I know the world is feeling a little apocalyptic right now, and we all have our coping mechanisms for that. Maybe you read a fun, uplifting romance novel to make you believe in the power of love. Maybe you turn to murder thrillers to bring you comfort (weird flex, but ok). Or maybe you just lean into the dystopian feels and curl up with a nice post-apocalyptic fantasy novel. If that last one is your vibe, you’re going to want to get a copy of Veronica Roth’s adult debut, Chosen Ones, out April 7.
Nine years ago (pause to cry about how old we are), Veronica Roth published Divergent, the first book in the young adult trilogy that became a #1 New York Times bestseller and was turned into the blockbuster hit movie starring Shailene Woodley. Chosen Ones is her adult debut, that catches up with a group of young adults, 10 years after they saved the world from total destruction. As they try to adjust into normal life, one of the Chosen Ones turns up dead, and they realize maybe the universe still needs saving after all. Chosen Ones comes out April 7, but you can read the first chapter below.
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 knife.
“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 Matthew Weekes.
“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 else could.
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 his boxers.
“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 someone else?”
“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 me.”
“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 dedication.”
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.
AGENCY FOR THE RESEARCH AND INVESTIGATION OF THE SUPRANORMAL
October 4, 2019
Ms. Sloane Andrews
Dear Ms. Andrews:
On 13 September 2019, the office of the Information and Privacy Coordinator received your 12 September 2019 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information or records on Project Ringer.
Many of the requested records remain classified. However, due to your years of service to the United States government, we have granted you access to all but those requiring the highest level of security clearance. We searched our database of previously released records and located the enclosed documents, totaling 120 pages, which we believe to be responsive to your request. There is no charge for these documents.
Information and Privacy Coordinator
Excerpted from Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth. Copyright © 2020 by Veronica Roth. Published and reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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