I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Darkest Minds by Alexander Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on 18th December 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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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.
Steph, baby, honey-munchkin. You are going to love this one. I usually don’t do Dystopians much anymore. Steph still loves them though, so I’m kind of excited to see how she’ll feel about it. I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t loved Bracken’s previous work, Brightly Woven. Yet this book was getting rave reviews. All I can say is, my god that writer’s done her work. This was a massive improvement on both a technical level and story-telling level.
Ruby lives in a world where an entire generation of children spontaneously sprout super-human powers. This results in her being towed off to a concentration camp where she is raised under constant threat of death and inhumane conditions. But when Ruby breaks out of Thurmond, the Dystopian equivalent of an Auschwitz, she finds that life on the outside isn’t much better. She meets up with a group of kids and the adventure goes from there with a lovable cast of characters. The back drop of this hauntingly close dystopian world begins to unfold.
As I said, Bracken’s writing has improved dramatically. Her only real issue involves vague writing in connection to action scenes and I would have ideally preferred a smoother, tighter plot. The scene where a van is attacked is a good example. It’s a confusing hot mess to figure out what exactly happened. The writing, uncharacteristic considering the rest of the novel, was not smooth at all and there was a strange disjointed feeling – the same one that had plagued Beautifully Woven. This is a pretty significant development. Almost as good as getting out a near perfect debut novel, is learning and developing and improving so much on the next, which Bracken has clearly done. Especially when I read it thinking, “Is this even the same author?” For this, Bracken, I salute you!
But this is a very character driven novel and as such, the characters are a big part of what makes it a great read. Liam, Chubs, Suz, Clancy – these are the big characters that keep you reading alongside Ruby. If you don’t connect to Ruby or these other characters, then you will struggle to enjoy it at all. The novel races almost from start to finish – though readers will have to excuse a little bit of a bumpy beginning. Darkest Minds seems to have something to say about true freedom, but I can’t actually decide what main theme it’s working on. It’s not a perfect novel, there’s still plenty of improvement to be had in tightening the plot, technicalities and smoothing out some of the narration. The romance between the two leads wasn’t as convincing as I would have liked. It’s never ideal when a reader wonders what even connects them, let alone binds them in love, but I felt it was an enjoyable book.
In fact, this would be the one aspect of Bracken’s writing that I feel has been neglected. North and Sydelle had a much more believable connection with a more developed romance than Ruby and Liam got. However, the story manages to move along at a brisk pace without ever really falling into being stagnant or boring. Darkest Minds mostly hits all the high notes and, in my opinion, it’s well worth checking out. People keep saying that Dystopia is a dead genre, but I think Steph and I are very happy to see it fighting the odds!