The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) by Alexandra Bracken
Pages: 488 (Hardcover)
Published by: Disney Hyperion (Dec 2012)
Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Post-Apocalyptic, Adventure
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
I had a bit of a dystopian phase in my early University years, and unfortunately, I learnt about The Darkest Minds after I’d exhausted myself reading chosen-one-overthrows-government trilogies. It’s always been in the back of my mind though – I’d see it pop up occasionally in Booktube videos and a few years ago, one of my colleagues at work read it and promptly told me “NGOC YOU HAVE TO READ IT NOW.”
Can’t say exactly why I chose to start The Darkest Minds now when there are SO MANY OTHER BOOKS on my priority list this year but GOOD LORD, WHY DIDN’T ANYONE MAKE ME READ THIS EARLIER?! It’s basically about a bunch of teenage X-men trying to simultaneously outrun a government determined to chain them down and a deceptively helpful organisation bent on turning them into ruthless killing machines. Life’s rough, y’know?
The fast pacing: I know some people didn’t enjoy the ‘road trip’ portion early on, but for god’s sake the kids were RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES half the time so I don’t know how that part could’ve done anything other than set your heart racing
Ruby’s character development: Ruby’s transformation isn’t your typical ‘fears her power initially and then BAM! fifteen chapters later, she conveniently masters it just in time to save the world.’ (*coughCelaenacough*) She still semi-hates her abilities at the end of the book, I just think that her maturity, confidence and her ability to judge other people’s character grows so much. Her little ‘you need me more than I need you’ speech at the end to a certain character blew up my Sass-o-meter. 😉
The side characters: ALL the side characters were fleshed out so well, no matter how fleeting their appearance in the book, which is incredible. I LOVED Chubs and Zu – particularly their camaraderie with Liam and Ruby and the gradual development of Ruby’s friendship with Chubs is actually one of my favourite things in the whole book.
LIAM: OH MY GOD. How do I even begin to describe Liam? He just goes against SO MANY YA MALE LOVE INTEREST TROPES.
- Exhibit A: When Liam discovers the secret that Ruby’s been hiding, he’s surprised that she thinks he’d be angry with her. He tells her that it’s her secret and her choice whether she decides to share it with them.
- Exhibit B: There’s a particular scene where Liam finds out about something that another character did to Ruby and instead of assuming it was her fault the way I’ve seen a lot of other male love interests do, he asked if she was okay (and promptly threatened to kill the offender, as any gentleman would.)
Liam is just one of those genuine, heart-of-gold Peeta Mellark-esque characters that you won’t be able to help falling for, which is why some of the things that happened at the end of the book absolutely shattered my heart.
Clancy + Ruby: I hated Clancy from the very first scene where we met him. He’s emotionally manipulative and jealous and I HATED that he played the ‘we’re the only ones’ card with Ruby to isolate her. What’s worse is that Ruby fell for it – the way she described Clancy was such an eye-roll – I quote, “it was dangerous how handsome he was.” She’d just turn jelly kneed every time he came near her and I wanted to throw my phone at the wall EVERY.TIME. (I listened to this on Audible, FYI.)
THE ENDING. THAT TROPE. A THOUSAND TIMES NO. So this book was well on its way to being a solid 4.5 stars, UNTIL I REACHED THE ENDING AND DISCOVERED ONE OF MY MOST HATED TROPES OF ALL TIME: Ye olde ‘I love you and so I’m going to make this decision for your own good. And you will have no say in this whatsoever. Because I love you.’ Think Edward and Bella, except A THOUSAND TIMES WORSE (although to Alexandra’s credit, she did write the scene very well.)
I hate hate HATE when this trope is used because in my eyes, if you’re in a relationship and a decision has to be made that will affect BOTH people then it is the right of BOTH people involved to have a say in the decision, especially if you’re planning to do something LIFE ALTERING to the other person. The only reason I didn’t drop my rating to a 3 stars was that I do kind of understand that unlike in Bella and Edward’s situation, the character that made the HORRENDOUS, UNFORGIVABLE decision truly saw no other way that they could keep the other person safe. And they made the decision with heart-wrenching efficiency and finality (I’m looking at you, Edward ‘I’m going to break up with Bella for her own good but still hang around so she can catch glimpses of me now and then’ Cullen.)
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the first instalment of Alexandra Bracken’s debut series (tropey last chapter events notwithstanding) and I can’t wait to pick up book 2. So far, it stands apart from other dystopian novels I’ve read and I’m particularly interested in the presence of multiple ‘villains’ and how this will play out in the rest of the series. If dystopian/paranormal/sci-fi is your thing, don’t wait a bajillion years to read this like I did!