Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds is one of those books I missed back when I was in my young adult dystopian phase (i.e. the year or so after I read The Hunger Games trilogy back in 2012). But it’s consistently been on my radar since. I keep hearing about how good it is, so, even though I’ve kind of lost interest in dystopian YA, I kept it on my TBR. Last week, I saw it on my shelf, and I decided to finally cross it off my list.
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
There were definitely things I liked about this book. I enjoyed the different powers that the kids had, and how they were organized according to their abilities. While it wasn’t totally unique, it was probably the most original part of this book. For the most part, I liked the characters. They were obviously forced to grow up quickly, but they didn’t act too old for their age, especially Zu – she was my favorite; I thought Bracken did an amazing job of creating a multi-dimensional conflicted character who doesn’t speak. My favorite part of the novel was definitely the friendships, particularly those between the four main characters. They each pair has a unique relationship, and it was fun to see them develop over the course of the book.
Overall, however, this book definitely reminded me why I don’t gravitate towards dystopian YA anymore. All of the major elements were almost identical to something I’d read in another book. It just seemed a little too generic. Something I generally enjoy in books is references to other books, especially classic literature. But, in The Darkest Minds, it seemed unnecessary and forced, and it didn’t really work for me. I also didn’t care for the ending. It’s actually almost identical to the ending of another book, one I didn’t like at all, and it’s an ending I really kind of hate, especially in YA. I won’t give it away, but I will say that I don’t like when young characters act too mature. It seems unrealistic, and, in this case, it was too neat.
Even though I had quite a few problems with this book, I did enjoy reading it. It wasn’t terrible. But it definitely wasn’t my favorite. As of right now, I am not planning on continuing on with this series, because, as reading this book proved, I’ve grown out of dystopian young adult books. If I ever decide to pick up another one, it’s going to have to be super unique.
Have you read The Darkest Minds? What did you think?