The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Release Date – December 18, 2012
Publisher Website - Disney/Hyperion
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 496 pages
My Rating- 3.5/5
**Received from publisher for review via BEA**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.The Darkest Minds seemed to have anything I would love in a novel ; teenagers with super powers, rebel groups, and creepy sounding rehabilitation camps. It easily sounded like an action packed, engrossing read that I was eager to pick up. While this novel had it’s moments, and starts off (and ends) strong, I found myself struggling with the middle of the novel.
It wasn't until I had finished that I realized why I didn't connect with it. The plot at the beginning and end is quick paced, and filled with urgency. It is uneven with the much slower middle that this bookends. The middle feels like you’re experiencing the same thing over and over, with little modifications. It makes for a strangely paced read that didn't hold my attention the way it could have.
The world that Alexandra Bracken has created is scarily easy to imagine in terms of the decimated landscape. Even though teenagers are dying, others are being sent off to camps, and the world is crumbling, the population is trying to keep it together. It’s not a fully destroyed society which to me felt more logical. Goods and services are insanely priced, and things aren’t kept in proper condition but there are still some jobs, and things are struggling to be as normal as possible under the circumstances. It’s this that infuses some hope in an otherwise bleak story.
Sadly, as strong as this world is built, it’s the main component to the story that felt underdeveloped to me. The reason these teenagers are dying, and the why behind these new abilities. It’s never hinted at, discussed, or clarified. It felt strange to me to not have the why be a major plot point in a story like this, or at least part of the back story if it was going to focus on something else.
The novel is filled with political propaganda, rebel groups, and plots. It’s easy to see where these very strong and dangerous teens could strike fear into the government, and why people would want to use them for their own desires. Determining what is the right coarse of action, even if it may not directly benefit yourself, is something these characters are having to figure out while navigating this unfamiliar world. This aspect is beautifully done, and one of the most strong points in the writing.
The characters are what made me stick with the story, even when the plot didn’t captivate me. The main character, Ruby, was hit and miss for me. The enigma that is Ruby frustrated me as much as I sympathized with her.. A young girl who barely knows herself, and as a reader we aren’t really let in either. Her character development is fantastic in the second half, but it takes patience to get there. I understood her loneliness and need to keep people at arms length because of what she could do.
The easy mannered Liam, the adorable Zu, and the fiercely loyal Chubs come into Ruby’s life suddenly and like an explosion, turn her life upside down. Liam with his easy smile, heart, and leadership qualities will make many girls swoon. I appreciated that he was developed, and that the attraction that grows between he and Ruby fault authentic. Zu and Chubs were hands down my favourite. The damaged little girl who doesn’t talk, and the intelligent young man who sees more than he lets on. These two characters helped save the novel for me.
The ‘mysterious leader’ of East River is as intriguing as the synopsis hints at. Powers that rival Ruby’s own, and motivations that are shrouded in hidden agendas. It quickly becomes clear that Ruby and her friends are in over their heads, and this is where the story starts to pick up the pace. Barreling towards a much more dynamic ending filled with action, twists, and much needed character development. It leaves the story off on a high note, and one that insures I will be back for the sequel.
I can see a lot of people LOVING this but I, sadly, wished for more. A promising start to a series that failed to completely win me over in book one. A strong second half has left me eager to find out more and pick up the sequel.