Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Darkest Minds #1
Genre: YA, science fiction
Published on December 18, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 496
Read From: 4.5.13 - 4.7.13

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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes. It's simple, I like the burnt orange color and the barbed wire, and the Psi symbol. And, even better, there are no character impersonators!

Characters: Ruby was one of those protagonists that I neither disliked nor grew especially attached to. She's not cardboard, nor is she difficult to relate to; in fact, it's very easy to connect to her. She just didn't make much of an impression on me personally, because there was nothing unique about her, when comparing her to the thousands of other female protagonists I've met over the years of reading. At the same time, though, I can see how some Readers might really like her. She doesn't have an attitude, but she is tough, she's loyal to her friends, and her personal struggles are relatable (minus the whole super power thing, of course). There's nothing to dislike about Ruby; I just didn't form much of an attachment. For a story like this, though, I was just glad that was sensible. Liam, on the other hand, I really liked, even though like Ruby, there isn't really anything special to distinguish him from the thousands of male characters I've met in other books. He was kind and loyal and did everything he could to protect his friends, and he also blamed himself for pretty much every bad circumstance. He was an average nice guy, and I really did like him. Zu was the typical sweet, younger girl with surprising feistiness that all the older kids try to protect, and Chubs . . . Well, to be honest, Chubs kind of got on my nerves with his pessimism and paranoia, but somehow he completed the group. And as for Clancy, I didn't care for him right off the bat. He was too manipulative, a little creepy in his "pretty boy" appearance, and way too friendly with Ruby.

The Romance: There's a bit of a love triangle going on between Liam, Ruby, and Clancy, but it's amazingly slight. I'm all right with Ruby and Liam liking each other - at least, as far as I am all right with teen romances. Since I liked Liam and was okay with Ruby, and the romance wasn't ridiculously mushy, it didn't bother me all that much. Clancy's very brief moment in the love triangle did, though, because he creeped me out, and I didn't want to see Liam's feelings hurt.

Plot: A deadly disease has swept across America, taking kids at the ages of ten to early teenhood. But some kids survived, and they developed uncanny abilities: mind control, super intelligence, telekinesis, the ability to affect electronics. The government - and the kids' own parents - are terrified of what these kids can do, and they're sent to reeducation camps, where they are given colored classifications based on their abilities, separated, and then studied and experimented on like guinea pigs. Or sometimes they're just forgotten and abused by the camp guards. Ruby is an Orange - the most dangerous kind of kid there is, but if the people in charge of the camps find out, she'll be killed, so she lives out her days pretending to be a Green. But Ruby soon finds herself on the run, along with three other kids from another reeducation camp: Liam, Suzume, and Chubs. This is one of those plots where each character's objective changes as the story progresses. At first, Ruby wants to go home, but then she learns of another Orange who has set up a secret camp, where other kids with special abilities can come and hide. Ruby wants to find the Slip Kid - as the camp's leader is called - so he can help her learn how to control her own terrifying ability. Meanwhile, Liam was the Slip Kid's help with liberating other camps, Chubs just wants to go home, and Zu just goes along with what the older kids want. At first. But as they avoid skip tracers and a rebel group intent on using the kids' special abilities, rather than helping them, as well as the government, they all begin to realize that things aren't as easy or simple as they first thought. The book really isn't always clear on what all of these different groups really want; it takes a lot of piecework on the part of the Reader to realize what everyone is after, and who friends (or enemies) with - and why. The why isn't explored much in The Darkest Minds, and I think that this will be explored more in later installments. But given the length of this novel, a little less time could have been spent on Ruby worrying over what Liam and Co. will think of her if they find out her true abilities, and a little more on the world's political situation. Because the Reader already knows how Liam and Co. are going to react when they discover the "truth" about Ruby, so she's the only one worried about it.

Believability: I will give the Author this: her reeducation camps are believably cruel. Some might question why the kids are treated so horribly, and my thought on that is: because they can be. People don't need a reason to treat other people badly, and there's no reason why that should be any different in a novel. The kids are beaten and starved and forced to work in factories and are subjected to very harsh punishment. What makes the camps even more convincing is: the dangerous kids - Oranges and Reds and Yellows - are all taken out of the camp to be "transferred," which is code for gunned down in a remote location, probably after digging their own graves. The other kids don't see this; the Oranges and Reds and Yellows are just suddenly no longer there one fine morning.

Writing Style: Like most books nowadays, the writing style is nothing special, and quite movie-ish a lot of the time. It's not bad writing, but it did nothing for me. For this type of story, it was appropriately action-y and all of that, so it worked well enough. I have to admit that I personally loved all of the references to Author made to Watership Down. It somehow lent a really eerie aspect to the story.

Content: 10 s-words, 7 g--damns, 4 f-words. There's a part where I think Ruby is raped, but there are no details, and none of the characters ever actually say what exactly happened - not even Ruby, though they certainly act like she was raped. But it is never made clear whether or not she was. The violence is at times a little graphic, but not ridiculously so.

Conclusion: Quite honestly, it was a little confusing. Baddies show up and wreck havoc, but I didn't catch if they rounded all the kids up and took them away, or gunned them all down. The baddies were just there, and then suddenly they and their helicopters were gone. And I missed what happened to Clancy exactly. So a bit of a convoluted end, though the very, very end was good. Extremely bittersweet, and if I had been more emotionally attached to Ruby, I would have cried. The Darkest Minds is a rather interesting story, definitely entertaining, though kind of slow at times (Ruby and Zu at one point do a shopping trip, which the Author finds necessary to relate in detail. I realize it's a bonding moment for Ruby and Zu, but a shopping trip really felt out of place). I'm curious to see how it all turns out, though.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, seventeen-and-up, dystopian, futuristic, and supernatural fans.

Others in This Series:
1)The Darkest Minds
2)Never Fade
3)In the Afterlight

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