame, and popularity can have on someone who never asked for it. However, something happens at the end of part one that thrusts the reader into a fantastically built setting, where the fantasy and science fiction elements have an explosive beginning. I LOVED the plot. It was incredibly well-structured, layered with foreshadowing and depth, and featured well-placed plot twists that had me gasping out loud. It went in directions I wasn't expecting and had me reading at a feverish pace as I needed to know more.

I also loved the mixed media included, ranging from newspaper articles to government documents that added further layers and depth to the story. It gave me more insight into the world and sucked me further into the story.

I found the world fascinating too. It was mainly set in Chicago but an alternate version of Chicago where some people had developed magical abilities. It's not often that I'm so immersed in a fantasy book that I find myself actively trying to understand the world, but I did here. There was a wealth of articles and passages that enlightens the reader on how the magic functions and I loved reading it. Also, Veronica Roth balanced it very well; it was never an info-dump.
I loved the writing too. It was gripping, compelling, witty, and so raw. I've read all of Veronica Roth's books except The Fates Divide, and to me, she truly showcased her exceptional talent as a writer in this book. The intensity and vulnerability of the characters, the shock of the plot twists, the genius behind the blew me away,

One last thing I want to mention is how I felt so many things whilst reading this book. It evoked so many emotions in me from shock, sadness, relief, and everything in between. I read the majority of this book with a knot of dread in my stomach and anxiety in my throat - which I believe Veronica Roth intended. I read an interview she did for the release of Chosen Ones and she mentioned how she's interested in the sensation of dread whilst reading, dread instead of surprise. She accomplished that in this book. The entire time I was reading this I knew something bad was going to happen. I was on the edge of my seat and waiting with baited breath for the unsettling calm to be shattered. I would've read this book a lot quicker but due to the unsettling atmosphere I had to take breaks. This book completely sucks you in. I was right there with the characters.

Chosen Ones, mainly during the first part, was sometimes an uncomfortable reading experience. There's a constant feeling of unease and suspicion that danger is lurking around the corner. Veronica Roth also doesn't shy away from detailing the grittier aspects of being a chosen one - the effects of after, the fame and popularity and speculation, the trauma they have to deal with, and the devastating consequences as a result.

Although this book is set in an alternate Chicago to the one we know, Veronica Roth deals with issues that are prevalent in today's culture: mental health, race, fame and the consequences. However, as it's incorporated in a sci-fi/fantasy setting, it makes it more palatable.

Chosen Ones blew me away. I fell in love with this book slowly but deeply. I was blown away by Veronica's incredible characterisation - the characters were so complex, vivid, and multilayered. Veronica Roth didn't shy away from exploring the darker aspects of the characters; she delved into the core of who they were to produce a deeply moving, spectacularly written novel. The plot was incredible and filled with twists and foreshadowing that had me reeling. I loved the writing - the dialogue, the banter, the way the characters were detailed subtly and explicitly. The romance was intimate and vulnerable and moving.

I felt everything in this book keenly. The loss of certain characters, the mental turmoil and complex, messy emotions were palpable. It was riveting and shocking, devastating and brutal, yet pierced with moments of hope and promise. Veronica Roth's adult fiction debut started slowly but built to an explosive climax that had me experiencing a myriad of emotions. The writing was beautiful and poignant and had me drinking in the stunning quotes. I absolutely loved this book - another winner by Veronica Roth. 

I give it: 4.5/5 cupcakes
PTSD, panic attacks, drug abuse (not seen, just mentioned), drug overdose, death by suicide (mentioned not detailed). Swearing (f-words).