Reading level: Young adult (12+)
Hardcover: 496 pages
Release date: December 18, 2012
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Source: Review copy from AuthorsOnTheWeb
Reviewed by: Jenn
When Ruby awakened 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 got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” Because Ruby might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby knows that she is one of the dangerous ones and, when the truth comes out, she barely escapes Thurmond with her life. On the run and desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her, Ruby 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 she did to her parents.
When they arrive at the safe haven, East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work too, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. And soon Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.
The heart-pounding first book a near-future dystopian series, Alexandra Bracken’s THE DARKEST MINDS will leave you begging for the next installment.
There’s been a lot of buzz around the blogosphere about THE DARKEST MINDS but I tried to keep my expectations low before it arrived in the mail. There have been a few times where I’ve gotten really excited about a book based on all the praise I’d read online, only to have it not live up to the incredibly high expectations I’d developed. Thanks to those unfortunate lessons, I tried to approach THE DARKEST MINDS without any ideas about how it would be. And I think this was the right approach since THE DARKEST MINDS is definitely a well-written story with a nicely paced plot and interesting world building, though there are some weak moments.
Let’s start off with my favourite part of the book: the world it’s set in. THE DARKEST MINDS is set in a near-future dystopian America, in which a mysterious disease known as IAAN has ravaged the population. Children hit puberty and then either die from the disease or survive with amazing powers. These children have been rounded up and are classified as a colour based on their powers: Blues are telekinetic, Oranges have mind powers, Yellows can manipulate technology/electricity (I’m still not 100% sure on the limits), Reds are the most dangerous and most mysterious since we don’t actually meet any, and Greens are kind of brainy. The kids put into what are effectively concentration camps, grouped according to colour. Meanwhile, on the outside, America has been isolated by the rest of the world and has fallen into economic disaster, with a corrupt president (whose son was the first to be “rehabilitated” in one of these camps) and dissenting factions spread throughout the country. Ruby, the protagonist of THE DARKEST MINDS, is an Orange with no control over her powers but she manages to use them inadvertently and gets herself classified as a Green, which saves her when all of the Reds, Oranges, and Yellows disappear from her camp, one of the biggest and strictest camps in the country. There’s so much subtext in the world but we don’t to explore it as much as I would like, hopefully because this is the first book in a proposed trilogy. We learn a lot about camp life since we’re reading through Ruby’s eyes but the outside world is still pretty mysterious since Ruby’s been in a camp for six years. What we do learn, though, really whetted my appetite for more since there are some great elements in place, though they’re not exploited to their fullest potential in THE DARKEST MINDS.
I also really liked the group of kids that Ruby ends up with. Liam, Chubs, and Zu are a little crew of misfits and I found them totally endearing. They escaped from a different camp than Ruby and have been together for a while but Ruby ends up tagging along and finding her place in the group. Of the three, I think Chubs was my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, Zu was absolutely heartbreaking and Liam was gallant and heroic but I really enjoyed Chubs’ realism and love of “stitching”. Ruby, I was less fond of. In fact, I found her to be just okay. I really enjoyed the journey she goes on for the most part but Ruby just didn’t click for me. I didn’t feel any attachment for her, which is a shame since I really wanted to. Her hesitation and doubt make sense within the context of the story but it made her kind of frustrating since I just wanted her to stand up and do something for herself at certain points.
The kids’ main goal is to find the Slip Kid, a sort of mythic figure who runs a camp for kids that the government doesn’t touch. I was completely engaged in this quest, particularly in the last third of the book. This last section of the story really had me hooked because things get turned around and Ruby does stuff. She does stuff!
Overall, I think THE DARKEST MINDS has a great dystopian foundation. I hope the author really develops it and makes the next installment of the trilogy even more exciting. Ruby finally starts finding her backbone towards the end of THE DARKEST MINDS and I look forward to seeing what Bracken does with the building blocks she’s put in place.