Review: THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken

Review: THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds
The Darkest Minds #1

Written by: Alexandra Bracken
Published by: Disney Hyperion
Release date: December 18th 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 488
Source: Library
Buy: B&N, Amazon
Add on: Goodreads
Also by this author: Never Fade, Passenger


When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who 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 a life worth living.

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Wow… what took me so long to pick this one up, I ask you? But that seems to be the trend with me and books lately – either I’m reading one that’s brand new, or I’m reading one that has been out for what seems like forever and am the last one to jump on the hype. I mean, I’m not pulling my hair out that I waited this long – the book was really good, but it wasn’t perfect for me. I am sort of glad I waited, because now I don’t have to wait very long for book 2 – which is a very good thing.

The Darkest Minds follows Ruby, a 16-year-old girl living in a country (the US) which has been subjected to a terrible disease that killed most of the country’s children – and left the rest of them with powers that terrify the adults who are left. She and all of the other kids have been put into “rehabilitation” camps that are supposedly helping the kids (spoiler: they’re not). But she’s given a split second to escape the camp she’s in (Thurmond), and she takes it – luckily running into a few other kids who are on their way to an almost legendary safe haven for people like them, called East River.

My favorite part of the book was definitely the section where she travels with those kids – Liam and Zu and Chubs – trying to find East River. The group dynamics were fantastic, and I loved that the kids were able to help Ruby get out of her shell, open up, and stand up for herself after being so withdrawn and scared while at Thurmond. Ruby, while a good main character, didn’t strike me as particularly stand-out in many ways. Actually, Ruby (and by extension, the whole book) sort of reminded me of Allie from Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules and Juliette from Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me. Ruby wasn’t quite as kick-ass as Allie (most of the time), and the fact that she dwelt on being a “monster”, afraid to interact with people because of her abilities, definitely gave me more than a few flashbacks to Juliette (and in a smaller way, Allie – but Allie was just so kick-ass despite her qualms… anyway, I digress). In fact, Liam – the love-interest – really reminded me of Kagawa’s Zeke, as well – the leader of a ragtag group of kids trying to find a safe haven, who ends up liking the MC despite what she considers relationship-ending abilities.

Don’t get me wrong, those things aren’t really negatives per se… but I feel like those are common character types in YA now, so Ruby and Liam didn’t really feel like anything new. BUT I still loved them…! And the other characters – Chubs and Zu – I was super excited to see, were definitely given adequate time to be developed themselves, beyond the 2-dimentional minor characters who often fade into the background in favor of the main characters. And like I said, the group dynamics of all four of them were fantastic – their interactions were honest and felt real, and I loved that.

One thing that sort of threw me off sometimes, though, was the fact that for the first half (or two-thirds) of the book, we don’t really know much about Ruby’s past. So much is left out, actually, that when she references things, it’s not just vague or mysterious, but actually confusing. I was left wondering if I’d accidentally skipped a chapter or something, and actually flipped to the beginning of the book once to see if I’d missed a pre-prologue or something. O_o There were also sections where I feel like the action moved too quickly, or… maybe that’s not the right way to describe it. Like descriptions of people’s actions, cause and effect, was done choppily, so again, I was left a little confused as to what was going on, or why someone made whatever decision they seemed to have suddenly made.

While most of that might sound like negatives, or at least not a ringing endorsement for the book, please don’t misunderstand – I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite its flaws. There was plenty of action, the plot moved along at a perfect pace, and the ending… man, the ending was intense. Just when you think everything is fine… it all gets ripped out from under you. I’m still just reeling from the last few pages.

 

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I really did enjoy this book a lot, I swear! I wouldn’t have given it 4 stars if I hadn’t. Even though the main characters felt like ones I’d seen before, sometimes that’s not a bad thing – certain character types are popular for a reason. ;) I suppose most of those 4 stars owe themselves to a few things: Ruby and Liam being all OTP and great together, and the pacing and plot. While some elements were confusing, and we still have a lot to learn about this world and how the “abilities” work, everything rushed along in such a way that I was drawn easily into the story, and it didn’t spit me back out until the final, gut-wrenching page. I am seriously eagerly awaiting the sequel, Never Fade, which comes out October 15th!

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