By Rebekah B.
I braved pouring rain and a single-tracking Metro filled to bursting with annoying tourists and rowdy clubbers, all so I could see Veronica Roth, author of the popular “Divergent” trilogy.
For those of you who may not be familiar, “Divergent” is the first book in a young adult series set in a dystopian Chicago of the future, chronicling the journey of Beatrice (Tris) Prior. At sixteen, everyone takes a test that determines what faction of society they are best suited to live in—Erudite (the brains), Candor (the honest), Amity (the peaceful), Abnegation (the selfless), or Dauntless (the brave). But Tris’ test results come out a little odd. Turns out she could be three of the five factions, which isn’t supposed to happen. And if the wrong people hear about it, well … she wouldn’t know how that would turn out, because she would be dead.
Every year, the Library of Congress holds the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall. Last year, I stumbled into the festival on a random trip downtown and had an amazing time. So I knew I had to go again, especially when I saw that Veronica Roth was a guest presenter.
I got to the teen and children’s tent two hours early so I could at least get a seat. It wasn’t a good one, but it wasn’t the cold, damp ground either. Everyone was pushing and shoving to get inside the tent and out of the rain, so it was really cramped. While I do consider myself a Divergent fan, I’m definitely not as enthusiastic as some. Several girls were dressed in the Amity faction colors with the symbolic tree hand drawn on their shirts. One particularly delightful fan sitting nearby would not shut up – the whole presentation she kept repeating to her companions, “People shouldn’t even be here if they haven’t read the book!” (Ugh. Hazards of being a YA fan).
Veronica Roth turned out to be kind of a brain. She’s obviously a nerd, and not quite accustomed to her fame yet. That’s pretty much my favorite kind of author. When asked about her inspiration for the world of “Divergent,” Veronica Roth said that it was originally her idea of a Utopia; a very structured world where everyone one had a place and a duty to help their society function was her idea of a perfect world. But she said that as she wrote, she realized it was more of a nightmare than a Utopia, and that was how the story came to life.
Roth is a pretty unique case among aspiring authors. She wrote her first novel during college and then had it published not too long after she graduated. I went hoping to hear some of her tips for success, as well as her inspiration for the world of “Divergent.” During the Q&A session, a young girl beat me to it and asked Veronica Roth for advice to wannabe authors. She said to write constantly, and that eventually you will come up with something good and your writing skills will have improved.
I was disappointed when she didn’t go into detail on the process of getting her book published. A YA author I heard last year, Maggie Stiefvater, talked about the struggle she had getting her first book published. And while I’m not a writer myself, I found it easier to relate to an author that actually had struggles.
I’m not ashamed to admit I was also hoping for some juicy tidbits about the movie. When I first heard it was coming out, I was both excited and worried about the interpretation. Then Shailene Woodley was cast as Tris, and I was even more worried. Woodley got her big break in the infamous drama, The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Terrible show. But my sister reminded me that she turned out to be decent in the Oscar-nominated movie, “The Descendants.” Hope was restored.
Some might say the book is popular because of “The Hunger Games,” and while that may be why it got the movie deal, I think the book itself is popular because it’s a cool story of that kids can identify with. Everybody has to figure out his or her place in the world, and sometimes it can come with great cost.
If you haven’t already read some of the trilogy, I obviously recommend that you do! I also recommend that you attend a book festival at least once in your life. It’s fabulous, crazy, loudmouthed YA fans and all.