Title: The Darkest Minds
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Publication: December 18th, 2012 by Disney Hyperion // December 11th, 2012 by HarperCollins Australia
Format, pages: Hardcover, 488 // Paperback, 496
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
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 was my first Alexandra Bracken book and I was pleasantly surprised. Despite the length of the book, which did cause a few difficulties while reading, The Darkest Minds had characters that you couldn’t help to fall in love with. This book took me over a month to get through and that was solely because of the length. I felt it didn’t need to be that long and some things could’ve been cut out. It was about halfway in which my interest was fading, so I took a break, and then after a few weeks I returned full force, determined to finish it. Surprisingly, I jumped back into Ruby’s story with ease and swept all the way to the end without any struggles. The outcome of this book was satisfying, so I’m eager to see where Ruby’s and Liam’s journeys continue and where Bracken develops this society next in the series.
Children in America are becoming affected with the Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN) disease from the age of 10. There is no cure yet for this disease, which triggers a number of symptoms, and the cause of it is unknown. Families do not know what to do so they turn their kids towards rehabilitation camps – if they haven’t already died – in large numbers. Ruby was one of those kids, who, upon learning that she was not immune when she turned 10, frightens her parents and is sent to a rehabilitation camp, Thurmond, joining a multitude of other children
in the same circumstance with similar symptoms of the disease. Families and the government is so against this disease because when children discover they’re affected with IAAN they also discover they have abilities, special abilities – abilities that are a hazard to the running of the world that the adults knew before. These kids do not know how to control these abilities that they now possess.
Six years on and things are slowly evolving, becoming different, changing in this society regarding the government, the camps, and the world at large. For six years at Thurmond Ruby manages to keep in check, but when the chance of escape presents itself with the help of an secretive agency called The League, Ruby takes it and soon after a few revelations, finds herself on the run from anybody that would stop her. In the process she finds company in a small group of Psi generation kids still learning to control their powers and trying to survive in their bleak present world on their own. Along with Chubs, Suzume, and Liam, they search for a camp that was everything they could ever need at this time in their lives, where everything was a struggle and protection was what they sought, no matter the cost to get there. Was it all that it was rumoured to be once they got there? Surely not. Ruby learns the hard way whether trust or secrecy is the only option to stand by in order to survive.
If anything, The Darkest Minds is a character driven book. It was not the society and Bracken’s world building that struck a chord with me to make me return but the characters. The characters of Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Suzumi would be the main reasons to return if you didn’t enjoy The Darkest Minds as a whole. Their characterisations are blissful individually as well as their dynamics together. The relationship between Ruby and Liam was enticing and full of colours – like the colours to categorise the different symptoms and abilities of IAAN. I found no flaw in the development of their connection as friends and their relationship as young teens in love. And the protectiveness that builds between Ruby and Liam over Suzume and Chubs with whatever threats came their way was endearing. I have so much admiration for Ruby and Liam; they remain themselves throughout everything. I looked up to Liam, confident in his ability to help those around him – with zero help from his powers – and his understanding of others, especially of Ruby. Chubs was a modern-day Piggy from The Lord of the Flies, who will win readers’ hearts, and so will Suzume, our mute little Japanese girl, so scared of her ‘shocking’ powers that it has dominated her ability to connect and express with those around her.
I say: pick up The Darkest Minds and make your own judgement about it. Alexandra Bracken has written something that contributes to the number of books and series, such as William Golding’s classic The Lord of the Flies and Michael Grant’s Gone series, in a way that expresses the true nature of human beings, and especially teens, when put in harsh circumstances of survival, where a battle for life and the imminence of death is present, whether set in the real world or in a fantasy and sci-fi set society. These are my favourite types of stories, where humanity is stretched to impossible ends, where innocence is lost, and where self-preservation fights against self-corruption in a raw battle of good and evil.
Thank you to HarperCollins Australia via NetGalley for providing a copy to review.
What others said about this book:
Anna @ Literary Exploration:
I can’t tell you how much I needed a hug by the time it was over, and how badly I want to get my hands on whatever Bracken has in store for me next. If you haven’t already considered reading Darkest Minds you’ll definitely want to add this one to your TBR.
Erin @ Tales of an Inner Book Fanatic:
…The Darkest Minds sets up a fantastic start to a YA trilogy. Containing all of the right elements including action-oriented sequences, an intriguing set of characters and some pretty cool superpowers that all readers will love to have themselves…
Others books in this series:
1. Darkest Minds (December, 2012)
2. Never Fade (November, 2013)
3. Untitled (December, 2014)