Fantastic Success by the Age of 23

Curious as to what all the hoopla is about, I have obtained a copy of Veronica Roth’s best-selling teenage post-apocalyptic dystopia novel, Divergent. It’s a big movie, and my local supermarket is full of Divergent movie guides and other items.

Divergent may become the next big marketing item after The Hunger Games. I have not yet read a word of it, but two things have already struck me as remarkable.

In her acknowledgements, Roth first gives thanks “to God and to his Son, who have blessed me beyond my comprehension.” Wow! These days, publicly giving thanks to God takes courage. If you do it at your high school graduation, they’ll turn off your microphone. Tim Tebow did it as an adult and they turned off his football career.

The other thing is, when Divergent was published in 2011, and soared to the top of the New York Times Best-seller List, Veronica was 23 years old.

Twenty-three! I was twenty-three, once. But in 1988 I was already 39, and had been writing since I was ten. In 2011 I was 62. My Bell Mountain came out in 2010 and quickly fell about 25 million copies behind Divergent.

To be fair, when I was a 23-year-old writer, I produced nothing that anyone would be any better off for reading. When I was a 39-year-old writer, I had a few short stories out there and a horror novel which was pretty good, for a Stephen King knockoff.

I can’t help wondering what any 23-year-old could say that was worth reading. But who knows? Veronica Roth might astound me. She certainly has more courage than I had when I was 23, and a better conscience.

I remember Cecilia Holland, who was from my home town. While I was still in high school, and she was in her very early twenties, Cecilia scorched the best-seller list with a spectacular historical novel, The Firedrake. She returned to our high school to address us, and someone asked her, “What are your books about?” To which she answered, “Read ’em!”

Cecilia is still writing, and I keep meaning to get some of her newer books to see if the magic has come back to her. Her first couple of books were really something special, but I couldn’t say that for those she produced later on.

Meanwhile, I’m intensely curious to see what Veronica’s book is like; and when I do, I’ll tell you all about it.

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