The first book in a YA trilogy of the same name, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken was a good read. While I wasn’t as pulled into the plot and the character dynamics as with The Hunger Games, by the end I did close the back cover with a desire to read the next book and a slight sigh of discontentment that my romantic heart was denied fulfillment in the last few pages.
The Darkest Minds follows the story of Ruby, a 16 year old girl who has been in a “rehabilitation camp” since the age of 10. She is one of the unlucky (or lucky depending how you want to look at it) kids who survived a disease that swept the United States killing off almost all the children almost as quickly as the first symptom presented itself. The children who did survive were forever changed and found themselves with unusual powers, and due to the fear that these powers wrought in the government, they were rounded up and sent to various camps. The public was told it was for rehabilitation and so a cure could be found, but the truth was the camps were for experimentation and containment only.
When Ruby is sent to Thurmond, the first camp, with many other children, all are screened for their “power level” and categorized into sub-groups: Greens are the weakest but have superhuman brains with photographic memory; Blues are telekinetic; Yellows can manipulate electricity and cause any electronic item to turn off, on or explode; Oranges have telepathy and can read minds, place or remove memories along with manipulating thoughts; Reds are thought to have powers of psychokinesis but this first novel only hints at that.
Ruby is an Orange (without knowing what that really means in the beginning) but as she is being sorted, she instinctively tries to protect herself and convinces her tester that she is a Green. She spends her 6 years at Thurmond hiding her true abilities and living behind a mental wall of fear. Inevitably, it’s discovered that she has powers far beyond any “Green” and a Doctor acting as an undercover agent for a group called the Children’s League smuggles her and another Orange out of the camp.Wary at what the future holds, Ruby hopes that she has finally found someone and somewhere to belong.
Sadly for Ruby, the Children’s Leagues main motivation in breaking her out was to exploit her abilities in their own political war. When Ruby realizes that the partner of the Doctor who got her out of Thurmond executed the children he was supposed to save from another camp, Ruby makes a run for it before he can do the same to her. As she is fleeing, she encounters another group of children who escaped their camp- Liam (the leader), “Chubs” (the brilliant mind) and Zu (little girl with crazy Yellow powers who wont talk), and joins up with them to escape the League agents.
Liam, Chubs and Zu are searching for a place called East River where rumors say there is a safe haven camp for kids with power and a leader named the Slip Kid who is able to connect with your relatives anywhere in the area or get you to a safe home elsewhere. As Ruby works to both hide her secret of being an Orange and yet stay with the group, Liam begins to fall in love with her… when they do finally discover the secret location of East River, not everything there turns out to be the perfect Utopian they were hoping for…
To reiterate the sentiment that I opened this post with, overall I enjoyed this novel and plan to eventually read the remaining books (oh, where will I find the time?!). However, I think what kept this book from being categorized as great for me is that there was too much repetition with the plot. OK, I get that Ruby and the others are traveling to some unknown, remote location but there seems to be redundant situations that didn’t necessarily advance the character’s development or interactions with each other. I mean, how many times do I have to read that they dodge almost being captured by various agents of the League, bounty hunters or other children gangs? Maybe the author was trying to hit a certain number of pages or perhaps she felt that each situation of danger really did help Ruby bond with the others in the little tribe but I would have been satisfied if the book had been shorter and the story-line condensed. (Side rant- Stephanie Meyers’ The Host has to be the worst offender ever in the category of endless pages of wandering that are both unnecessary and noncontributing to forward movement in the plot. Seriously….like at least 100+ pages that could have been cut from that book and you’d never miss them. Ok, end side rant.)
My other beef is the ending and I say that only because I didn’t get the hopeless romantic ending I wanted. Wasn’t really expecting it to happen with this being book one of a trilogy but if things don’t play out with love happiness for Ruby in the end, I may be scarred for life. Or just reluctant to read other works by this author. Reading is my happy place so don’t take away my perfect love endings darn it!
The trilogy continues with Never Fade and ends with In the Afterlight. Find more info on the author’s website here. There are rumors that The Darkest Minds is slated for movie production but per the author’s website, while there is a screen writer working on the novel adaptation, there are no actors or directors currently attached to this project. Stay tuned!
Photo is courtesy of Pixabay.