THE DARKEST MINDS (The Darkest Minds #1) - by Alexandra Bracken

THE DARKEST MINDS - Alexandra Bracken
Published: 2012 - Disney Hyperion.
Genres: Young adult / sci-fi / fantasy
Pages: 518.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Occasional strong violence.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest 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 read Bracken's Passenger duology sometime last year and enjoyed it. When I saw that the first book in this trilogy was being made into a film and then I watched the trailer, I was interested to read it, too. And I'd feel better reading the book before I watch the movie ;)

Bracken writes well. Her imagery is superb, the tone is suitably eerie, and she creates atmosphere so well. But her writing isn't concise, and that's a style that bothered me a lot in the Passenger duology, as well. She just drags stuff out too much. Her language isn't short and to the point. It's well written, but could be more concise.

The world we see on these pages is frightening. Reading about children being put in "rehabilitation camps" - which are basically concentration camps - is a horrifying nod to Hitler's regime, and perhaps inspired by that, Bracken shows a similar type of blind loyalty and atrocious abuse in the way the children are treated and rounded up and in how the people under such a government can become brainwashed. She raises thought provoking questions about authority figures, and profoundly shows just how cruel and twisted people can be when they're so convinced of what they've been made to believe. Bracken portrays a sickening world, but she does it so well. She makes you think.

Unfortunately, I found the plot too slow. It is a character-driven story, but because I never loved the characters or the writing, the slowness was a big deal. When there is action it's incredible and gets your heart racing, but it's not frequent. As a result, I was occasionally bored.

“Did you make me so happy that sometimes I actually forget to breath? I'll be looking at you, and my chest will get so tight...and it's like, the only thought in my head is how much I want to reach over and kiss you.”

The characters are well drawn. Everyone has a strong backstory that is extremely well fleshed out, and every character is vivid and three-dimensional. I love the dynamic relationships between Ruby, Liam, Zu, and Chubs - they're so beautiful - and the romance between Liam and Ruby is also a gorgeous slow-burn. I definitely ship them.

But the thing that stopped me from loving this book was the fact that it simply wasn't my type of story. I'm not big on sci fi, and this premise is just "too classically sci-fi" to win me over. It's very much dystopia (think futuristic messed up world, cruel government, and special powers) and that isn't a story I typically enjoy. It's a good book, to be sure, but it isn't something that's gonna make me go wow.

The Darkest Minds is a gut-wrenching, emotionally charged story with excellent characters and surprising depth. But I don't think it was the book for me.

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