Barrington High School
graduate Veronica Roth always loved playing pretend as a child.
While other children left behind the game, Roth channeled all the imagination that went into playing pretend into writing. And she's written some pretty amazing stories.
Roth grew up to become a New York Times best selling author of Divergent, which has been made into a movie being released next spring. It is the first in a trilogy.
The 25-year-old author returned to her hometown Thursday to talk with Barrington Community School Unit 220 teens and families about her life as a student and her life since she graduated from BHS in 2006.
Roth’s appearances _ part of the Barrington 220 Educational Foundation's Alumni Legends program_ included a question and answer session at BHS with her two of her favorite teachers, Dr. Becky Gill-Schultz, her fourth grade teacher at Grove Avenue Elementary School and June Kramer, her high school English teacher.
Roth’s favorite class at BHS was English. She took creative writing and every English class she could, she said. One of her teachers encouraged her to enter her stories into writing contests then helped Roth with the drafts.
After graduation, Roth attended Northwestern University in Evanston. The concept of Divergent came from a freshman psychology class where she learned about exposure therapy. The therapy exposes people to the things they fear then the brain learns a healthier response to the stimulus, Roth said.
Divergent is set in a futuristic Chicago where people living in five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent), according to Amazon.com’s synopsis. Teens take an aptitude test at age 16 to determine which faction they belong to, the site states. Teens also are taught to face their fears through simulated situations.
In high school, Roth would have been Candor or Dauntless, she said, responding to a question from Gill-Schultz. “I thought I was a bad ass, I was not,” Roth said.
He main character, Beatrice Prior, is strong. Beatrice has changed throughout the triology and Roth loves how she has evolved. Although Roth has put Beatrice in challenging and dangerous situations, she would not have been able to have the character grow if she kept Beatrice safe, she said.
Roth didn’t write Divergent with the intention of the book becoming a movie. Summit Entertainment bought the rights to Divergent and will release a film in March 2014.
When a studio buys the rights to a book, authors give up control. She hoped producers and the director would not “turn it into a cowboy musical,” she said. “I was lucky. I feel really good about what I saw. From what I saw, it looks pretty cool.”
The director, Neil Burger, kept in contact with Roth regularly during filming and asked questions that she had not even thought about, like what kind of currency is used in the fantasy world she created, she said. She also visited the set often and was impressed by how everyone on the set kept true to the book.
Her advice to young authors is to “write because you love it,” she said. And “write a lot, period.”
Roth made an impression on three young fans in the audience. Madeline Atkinson, 11, Emily Blackburn, 12 and Elizabeth Gillis, 11. The three are Barrington Middle School-Station students who are anxiously awaiting the release of Allegiant, the third book in the series, on Oct. 22.
The books are exciting and filled with adventure, the girls said. Blackburn likes the cliffhangers while Gillis likes the futuristic aspect.
The experience of listening to someone who once attended the same school they do was inspiring. “It made me feel like I can have a future like that,” Atkinson said.