When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming 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 one 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.
Late into the game, and with so many YA dystopians under our belts, it's easy to come to expect the same old from every new one we come across. As someone who enjoys dystopians, despite their waning popularity, this expectation didn't prevent me from going into The Darkest Minds optimistically. But I didn't go into it enthusiastically.
I should have.
Because if Percy Jackson, Angelfall and The Lord of the Flies had a lovechild - that lovechild would be this book.
Note how I'm not necessarily comparing it to dystopians at all.
Which isn't to say that this is not a dystopian novel. In a world where the plague is of the psychological variety, rendering the government prone to send generations of children to an equivalent of concentration camps (I apologize, rehabilitation centers), there is quite a lot of dystopian to be found. But The Darkest Minds is marked not so much by similarities to others of its kind as by its differences.
For one, The Darkest Minds reads younger than most YA dystopians - rendering it that much more believable. For the first time in a long time, I had the distinct impression that I was reading about kids even younger than myself, as opposed to a wise-beyond-their-years precocious 40 year-olds trapped in teen bodies. And these characters are likable. These are whole casts of really, really adorable, lovable heroes - someone to root for not because the others are worse than them, but because they themselves are worthy of all kinds of love and hugs and good things never to come their way.
Well, hopefully someday to come their way.
And on that subject, but on a more romantic note, for the first time in a long time it's the genuinely good guy who is the main love interest. You can say a lot about Liam Stewart (and boy, did I ever - I apologize to my friends), but you can by no means call him brooding or mysterious or what we like to refer to today as a problematic fave. Liam is made of ice cream sundaes, sunshine and a really big heart - and what a difference this has made to how the story is told. While I did compare this first book to both Angelfall (in tone) and Lord of the Flies (in some themes it explores), Liam is what brings the Percy Jackson feel into the mix - the humor to lighten the dark days, the sassiness to turn bad situations on their head. Liam is what makes a cluster of unstable kids in a makeshift camp go from Ralph and Jack to Grover and Annabeth. Liam, of course, is the Percy of this scenario. Liam is just adorable
and I am not in love, not at all, no
sir, not even a little bit.
The real problematic fave could be
Clancy. Or, really, any number of sickopaths
to be found throughout just this first book in the series. (A sickopath, to
whom it may concern, is a lovechild of a sicko and a psychopath.) In a
dystopian series where teens have supernatural abilities which alter their
minds, well... the title says it all. These are the darkest
minds of The Darkest Minds. But even at their very worst, these are
the characters you want to learn more about, to unravel, to explore. And these
are the characters you really hope would reform. (Come on, Clancy,
join Team Good just once. What a difference you could make.)
Taking into account the number of sickopaths in this novel, The Darkest Minds would definitely be an orange. My rating just goes to show that orange can still be a very good thing.
BOOK REVIEW: THE DARKEST MINDS BY ALEXANDRA BRACKEN
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub