Book Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Posted February 2, 2014 by Kara in book review / 8 Comments

Book Review:  The Darkest Minds by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on December 18th, 2012
Genres: dystopia, science fiction, young adult
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Won
Buy on Amazon

When Ruby wakes up on her tenth birthday, something about her has 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.

For a while, I kind of cut back on the amount of dystopias I was reading.  It seemed like every single book coming out what a dystopia, and the first of a trilogy.  The Darkest Minds fits that description, and it came out right at the peak of the trend.  So, yes, I was excited I won a copy, but I put it off for a long time because I was just so burnt out by the genre.

I’m really glad I picked this book up when I did though.  I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and The Darkest Minds, while flawed, was the perfect fast-paced antidote.  This novels never really quits.  From the first page there is action, and I was happy that we didn’t spend too much time on exposition.  At the same time, though, the world-building was very unclear.

In Ruby’s US, all the kids in the country are either dying from an inexplicable syndrome, or they’re developing super-human abilities.  The kids that are developing the powers are being forced into camps all across the United States.  The kids are then separated into different groups depending on their type of ability, and each group is then assigned a color.  It’s clear that Ruby is hiding her real abilities from the authorities and manages to sneak into a less dangerous group, Green.  From there, though, that’s all that’s totally clear.

Here, on the other side of reading this book, I should know what all the color assignments are, but I only have any real understanding of two: Blues, with telekinetic powers, and Yellows, who can manipulate electricity.  I’m kind of aware that the Oranges have psychic abilities, but it’s not very clear.  I think that by the halfway point in reading, something as elementary as this should have been clear to the reader, and it’s even worse that 100% done I’m still not sure.

I’m also pretty unsure about what’s going on in the rest of the country.  The US president has somehow overridden the two-term rule, which I don’t understand.  All the military, national guard, and police forces have either been dismantled or privatized.  People have moved away from rural areas, but left their cars abandoned in the middle of highways with gas in them? I don’t get that.  Also, apparently, there are still radio stations, but all they play is classic rock or news.  Which was weird.  There are, of course, smaller organizations that are fighting back – but it’s not clear what they’re fighting for.  It IS made clear, though, that they’re not fighting on behalf of the kids, so it really makes no sense to me.  Finally, I find it entirely unlikely that the majority of parents in this country (or any country, for fuck’s sake) would willingly send their kids to concentration camps.

One last negative thing, before I move onto the good stuff:  the writing and the editing left something to be desired.  Aside from the writing just being plain and mostly amateurish, there were tons of glaring typos, misspellings, and just incorrect word usage.  It was also quite repetitive, with multiple cases of the same phrases being used twice in the same paragraph, or even the same sentences being used more than once on the same page.  There were strange errors, too, like saying it was morning, but then later on in the very same paragraph, saying it was 5:03pm.  These things violently pulled me out of the story and caused me to take several breaks throughout reading.

This all isn’t to say that I disliked The Darkest Minds.  I rather enjoyed my time reading it.  As I said earlier, it was very fast-paced, and diving into a dystopian US is a nice change from what I usually read.  While Ruby, the main character, was usually boring and inconsistent, I grew to love the other characters.  She meets up with three other kids during her travels, Chubs, Liam, and Zu – and I very much enjoyed reading about them.  Chubs took some time to getting used to, but he showed the most amount of growth in his character.  Zu, too, was wonderful to read about.  A little girl who had gone through hell and back, but was still able to muster up happiness at the littlest of things, like studying long division or trying on pretty dresses.

It’s sad when a book’s main character is not the most interesting character.  That title goes to Liam.  Liam, the unrelenting optimist, who staged the one and only successful breakout from one of the internment camps.  Liam who took it upon himself to protect Chubs and Zu.  He was smart and cunning, and so, so sweet.  I love when authors decide to write smart, charismatic characters who aren’t hiding some underlying evil inside them.  Liam wore his heart on his sleeve, but that didn’t take away from the fact that he was still layered and interesting.  In my opinion, this book should have been written about him.

The Darkest Minds is in the running for the Ending Most Likely to Kill Its Readers award.  I mean, I saw it coming, but that doesn’t mean it was easy to read.  The ending broke my heart, and had me on a mad dash to Amazon to order Never Fade.  This book isn’t perfect, but it is mostly fun to read (though there are some very, very hard scenes to read through.)  I have high hopes for where this series is going.


8 responses to “Book Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

  1. I really enjoyed Bracken’s stand-alone debut but the rumored cliffhangers concerning this series have kept me away until the last novel looms closer. For the most part, though, this seems to be extremely popular so I’m glad I stumbled across your review, Bekka, which is very balanced in covering both the good and the bad. Wonderfully written, my friend! 🙂

    • Thank you! I have to say, the amount of hype a book has negatively affects my outlook for the book. I went it with pretty low expectations, so this was a pleasant surprise. I never knew Bracken wrote anything before this until you said something. Looks interesting, but not exactly like my kind of “thing.”

  2. I’ve heard quite a few fantastic things about this book, and I feel like you’ve just hit the nail that I would have on the head. It looks like quite a flawed book, and so I might not consider it straight away. This is a very detailed and honest review, and really highlights what needs to be said 🙂

  3. I really liked this one – but it’s been a while since I read it so I can’t remember specifics about editing. Usually that kind of thing really bugs me so I’m surprised I don’t remember it! I just picked up Never Fade, but I think I’m going to need to reread The Darkest Minds before I start the sequel.

  4. Weird to read about all the little errors in the novel. There do seem to be some holes, but I’m glad to see the novel is enjoyable anyway. I guess I just love the premise so much that I’m totally willing to give The Darkest Minds a try. I’m also very curious about the ending…

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

    • I also found it weird that there were so many errors – especially in a traditionally published book. Overall, though, it really was an enjoyable read. And the ending totally broke my heart!

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