Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, book one)
By Alexandra Bracken
Published 2012 by Disney Hyperion

On her tenth birthday, Ruby woke up different. So different that her parents called the police and she was taken to a government rehabilitation camp. She survived the mysterious disease that targeted children, but now Ruby is dangerous. She's developed abilities that she doesn't know how to control. Six years later, Ruby needs to escape. How? Will she survive?

I was really excited when I first heard about this book - it seemed to be getting a lot of buzz and I thought it was an interesting concept. First, a disease kills a majority of the child population. Second, the remaining children develop psychic abilities that are awesome and beyond their control. Third, chaos reigns. Then, I saw the cover. I like the simple yet fiery feel to it. I think it's graphically appealing. Finally, I heard other YA authors saying good things about it. So, I was excited.

Unfortunately, for me, this book didn't really live up to my excitement level. This book is long - just under 500 pages - and it felt even longer. The first two-thirds (at least) of this book just dragged - I didn't find enough action, I didn't care enough about the characters, I wondered when it was going to end. Part of my problem with connecting with the characters, particularly Ruby, stems from, I think, the way the story is told. We hear quite a bit about Ruby as a ten-year-old, and then briefly (well, maybe not so briefly) cover the six years she's been living at the camp. The majority of the narrative is Ruby as a 16-year-old, with flashbacks of the accident that sent her to camp sprinkled throughout. I really enjoyed this slow reveal of what happened to land Ruby in this terrible place. But, though Ruby is supposed to be 16 throughout the majority of the narrative, she doesn't read as a 16-year-old to me. I understand that Ruby may be experiencing a bit of arrested development; after all, she has not been living a normal childhood during her adolescent years. But I don't know that this justification is actually given anywhere in the book and her voice feels too inauthentic without it.

Things get better when Ruby meets a new group of companions. I really enjoyed these characters - Chubs, Liam, and Zu - and the action picks up significantly as they band together in search of the mythic East River refuge. I thought the twist with the camp's leader was a bit too obvious, but I really enjoyed the ending (though I think it frustrated many other readers). I've just discovered that this is the first book in a series and it seems a bit unnecessary - I thought the story was ended nicely here and I don't remember having too many questions that I felt needed to be answered. I imagine the other books in the series will focus more on the government and what they're trying to do, as well as probably resolve that frustrating (for some) ending. Will I be back for the sequel? Not sure; we'll see where I'm at next December, when it's currently scheduled for release.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Netgalley.

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