The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Digital Audiobook narrated by Amy McFadden
Published by Brilliance Audio on March 8th 2013
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 488 pages or 14 hours
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When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening 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.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have 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 having a life worth living.
This book has been on my TBR list forever – the way my hardcopy reading is going, I would have never gotten to it. Thank goodness for the audiobook! Although I think I really would have liked it better without the narrator….
I’ve bounced back and forth on whether I liked the characters or not in this book, and ultimately, it really came down to the character. For a protagonist, Ruby’s not bad. She definitely grows and evolves, and I love the fact she isn’t awesome at everything. It’s immensely frustrating when a protagonist excels at everything. The lead boy, Liam, is not my favorite, but I thought Chubs was pretty well developed. Zu was adorable. Clancy was the worst. Overall I have to say that Braken did a pretty good job with character development.
The Darkest Minds takes place in a crumbling world, but not a post-apocalyptic one. Especially at the beginning of the book, you get a sense of the chaos that has ensued in the ten years Ruby’s been in camp. Empty houses and city blocks, looted stores, a partially exploded school – all these are nuances breaking apart what used to be a normal life. I had some issues with the calm highway miles and the complete lack of people who weren’t bounty hunters, but neither of these things are enough to break the illusion of the world.
I kept trying to predict this book, and I kept failing. I kept waiting for things to blow up in Ruby’s face, and for the most part, they didn’t. I kept waiting for the worst YA cliches to bounce in and although they started to trickle from time to time… they didn’t fully evolve. Thank you. The book ended differently than I expected, too. When it comes to YA, it’s so important to me that I not be able to predict the book. Predictable books are boring.
Overall, Braken is telling a story of a generation that has developed mutant powers (five varieties only). The older generation, terrified of their children (mostly), have abandoned them to the government. The morality of this has split the country, and meanwhile, the children are tortured, tested on like lab animals, and generally neglected. It’s not a great situation. It’s not the most original idea, but Braken does manage to tell it in an original way.
Also, I kept waiting for a love triangle. I was sure it would happen. It didn’t. Some bits with one of the characters near the end got pretty sappy… but it never actually became a triangle!
Writing / Narration
The biggest reason for the loss of a heart in this category is the narrator. Amy McFadden was not the worst narrator I’ve heard, but several of her voices (Liam’s!) really bugged me. Ruby always sounded like she had such an attitude as well, which didn’t come across in the writing at all. It just irritated me.
Braken made some interesting writing choice for a YA novel, including what is implied to be a rape scene. Very little of this is described as the main character is being mentally manipulated, but it may not be what some parents want their ‘tweens reading. The scene that bothered me the most? Within an hour of waking after the attack, the protagonist very nearly starts making out with someone else. Not quite, but almost. I was enraged. If Braken allowed it to go from rape to teen makeout session, I was done. It didn’t, but it felt really, really close.
Overall, I really did like this book. There were a couple things that made me mad, but the story as a whole was well-done and interesting, with characters that I became invested in. The book ended with several questions that I want answered – such as Did that character live? Did that other one reach his/her destination? WTF is Ruby’s plan? and so forth. I’ll be picking up the sequel at some point for sure.
“When the white noise went off, we were in the garden, pulling weeds.”
Some of My Favorite Quotes
“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”
“He’s so busy looking inside people to find the good that he misses the knife they’re holding in their hand.”
When a girl cries, few things are more worthless than a boy.
“Maybe nothing will ever change for us,” he said. “But don’t you want to be around just in case it does?”