Veronica Roth's "Chosen Ones" Is The BuzzFeed Book Club May Pick. Here's The First Chapter.
What happens to superheroes who save the world — after the rest of the world moves on?
We're so excited to announce Veronica Roth's novel Chosen Ones as the BuzzFeed Book Club May read! Chosen Ones is about reluctant superheroes trying to have a semblance of normal life 10 years after their victory over the Dark One. It asks the question: What happens to people who've saved the world — after the rest of the world moves on?
To celebrate, we're giving away 10 signed copies of Chosen Ones — enter the sweepstakes here. And be sure to check out our live Facebook event featuring Veronica and three of her favorite authors this Friday, April 24, at 1:30 p.m. ET.
The drain looked the same every time, with all the people screaming as they
ran away from the giant dark cloud of chaos but never running fast enough.
Getting swept up, their skin pulling away from bone while they were still alive
to feel it, blood bursting from them like swatted mosquitoes, oh God.
Sloane was up and panting. Quiet, she told herself. Her toes curled under;
the ground was cold here, in the Dark One’s house, and he had taken her
boots. She had to find something heavy or something sharp — both was too
much to ask for, obviously; she had never been that lucky.
She yanked open drawers, finding spoons, forks, spatulas. A handful of
rubber bands. Chip clips. Why had he taken her boots? What did a mass
murderer have to fear from a girl’s Doc Martens?
Hello, Sloane, he whispered in her ear, and she choked on a sob. Yanked
open another drawer and found a line of handles, the blades buried in a
plastic knife block. She was just pulling out the butcher knife when she heard
something creak behind her, the pressure of a footstep.
Sloane spun around, her feet tacky on the linoleum, and swiped with the
“Holy shit!” Matt caught her by the wrist, and for a moment they just stared
at each other over their arms, over the knife.
Sloane gasped as reality trickled back in. She was not in the Dark One’s
house, not in the past, not anywhere but in the apartment she shared with
“Oh God.” Sloane’s hand went lax on the handle, and the knife clattered to
the floor, bouncing between their feet. Matt put his hands on her shoulders,
his grip warm.
“You there?” he said.
He had asked her that before, dozens of times. Their handler, Bert, had
called her a lone wolf, and he rarely made her join the others in training or on
missions. Let her do her thing, he had told Matt once it became clear that Matt
was their leader. You’ll get better results that way. And Matt had, checking in
with her only when he had to.
You there? Over the phone, in a whisper, in the dead of night, or right to her
face when she spaced out on something. Sloane had been annoyed by the
question at first. Of course I’m here, where the fuck else would I be? But now
it meant he understood something about her that they’d never acknowledged: She couldn’t always say yes.
“Yeah,” she said.
“Okay. Stay here, all right? I’ll get your medicine.”
Sloane braced herself on the marble counter. The knife lay at her feet, but
she didn’t dare touch it again. She just waited, and breathed, and stared at the
swirl of gray that reminded her of an old man in profile.
Matt came back with a little yellow pill in one hand and the water glass from
her bedside table in the other. She took them both with shaking hands and
swallowed the pill eagerly. Bring on the coasting calm of the benzodiazepine.
She and Ines had drunkenly composed an ode to the pills once, hailing them
for their pretty colors and their quick effects and the way they did what nothing
She set the water glass down and slid to the floor. She could feel the cold
through her pajama pants — the ones that had cats with laser eyes all over
them — but it was grounding this time. Matt sat down next to the refrigerator in
“Listen,” she started.
“You don’t have to say it.”
“Sure, I just almost stabbed you, but no apologies necessary.”
His eyes were soft. Worried. “I just want you to be okay.”
What had that awful article called him? “Quite possibly the kindest person
alive”? She hadn’t disagreed with Rick Lane, Creepmaster 2000, on that point
at least. Matt had eyebrows that squeezed together in the middle in a look of
perpetual sympathy and the heart to match.
He reached for the butcher knife that lay on the floor near her ankle. It was
big, almost as long as his forearm.
Her eyes burned. She closed them. “I’m really sorry.”
“I know you don’t want to talk to me about it,” Matt said. “But what about
“Dr. Novak, maybe? She works with the VA, remember? We did that talk
together at the juvenile detention center.”
“I’m not a soldier,” Sloane said.
“Yeah, but she knows about PTSD.”
She had never needed an official diagnosis — PTSD was definitely what she
had. But it was strange to hear Matt say it so comfortably, like it was the flu.
“All right.” She shrugged. “I’ll call her in the morning.”
“Anyone would need therapy, you know,” he said. “After what we’ve all been
through. I mean, Ines went.”
“Ines went, and she’s still booby-trapping her apartment like she’s living out
a Home Alone fantasy,” Sloane said.
“Okay, so she’s a bad example.” The floodlight on the back stairs glowed
through the windows, all orange-yellow against Matt’s dark skin.
“You’ve never needed it,” Sloane said.
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Where do you think I kept disappearing to the
year after the Dark One died?”
“You told us you were going to doctor’s appointments.”
“What kind of doctor needs to see someone weekly for months?”
“I don’t know! I figured something was wrong with . . .” Sloane gestured
vaguely to her crotch. “You know. The boys or something.”
“Let me get this straight.” He was grinning. “You thought I had some kind of
embarrassing medical condition that necessitated at least six months of
regular doctor visits . . . and you never asked me about it?”
She suppressed a smile of her own. “You almost sound disappointed in
“No, no. I’m just impressed.”
He had been thirteen and lanky when she met him, a body of sharp edges
with no sense of where it began or ended, but he had always had that smile.
She had fallen in love with him half a dozen times before she knew she
had — when he was screaming orders over the deafening wind of a Drain,
keeping them all alive; when he stayed awake with her on long night drives
through the country even after everyone else had fallen asleep; when he
called his grandmother and his voice went soft. He never left anyone behind.
She curled her toes into the tile. “I’ve been before, you know. To therapy,”
she said. “I went for a few months when we were sixteen.”
“You did?” He frowned a little. “You never told me that.”
There were a lot of things she hadn’t told him, hadn’t told anyone. “I didn’t
want to worry anybody,” she said. “And I still don’t, so . . . just don’t mention
this to the others, okay? I don’t want to see it in fucking Esquire with the
headline ‘Rick Lane Told You So.’”
“Of course.” Matt took her hand and twisted their fingers together. “We
should go to bed. We have to get up in four hours for the monument
Sloane nodded, but they still sat on the kitchen floor until the medicine
kicked in and she stopped shaking. Then Matt put the knife away, helped her
up, and they both went back to bed.
When Sloane's alarm went off the next morning, she took another benzo
immediately. She would need it for the day ahead; that morning, she would
attend the dedication of the Ten Years Monument, a memorial for the lives
lost in the Dark One’s attacks, and that night, the Ten Years Peace gala, to
celebrate the years since his defeat.
The city of Chicago had commissioned an artist named Gerald Frye to
construct the monument. Judging by his portfolio, he had taken a great deal of
inspiration from the work of minimalist Donald Judd, because the monument
was actually just a metal box surrounded by a swath of empty land where the
unsightly tower in the middle of the Loop had been, next to the river. It looked
small by comparison to the high-rises around it, glittering in the sun as
Sloane’s car pulled up on the day of the dedication.
Matt had hired them a driver so they wouldn’t have to park, which turned out
to be a good idea, because the entire city was swarming with people, the
crowd so thick the driver had to blast the horn of their black Lincoln to get
through it. Even then, most people just ignored the sound until they felt the
heat of the engine behind their knees.
Once they got close, a police officer let the car through a barrier and they
cruised down a clear stretch of road to get to the monument. Sloane felt her
pulse behind her eyes, like a headache. The second Matt opened the car door
and stepped out into the light, everyone would know who they were. People
would hold up their phones to record video. They would thrust pictures and
notebooks and arms past the barriers to have them signed. They would
scream Matt’s name and Sloane’s name, and weep and struggle forward and
tell stories of who and what they had lost.
Sloane wished she could go home. But instead, she wiped her palms on the
front of her dress, took a slow breath, and put her hand on Matt’s shoulder.
The car eased to a stop. Matt opened the door.
Sloane stepped out behind him and into a wall of sound. Matt turned toward
her, grinning, and said, right against her ear, “Don’t forget to smile.”
A lot of men had told Sloane to smile, but all they wanted was to exert some
kind of power over her. Matt, though, was just trying to protect her. His own
smile was a weapon against a gentler and more insidious form of racism, the
kind that made people follow him through retail stores before realizing who he
was or assume he had grown up in a rough neighborhood instead of on the
Upper East Side or fixated on Sloane and Albie saving the world as if Matt,
Esther, and Ines had nothing to do with it. It was in silence and hesitation, in
careless jokes and fumbling.
There were harsher, more violent forms of it too, but smiles weren’t
weapons against them.
He walked over to the crowd pressed up against the barrier, many of the
people there holding photos of him, magazine articles, books. He took a black
marker from his pocket and signed each of them with his quick MW, one letter
an inversion of the other. Sloane watched him from a distance, distracted from
the chaos for a moment. He leaned in for a picture with a middle-aged
redhead who didn’t know how to work her phone; he took it from her to show
her how to switch to the front camera. Everywhere he went, people gave him
pieces of themselves, sometimes in the form of gratitude, sometimes in
stories of people they had lost to the Dark One. He bore them all. ●
Excerpt from Chosen Ones. Copyright © 2020 by Veronica Roth. Reprinted
with the permission of John Joseph Adams Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, New York.
Veronica Roth is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of the Divergent series (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, and Four: A Divergent Collection), the Carve the Mark duology (Carve the Mark, The Fates Divide), The End and Other Beginnings collection of short fiction, and many short stories and essays. She lives in Chicago.