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NPR Arts & Life

Wisdom From YA Authors On Leaving Home: Veronica Roth

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Throughout August, we're bringing you stories and advice from authors who've written for young people about that pivotal moment where they have left home and set out on their own. It's a series we call Next Chapter. Today, we hear from Veronica Roth. She's the author of the best-selling young adult sci-fi series "Divergent," though that's not what she says when she meets people.

VERONICA ROTH: Usually, when I introduce myself at schools, I just say I'm Veronica. I write books.

SIMON: Veronica Roth came of age in the mid-aughts in a suburb of Chicago.

ROTH: One of those towns that I feel like they based the movie "Mean Girls" off of (laughter). Like a - like a highly competitive educational environment but also, like, a good place to live.

(SOUNDBITE OF NE-YO SONG, "SO SICK")

ROTH: The story of my leaving home is kind of inextricably tied to my high school boyfriend.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO SICK")

NE-YO: Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do (ph).

ROTH: He was staying around my town. He was going to community college in the area, and I was leaving. I was going to Minnesota. I was about to leave, and he was really upset with me for going away to college.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SO SICK")

NE-YO: (Singing) And I'm so sick of love songs, so tired of tears, so done with...

ROTH: I had stayed up all night just, like, having this really emotional nonstop goodbye. He left at, like, 4 in the morning, and I had to finish packing. And my mother and I drove to Carleton College in Minnesota. I had no sleep. I was, like, swollen from crying (laughter) all night. And it was supposed to be this adventure, but I was exhausted. And it was then that I knew that this was not a good relationship to be in. But I was very stubborn, so I kind of stuck it out for a really long time.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK HORSE AND THE CHERRY TREE")

KT TUNSTALL: (Singing) Well, my heart knows me better than I know myself so I'm going to let it do all the talking, woohoo, whoohoo...

ROTH: I started to develop feelings for someone else. And I went to my pastor and I told him I was overcome with guilt, and he was like, OK. Well, let's put that aside for a second. Let's talk about your relationship. What are the things that you love to do when you're not with him? And I told him that I liked to have deep conversations and I like to read and I didn't like to watch TV that much. And it just suddenly occurred to me that the person I was in the relationship was not the same person that I was outside of the relationship. And I liked the person I was outside of it, and so an hour later I ended the relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK HORSE AND THE CHERRY TREE")

TUNSTALL: (Singing) You're not the one for me, woohoo, not the one for me...

ROTH: After that, I felt really weird for a while because all the things that I had said that I liked or didn't like seem so tied to that relationship. It was like I was completely blank and rediscovering everything. And so I'd be out with people and they'd be like, oh, do you, you know, something as simple as like do you like seafood? And I'd be like, you know what? I don't know (laughter). Let's try it. So I don't know, let's try it became, like, the new motto of my life. And it was the most exciting and most wonderful time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ROTH: When I think back, I feel shame, to be honest, because I think to think of yourself as the kind of young woman who allows herself to be controlled by a relationship, that's something that makes you feel like you've failed as a feminist or, you know, failed as a woman. But that was a reality for me. I didn't know how to navigate this relationship. I didn't know that it was unhealthy. So I think extending the same mercy and kindness to yourself that you do to your friends and your family, I think that's a huge thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNWRITTEN")

NATASHA BEDINGFIELD: (Singing) Feel the rain on your skin. No one else can feel it for you. Only you can let it in. No one else, no one else can speak the words on your lips. Drench yourself in words unspoken...

SIMON: Veronica Roth - her new book, "Carve The Mark," will be out next year. You've been hearing the music of Ne-Yo, KT Tunstall and Natasha Bedingfield, artists who were on the Billboard Top 100 when Veronica Roth left home. She's part of our series Next Chapter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNWRITTEN")

BEDINGFIELD: (Singing) I break tradition. Sometimes my tries are outside the lines... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.