The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken has been sitting on my shelf for months. I finally picked it up after hearing about its amazingness repeatedly. I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it.
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.
If I could sum up the good things about this book, it would be the world-building and character development. The society in which the main character Ruby lives is a horrible one; a future where there is basically no hope for those with special powers. The only option is to run. The horrors that Ruby has to go through are chilling and the set up of the camps and the aftermath of the world surrounding them is brilliantly put together.
The characters were wonderfully developed. I had a clear idea about who Ruby was and the secondary characters even if they were just briefly introduced. The writing was clever and straightforward, switching between a somber, sinister tone and light-hearted hopeful dialogue. For example: “Better to stay in the gray than get eaten by the dark” and “Time to carpe the hell out of this diem,” respectively. There was plenty of time to get to know the characters, Ruby especially, because there are 488 pages in this rather large book.
The length, for me, was a problem. Not because it was long, but because a lot happens without anything happening. The best way to describe the book is slow, really slow. Ruby’s trapped in the camp…for pages. Ruby finally breaks out. Ruby meets up with some people and they travel…for pages. It was this cycle of nothing happening but mundane day-to-day things and then bursts of excitement, and that’s how the book continued until the end. I wish some of it was cut out or maybe more dialogue between Ruby and the love interest Liam.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Liam and their relationship was so sweet and honest and a true connection. I was rooting for them as they fought the draw to each other as they traveled to find East River. Just like the book, the romance was slow. It took forever for them to admit their feelings and by that time the book was practically over. Unfortunately, the delay in connection delayed my emotions toward the couple and I didn’t know how to feel.
The last part of the book introduces a whole other tone, where Ruby is learning how to use her power with a certain someone that isn’t Liam. (Sorry, don’t want to spoil anything.) This part was both intriguing and excruciating because I was waiting for the other shoe to drop…and it took forever to fall.
The Darkest Minds is the first book in the trilogy, so I was expecting a bit of a cliffhanger, but the actions of Ruby toward Liam in the end broke my heart. Love can’t grow if you take it away. I was dissatisfied with the ending but it has more to do with the world in the story than the author or the writing. Maybe I’m just in one of those moods where I can’t take the heartbreak. To be honest, this book put me in a reading funk and now I can’t bring myself to read anything else. I pick something up and then put it back down. It’s frustrating!!
Anyway, The Darkest Minds was beautifully-crafted, dark and heart-wrenching, but the slow pace had me exhausted from the foreboding plotline, keeping me on the edge of my seat too long for comfort.
STARS: 3.5 out of 5