From Goodreads: 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.
You know those books that you finish reading that leave you asking, “Damn, did that just happen?” The ones that leave you feeling like there’s a hole in your heart, and like any minute depression is going to set in? This is one of those novels. And I wouldn’t necessarily say that that’s a bad thing, some novels are just a bit gloomy, but right now I’m feeling kind of down, and it’s all because of the cliffhanger with which The Darkest Mind just slapped me.
Bracken has created a novel centering on kids that, at the age of 10, either die, or develop special abilities. The death of children is never an uplifting topic, and when it’s by the thousands, you just know the events about to unfold are probably going to be depressing. But, sad topics aside, let’s discuss the special abilities of those who do survive. Truth be told, I wasn’t 100% sure what was being described when the abilities were discussed. Now that I’ve finished the novel, I have a fairly decent idea about most of the abilities, but still, not all—they were a bit vague for me. And, because I wasn’t sure what all the abilities meant, or how some were classified as dangerous, I did find parts of this novel hard to follow. For instance, in the beginning, I couldn’t understand why Ruby considered herself to be such a monster, and as I didn’t know what happened with her parents, I wasn’t able to put two and two together. She is so afraid of her abilities that she seems to lack the ability to put them to use, so she doesn’t, for a very large part of the novel. Hence, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. That’s probably just me, but because things weren’t spelled out for me (and I may have just missed some vital sentence in there somewhere, it happens), I struggled to fully understand the story. So, here’s what I think I know about the abilities, in hopes that it helps potential readers. All surviving kids are classified by their colors: Reds, I think, deal with fire. Oranges can take over the mind, among other mind capabilities. Yellow’s control circuits, mainly lights and such. Blues can make anything move using their mind, and Greens are… well, I’m not sure. I think they’re really good with numbers and have photographic memories. Maybe. I probably messed that up, but… I hope I’m on the right track.
Ruby is an Orange. Hence, she’s able to pass herself off as a Green for quite some time. Six years, to be exact. And then, all hell breaks loose.
What I really liked about this novel was that the story was enticing so, while I didn’t necessarily understand everything that was happening, I was interested enough to keep reading. When I was trying to explain the book to a friend, she asked me why I kept reading The Darkest Minds if I was as confused as I sounded, and my response was that the novel was, indeed, intriguing, and sometimes, that’s all I need for it to be a good book. I mean, the colors and coding all reminded me of Divergent, by Veronica Roth, which I really enjoyed, and the characters were appealing, though I couldn’t tell who was true to their word, and who was manipulating others. Of course, neither could Ruby, and that was half the fun. I love a good mystery, and this novel is full of it.
What was difficult for me, however, was that the novel seemed to jump around. It begins with a prologue that makes sense later on in the novel, but not right away. I like beginnings like this, because it creates a bit of mystery and something to look forward to. Then the first chapter takes us all the way back to the very beginning, detailing where Ruby was and what she saw during the beginning stages of the outbreak, IAAN. What I didn’t understand, and never did grasp, is where the disease came from, how it was contracted, why it only affected kids and teens, and why it randomly popped up in the USA. It just seems like it broke out one day, and there was no explanation behind it, which I really needed, even though the story is well written. But back to the format. The novel does a series of jumps throughout the duration of the story, going from past, to present, to past… being at the camp in the present, remembering something that happened at camp in the past, remembering home, remembering school, then we’re whisked back to the present, and the cycle keeps repeating itself. Usually I do very well with novels that are set up like this, but in all honesty, I really think this set up is why I am a bit confused about the teen abilities and such. I just felt like I, personally, didn’t have a deep enough grasp on anything prior to a past/present shift, so it made it a little hard for me to follow.
But again, the story itself was captivating. Even though I didn’t understand why Ruby considered herself a monster (for a very long time), it did eventually click, and the more I read, the more I made sense of this dystopian world where teens are much to be feared. Do I think everyone who reads this novel will be a bit lost? Nope. I think it’s mainly me here, and I certainly think that this novel is worth the read. I truly did enjoy it; I just wish I had more background knowledge going in.
But, back to my original statement—my very first paragraph. Wow. Ruby and her friends just don’t catch a break. Any time anything starts looking up, terrible things happen. And the last instance broke my heart, though I can see why Bracken would do it… this is a series novel, after all, and the cliffhanger kind of needs to be a slap in the face. Yet, though it’s depressing, it’s one I’m not going to forget. In fact, I’m not going to forget this story at all, because it has jarred me and made me feel even more sorry for the characters—they never asked for any of this—and that’s why I’m going with a higher rating than I originally thought I was going to give this novel. It’s all about the ending, every time. Four stars.
I received a paperback ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.