Loyal Veronica Roth fans are getting ready for midnight parties and book signings to celebrate the October 22 release of Allegiant (HarperCollins/Tegen), the final installment of her speculative-fiction YA trilogy.
Pre-orders of the title peaked at #5 overall on Amazon two weeks before its release, as readers of Divergent and Insurgent, the first two titles, prepared to find out the fate of their favorite characters. And Roth is eager to share: “I’ve been holding in all these secrets for maybe two years now, and I’m just really ready to not have secrets any more!” she told PW.
The handful of readers who received copies three weeks early because of a shipping error at Canadian retailer Indigo Books apparently belong to the Abnegation faction (the selfless members of society as depicted in Roth’s books): they abided by the author’s online plea and kept their lips sealed for the good of others. A Tumblr site posted a “minor” leak that’s no longer there, said Roth, who is grateful that her fans helped shut down spoilers: “When something would go up, someone else would say, ‘Don’t do that.’ ”
Those vigilant fans won’t need to wait much longer. At 11:59 p.m. on October 21, the Divergent Web site will broadcast a pre-taped video of Roth reading the very short first chapter (“a little taste,” she said). During the segment, which she plans to tape in her home office, she will talk from the cushy yellow chair where she takes breaks, not from the treadmill desk where she writes on her PC laptop while walking “really, really slowly,” she said.
Those first three pages are told from Tris’s point of view. “I wanted to start the last of the series with her voice,” Roth said. But then Four gets a turn. “They’re mostly alternating by chapter, but not exclusively,” she said. Fans can expect the characters’ relationship to develop. “In the other books, they haven’t really gotten the chance to get much closer because they’ve just been running around all the time,” she said.
Roth will be lying low during the midnight release, and isn’t exactly sure what she will be doing: “Probably getting ready for bed?” She’ll need her rest: later the next day she is appearing in person before an audience of 800 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, with a surprise guest from the film Divergent, hitting theaters March 21, 2014. Then on October 23, she will appear on Today. “We see this as the publishing event of the year,” said Lauren Flower, director of integrated marketing for HarperCollins Children’s Books.
Celebrations in Bookstores
To help stores throw parties, HarperCollins sent kits with pins and booklets for booksellers and also created sharable graphics and a countdown widget. But even without these extras, fans and retailers are already primed for the release. The Voracious Reader in Larchmont, N.Y., is starting its midnight party at 11 p.m. on October 21. Bill Skees, who co-owns Well Read New & Used Books in Hawthorne, N.J., with his wife, usually closes at 8 p.m. but plans to stay open until 12:30 a.m. for the release. “I’m trying to keep the event pretty tight, timewise, so there’s less of an impact on homework,” he said. Fans who attend will take an online quiz to discover their factions and get the chance to walk away with one of 20 signed copies. (Admission: the price of the book.) Well Read’s e-newsletter told customers, “The Divergent trilogy comes to a close this month with the epic final installment Allegiant, and we’re so excited that we just can’t wait for regular business hours, so we’re holding our first midnight release party!” In the buildup to the release, everyone who works at the store has been wearing an Allegiant button, to which each is adding a sticker representing one of the five factions.
In St. Paul, Minn., Red Balloon Bookshop is hosting an Allegiant party at 6:30 p.m. on October 22. In addition to using the event kit from HarperCollins, the store is encouraging costumes, administering a faction test, setting up a tattoo station, and facilitating Dauntless-like feats of skill. “The Dauntless have to fight each other, but of course we don’t want any brawls breaking out in the store,” joked Red Balloon’s Amy Oelkers, who is planning the event. Readers who pre-order Allegiant by October 15 will be entered in a drawing to receive one of 10 signed copies, and the grand-prize winner will get a signed special edition of Insurgent – with a poster, a ribbon bookmark, and tattoos – that Oelkers has been saving since BEA of 2013.
The Bookmark Shoppe in Brooklyn is starting its party at 6 p.m. on October 22. The bookseller is encouraging teens to write a piece set in the world of Divergent – anything from a newspaper article to an alternate ending for an earlier book to the creation of a new faction – and is holding a costume contest and asking that party attendees dress as a member of their chosen faction.
Meanwhile, Naperville, Ill.-based Anderson’s Bookshops are continuing to support Roth and her books. Co-owner Becky Anderson has been a fan ever since Roth’s first editor, Molly O’Neill, sent her an early manuscript. Anderson and her daughter, now a college freshman, loved Divergent. She received 80 advance copies (“We asked!” she said) and held a pizza party in February 2011, two months before the publication date, with Roth as a speaker; attendees received signed ARCs. “It was magical,” said Anderson, noting the author’s Chicago ties: she grew up in nearby Barrington, Ill., and graduated from Northwestern University.
And Roth reciprocates the support: she’ll sign 4,000 books at the Anderson’s warehouse on October 17, for sale at the midnight release parties at its two locations. On October 26, Anderson’s is hosting an in-person event with Roth at Tivoli Theater in Downers Grove, Ill. The 1,000-capacity signing sold out weeks ago. “We’ve had people begging,” said Anderson.
The Fortunate Few
In addition to the event at Tivoli Theater and her release-night appearance in New York City, Roth will visit a Barnes & Noble in Dallas on October 23 and the Castro Theatre in San Francisco on October 24. How did these places get so lucky? “I don’t know!” said Maggie Tokuda-Hall, children’s department director at Books Inc. in San Francisco, which is hosting the Castro Theatre event. “I think I said something to the effect of, ‘I know you’re not taking requests, but pretty please??” (HarperCollins publicity manager Casey McIntyre explains their good fortune: “They’re an awesome indie.” And it helped that California won the DivergentOfficial.com online vote to get an in-person visit from Roth.) To keep the signing lines manageable, Tokuda-Hall plans to divide the 800 or so members of the audience, who signed up and paid $30 for their book and the event (she, in turn, needs to pay the Castro Theatre), into 20 groups of 40. “We do it just like Southwest Airlines,” she said. She isn’t sure whether audience members will arrive in character. “It’s tough with the costumes,” she said. “It’s not like Harry Potter.”
For some fans, though, enthusiasm around the Allegiant release rivals the pre-pub hype for later installments in the famous boy wizard’s saga. Heidi Zweifel, a librarian at Milton Middle School in Milton, Wisc., is taking seven students to the Tivoli Theater signing on October 24. Zweifel is a veteran of several Roth visits to Anderson’s. She pre-ordered the $3.99 Kindle e-book, which she will download at midnight.
At the beginning of the year, Zweifel gave out 50 copies of Divergent to all the teachers at the school – and got them to take the faction quiz. Like the other adults at her school, she keeps her symbol posted nearby (on her computer in her case, on the door for others). Students love talking about the factions. “This is drastic: you never see your family again,” she said of the teens in the novel who choose different factions from their parents. “Could you make this choice of what’s best for you versus what your family expectations are?” She also appreciates that Tris is a regular girl who “finds her strength,” she said. “And you have this boy who falls for her, [and] he also supports her. He doesn’t try to do it for her. It’s really awesome for people to see that this regular girl can become this strong character.”
Nikki Raasch, a middle-school English and history teacher at MIT Academy in Vallejo, Calif., is bringing seven students to Roth’s signing at the Castro Theatre. “In this day and age, we have the opportunity to read blogs and find information about authors, but actually getting to meet an author in person is something that rarely happens,” said Raasch, who remembers meeting novelist Mary Higgins Clark when she was in high school. “I’m never going to forget that.”
Raasch also likes students to see that it’s possible for people not all that much older than they are – Roth is 25 – to write books. Her 23-year-old cousin, Sarah Raasch, recently signed a three-book deal with HarperCollins, which will release her first title, Snow Like Ashes, in fall 2014. She can point to authors like her cousin and Roth and say, “They’re really young, they’re getting published, they’re making their dreams come true, and you can do the same thing.”
To make the trip possible for kids in her low-income school, Raasch raised money for the students’ tickets on Facebook. Within 30 minutes, she had enough. “One of my girls actually teared up when I asked her if she wanted to go,” she said. Her students voted every day on HarperCollins’s site to try to get Roth to come to their state on her tour. They would come in to tell Raasch, “California’s in the lead!”
One of her students, Lauren Harris, 14, has re-read the first two books to get ready. “It kind of reminds me of the Hunger Games, but more intense,” she said. “It’s crazy how someone so young as her could write really good novels like that.” She plans to read Allegiant in one day, of course, after meeting Roth. “I’ll probably be speechless to meet her and see her in person,” she said.
Like Harris, Mariana Munguia, 15, also a student at MIT Academy, re-read the first two titles and can’t wait to meet Roth. What will she say to her? “Give me your secrets!” she said. “How do you make such appealing books?!”
One reason may be that Roth can draw on her own experiences. She suffers from an anxiety disorder, she said. “My internal environment is fairly repressive. To write about someone who boldly goes into the unknown is kind of inspiring to me.” Roth explained that she is definitely not Tris, who joined the Dauntless faction: “I would probably choose Abnegation and after a year or so defect and become factionless.” And is Roth’s husband Four? “No!” she answered. He is, though, the only person who read Allegiant before she sent it to her editors – first Molly O’Neill, who has moved on from HarperCollins, and then Katherine Tegen.
After YALLFest in Charleston, S.C., in November, Roth and her husband plan to take a vacation to a still-to-be-determined place in Canada. “Right now I’m just going to take a little break and write for fun,” she said. When she gets back, she can look at the folder on her computer, where she keeps story ideas. They’re not all dystopian. “It’s a huge mixture of genres in my brain,” she said “I’m not sure what I’m going to do.” But YA fans can breathe a sigh of relief: she plans to stick with writing for teens.