Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian/Romance
Series: A Darkest Minds Novel (Book 1)
The Darkest Minds: ★★★★ (3.5)
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SUMMARY: When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.
REVIEW: This is my first read of 2016 and it was a solid novel. I typically do not like to read young adult dystopian books, but I heard a lot of good things about this one (plus the fact that I stumbled upon a hardcover copy for only $3), I decided, why not? “The Darkest Minds” earned 3.5 stars from me. Overall I found the book enjoyable and interesting, but something about the journey kept me from giving it a higher rating.
Bracken’s writing is spectacular. No doubt about it, this author has a talent. She was able to provide descriptive explanations without being too wordy or confusing. She builds the world and sets the tone early on in the story. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but I understood she wanted to emphasize the darkness early on by revealing a little bit about the main character’s background from her experiences. I did appreciate the fact that the author did not literally write everything out for readers and would allow them to discover things on their own though.
The world she builds is somewhat believable, but there were times I found myself thinking it was a post-apocalyptic one, only to remember that the government was still somewhat running and the older folk were still working and living life. It is a bit unbelievable that parents would send their children to a camp believing they were being rehabilitated and accept the fact that they’re NEVER allowed to visit them again. The fact that most of the thousands of children inside the camps are just shipped somewhere by their parents willingly is still a bit hard for me to believe.
Basically, children who don’t die from IAAN (this disease the government makes up) they develop special abilities which are defined by color:
Green: great memory and very smart
Blue: ability to move things
Yellow: ability to manipulate electricity
Orange: ability to play with the mind
Red: ability to manipulate fire
Ruby: Ruby is an Orange, one of the last in the world, and the protagonist of this book. She starts out as a nervous, unsure young girl as she is sent to Thurmond for “rehabilitation.” After she escapes, she begins a journey that is destined to change her forever. By the end of the book, Ruby is more resolute and “cutthroat,” I guess you can say. But throughout the story, I did find her to be a bit whiny. One of my my pet peeves is when characters insist on keeping a secret because they’re afraid of being shunned, which is what Ruby does for a majority time. Overall, she wasn’t a terrible heroine, but she also wasn’t one of my favorite.
Liam: Liam is a Blue and the charismatic leader of the pack Ruby ends up joining. He’s tall, ruggedly handsome, and looks older than he actually is. Liam’s heart is huge and he’s always thinking of others before himself, sometimes at a fault. (No one can be perfect after all). The Skip Tracers and Psi Officers are all after him because he organized a breakout, not to mention the $250,000 bounty on his head, but you know you can rely on him because he’s so capable.
Charles “Chubs”: Chubs is also a Blue and the comedic mean kid of the group. He doesn’t like outsiders but is extremely loyal once he accepts someone. He never lost sight of what needed to be done and wasn’t blinded by the temporary “happiness” at East River like the others were. And even though he was upset, he was loyal until the end.
Suzune “Zu”: Zu is a yellow and the cute, young Asian girl of the group. She doesn’t have much control over her abilities so wears rubber gloves all the time to protect the others. Because of her traumatizing past (that isn’t fully revealed) she’s mute and interacts with them with expressions and motions instead.
The romance is introduced near the later end of the book. I found it strange that in the beginning of the book, the author emphasizes how uncomfortable Ruby is with boys because she was separated from them for six years. Then all of a sudden, she’s on a journey with two of them and becomes more comfortable pretty quickly, as she’s sassy with one and starts to like the other. Her character was very vanilla, and the conditioning she experienced in the camp for SIX YEARS would not disappear in a few weeks or a month even…
The reason I didn’t rate this book higher is because the whole story was basically a long road trip. There were some car chases and close calls with Skip Tracers and Psi Officers trying to recapture the group, but it consisted of them just traveling in a car trying to find out where East River was to find the Slip Kid (Rumored to be an Orange kid who was able to get in touch with parents). I also didn’t like how it ended. I understand why it had to be done and I can just assume what is going to happen later, but still it’s not a very “feel good” ending.
If you like young adult dystopian novels, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one. I do plan on continuing the series to see how it finishes.
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