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 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 only 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.
I absolutely loved Alexandra Bracken’s debut novel Brightly Woven and have been eagerly waiting another book from her since reading it. When I found out that her second book would be coming out and in the dystopian/apocalyptic genre, I couldn’t have been more excited! And The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken certainly lived up to my expectations and I devoured it. The main character Ruby has been in a rehabilitation camp for six years, sent there when she was ten years old and exhibited symptoms of Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration disease (IAAN) – and didn’t die. This disease has killed most of the children in the United States, and those that have survived show signs of mental powers, whether telekinesis, heightened intelligence, control over fire or electricity, or the ability to enter the mind of another and assert the wielders will or erase memories. But now Ruby has broken out of Thurmond and is trying to survive in a country that fears her.
Although there’s a prologue that introduces us to the reality of Ruby’s situation in the rehabilitation camp Thurmond, chapter one begins with an intense first line – “Grace Somerfield was the first to die.” (pg. 3, ARC). It really draws you into this interesting and terrifying concept of a United States that is losing its children, and terrified of the survivors. I really enjoyed the different factions that have risen up in the wake of IAAN and the back story is woven into the narrative really well. There are so many aspects of this story that I like, including the characters. Ruby is so complex. She’s a survivor, and strong. She hides in the beginning, but by the end has gained enough to lose that she makes the decision to actively fight against what’s happened to her and the other kids. Ruby’s kind of lost but determined to stay free of Thurmond and the other camps. Liam is steady, strong, capable and so protective. But he can rush into things sometimes. Chubs is the humour. He always has to find the worst possible scenario, but it keeps them cautious. He’s optimistic deep down and while he seems distrustful he has a huge heart.
The romance in The Darkest Minds is quiet and believable, as are the friendships and the trust that builds between the characters. No insta-love, thank goodness. The budding romance between Ruby and Liam is slow and sweet but not without its hardships. As I was reading, I couldn’t help wondering if IAAN is world-wide, and why adults were so quick to turn on their children – especially with the majority of them dieing. You’d think even with the extra powers gained (and the Greens are just really smart! How dangerous can that be?) parents would do anything to protect their kids (and yes, I know it was the government taking most of the kids away from their homes, but there are parents in government). So many people are not what they seem and it’s hard for Ruby and the others to know who to trust and what they should be searching for besides the mysterious Slip Kid – the person who is rumoured can get kids home, or at least messages to their families.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. There are some wonderful action moments, and the whole scene in the Wal-Mart was creepy, intense and haunting. There’s also this ridiculously crazy ending that rips your heart out and the desire for a sequel. Sooner rather than later, please! Alexandra Bracken’s writing is emotional and descriptive, enough to have you mood-swinging like crazy while trying to keep up with Ruby and her insane journey.
ARC received at Book Expo America through an author signing and the publisher. Thank you!