The Darkest Minds
by Alexandra Bracken
read in April 2018
This is a spoiler-free review!
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 purchased a copy of The Darkest Minds a couple of years ago because of the hype. Because I only became an avid reader towards the end of 2015, there are a ton of popular books I haven’t read yet. This novel was on my 2018 TBR, so I decided to pick up the audiobook on a whim in April. I immediately realised I actually had no idea what this novel was about and my expectations needn’t have been so low: I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Minds!
Honestly, I didn’t expect to like this book. I imagined this would be very trope-y and similar to other books realised around that time. Nevertheless I started reading it because I was looking for something fun; I needed to recover from all the intense contemporaries I have been reading. The Darkest Minds is by no means fluffy, but it was incredibly entertaining. Many readers found this book slow-paced, but I have to disagree. I’m definitely thankful that I ended up listening to the audiobook instead of reading my paperback copy. That said, the narration of a Japanese-American character was a bit…. questionable.
I really liked Ruby as the main character. This is only the first instalment in the series, but the character development was already astonishing. Her friends Zu, Chubs and Liam were wonderful as well!
Sadly, I didn’t love the ending. It’s so trope-y and makes me question whether I want to continue reading the series. The Darkest Minds has a lot of build-up and shouldn’t be read as a standalone, but I’m afraid I won’t enjoy the rest of the series as much. It seems inevitable that the characters will have to fight the government, so there are only two possible ways how the series could end. Additionally, I don’t own physical copies of the rest of the series nor are the audiobooks available yet. That said, this first instalment very much exceeded my expectations, so perhaps the sequels will as well.
While reading, I definitely kept in mind that this was published in 2012. I would for example no longer tolerate the abundance of cissexist language, but I don’t think it’s fair to criticize this as a more recent release.
content and trigger warning for cissexist language (“she or her”, “the opposite gender”, etc.), suicide, death, murder, anti-fat remarks, guns, ableist language (unchallenged), cultural appropriation of ‘tribe’ + negative connotation, kissing (M/F), sexual coercion/no consent (using supernatural abilities)
The Darkest Minds absolutely exceeded my low expectations. I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and I loved the characters. That said, I’m not sure yet whether I’m going to read the rest of the series. Tell me: is it worth my time, or not?
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