9 Books Veronica Roth Loves That You'll Love, Too
Veronica Roth was barely out of college when she shot to literary stardom after her YA series Divergent flew past bestseller and straight into that wild territory of fan frenzy and movie adaptation franchises. Having written a YA series that has made millions of young adults squee and fan crush, it should come as little surprise that Roth’s own reading tastes stand squarely in the realm of YA genre fiction.
In fact, according to an interview with KPCC, a young Roth even defied teachers who suggested that she read adult fiction and stuck to her YA guns.
“I didn't read up in reading level despite being told to, I guess, by a lot of teachers because the plots didn't interest me as much," Roth said, "so I did read a couple of adult sci-fi books when I was that age, but mostly I stuck to what we would now call YA."
Clearly she has a little Dauntless in her. And a good thing, too, because obviously all that defiant YA reading came in handy! Roth cites a great deal of YA and genre fiction as influences for her own bestselling series, and we’re betting that you’ll love these books too, (if you don’t already!).
1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
In an interview with SparkLife, Roth admits that she’s got a bit of literary crush on Laini Taylor, calling her “a beautiful writer.” Although it’s more on the magical and fantasy side than Divergent is, Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s blue-haired heroine recalls Roth’s own Tris, especially when she starts literally kicking butt. A creative take on angels and demons and star-crossed love, it pulls you into a dark world colored by magic, love, and tragedy.
2. The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling
Well, odds are you already love this one. Turns out Roth does, too. Actually, she’s a total fangirl for the Harry Potter series. Yep, Roth is a Potterhead. Roth credits Harry Potter with giving her the idea of sorting people into groups. She even has Harry Potter-inspired dreams! And as she told USA Today, “Harry Potter is the best thing.”
3. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
Because of its wild success as a YA series and its adventures that take young people into very dark, very adult situations, Divergent has often been compared to Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games series. But Roth doesn’t seem to mind the comparison. In fact, Roth confesses that she’s “a really big fan” of Collins herself! See? It’s totally fine to fangirl several major series at once.
4. Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate
Before The Hunger Games’ muttations and before Professor McGonagall’s cat transfigurations, there were the Animorphs, a group of kids who could transform into animals and fight off mind-controlling alien slugs. It’s a lot cooler than it sounds (or at least it was in the '90s, when I was still a preteen). Besides, Roth clearly has a soft spot for it. Ever wonder where Four got his given name? Apparently Tobias was one of Roth’s favorite characters from the Animorphs series. If you haven’t read the Animorphs series, now you have to. Just… try to look past the kitschy book covers.
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is probably the book that Roth lists most often when discussing the books that influenced her. She even calls it one of her favorite childhood books. Heroines like Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior may be all the rage now, but back in the '60s when A Wrinkle in Time was written, a woman leading a science fiction book was practically unheard of, and Madeleine L’Engle made waves with nerdy heroine Meg Murry. Aside from a bit of mind control, an awesome female hero is probably the only thing A Wrinkle in Time has in common with these books though. Still, it’s a classic of science fiction (emphasis on the science) for good reason.
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Also among the classics of science fiction, The Giver ranks on Roth’s list of influential books. On her own blog she writes, “The Giver was my first taste of what was possible for me as a writer: I could write about a disturbing world that did not yet exist. So: The Giver is important to me.” It’s hard not to see the influence of The Giver’s regulated world on the factioned, striving-for-order world that Roth presents in The Divergent series.
7. "Anything by Flannery O’Connor"
In an interview with Goodreads, Roth lists Flannery O’Connor’s work as an influence among her usual list of science fiction classics, even calling out O’Connor’s work specifically its “ way of making you hate a character and then realize that you are like that character that is just incredible.” It’s exactly such complicated, dark characters that O’Connor is famous for and rightly so. It is incredible.
8. 1984 by George Orwell
In an interview with Parade, Roth said that 1984 was an important influence for the Divergent series:
I found that 1984 helped me quite a bit to shape the fear landscapes — that whole rat mask thing, it really tapped into a kind of primal terror that I tried to access when I was writing about Tris and the birds in her first fear simulation.
If it’s the rebellion against an oppressive system that draws you to the Divergent series, you’ll love 1984.
9. Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Roth may have a strong taste for YA and genre fiction, but that doesn’t stop her from appreciating a good dose of realism as well. Roth lists Kuehn as one of her literary crushes, calling her “super talented” and citing her book Charm & Strange, which tells the story of a young boy struggling against his violent impulses and a dark secret from his past. If you like Divergent, then you certainly don’t shy away from a little darkness in your YA, and Kuehn’s Charm & Strange is definitely dark.