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The Darkest Minds
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
You know how you start reading a book and somehow based upon the cover, blurb and other reactions you can sense whether you will like it or love it, hate it or be ambivalent to it? I'm going to admit up front that I went into The Darkest Minds with the expectation that it would be "just alright." Boy am I glad that this one surprised me!

Bracken paints a world that is almost too horrible to imagine. Children dying by the hundreds of thousands and those that survive being changed...and viewed as a threat to the adults resulting in their containment in what amounts to forced labor camps. And then if that is not bad enough...half of those survivors...exterminated...due to the adults' fear of what they may be able to do since their changes.

I don't want to talk to much about the plot of the book as I don't want to give too much away but this is a very bleak and depressing world. As we slowly get to know our main character Ruby and her group of friends we hope that there is some avenue for escape...some path to change.

This one drew me in slowly and surely...the writing style and pacing work perfectly alongside the plot. About one fourth of the way through, I was completely hooked. The characters all develop to the point that I ended up far more attached to them than I realized. Each character is so different, yet each adds a much needed component to the group so that as a whole they are made that much stronger. (I even became attached to Black Betty!)

I give Bracken much credit for managing to sneak them all under my defenses to the point that when the novel concluded I was bawling my eyes out and couldn't understand why. When had I become so attached? I'm very curious to see where this one goes and can't wait for the second book in the series.

NOTE: Complimentary copy received at BEA in exchange for an honest review.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2012
I do believe this is one of the most depressing endings to a book I have ever read. Actually, a lot of this book was depressing. Not in a bad way. I know, you're wondering how depressing can be a good thing. It's not. But it's not like so depressing it sucks, you know? It's so depressing it's great. I actually don't think I've ever read a book with so much death in, especially the deaths of so many children. It's absolutely heartbreaking and scary.

Once you reach the age of ten and are still alive there's a good chance you'll be labeled as a freak and shipped off to a camp. One where the parents and adults think are helping their children and finding a "cure". Naive parents... Each child is categorized depending on the abilities they posses. There's Green, Blue, Yellow, Red and Orange. The latter three being the most dangerous. Actually, I ordered it for what I believe to be from least dangerous to most. The camp where our heroine, Ruby Daly, had a few thousand children there. All the Yellow, Red and Orange's were taken from camp and 'disposed' of. Use your imagination on what that might mean...

America is beyond broke and fan past the point of desperation. The President has surpassed his two term quota and yet is still President because there really isn't much of a government to begin with. Ruby has been in 'camp' for six years and figures the rest of her life will be spent wasting away there, as the adults in America are afraid of these kids and the abilities they possess. When a test is ran to find if there are any dangerous kids hiding out amongst the Green's and the Blue's - this is where things get very interesting.

Ruby is broken out of Thurmond by a group called Children's League that is against the government but not exactly innocent themselves. With her abilities she finds herself to be in an even more dangerous situation than she originally planned. She does what she needs to survive because really, that's most important. She's out of Thurmond and has a chance at a life...at freedom, but at what cost? She finds herself to be thrown in with a group of other kids who escaped a camp in Ohio. Here is when the fun really begins...

I absolutely and utterly love Chubs. Not as a love interest for Ruby but as a character. He is so real. His personality is charming and infuriating at the same time. It amazes me that a character can get such varying reactions out of the reader but he is definitely one of those where you laugh at him (or with him), want to slug him, kick him in the shin and sometimes, even agree with him. He's a great friend and truly is my favorite character in this book. Let's not forget our charming Liam who gets me time and time again when he says darlin'. He sacrifices so much for the kids he's with. To be so young and yet so responsible is stunning.

You're probably wondering what each color stands for, right? Well, I'm not going to tell you. You should read this book to find out because it's definitely interesting. Orange's are certainly the most interesting and by far, the most dangerous. Once you finish, besides being thoroughly depressed, you also sit there, stumped. Trying to figure out which of two characters truly are worse...two characters who hold the same abilities but which have really done the unthinkable. Plus, you sit here throughout the book wondering what color you'd want to be categorized as...if you were in this world, of course. So tell me...after you read this book, what color are you? I would like to say I'd be a Blue...

Reviewed by Jessica @Step Into Fiction
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 18, 2012
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, she didn't know her world was about to change. She knew about the disease sweeping through the country's children-it was impossible to miss when kids kept dying. She didn't know that surviving the disease was the worse outcome.

Surviving, it turns out, was another word for changing-waking up one day with abilities that used to be the impossible stuff of movies; waking up with strange powers that most of the kids, especially Ruby, can't begin to understand. Or control.

Now sixteen, Ruby knows just how dangerous she is. She knows she'll never be allowed to leave Thurmond, the government camp set up to "rehabilitate" other kids like her.

She also knows that she has to escape to survive.

On the run, desperate to get away, Ruby soon falls in with other kids looking for a sanctuary called East River. Ruby knows she can't let anyone get close-not after what happened on her tenth birthday-but maybe they can all use each other to get to East River in one piece.

Life outside Thurmond isn't what Ruby expected. Turns out, staying under the radar is hard when you're dangerous. Ruby lost control of her life when she was ten years old. If she can learn more about her own abilities, she might be able to reclaim that control. But everything in life comes with a price. Especially freedom in The Darkest Minds (2012) by Alexandra Bracken.

The Darkest Minds is Bracken's second novel. It is also the first in a trilogy.

This book was one of my most anticipated 2012 reads. I fell in love with Bracken's debut novel Brightly Woven and ever since I could not wait to see what she released next.

Part road trip, part sci-fi adventure, part dystopian The Darkest Minds does not disappoint. With a plot that turns on a dime it is a guaranteed page-turner with an ending that will leave readers anxious for the next installment.

At the same time, The Darkest Minds is so much more than an action-packed read. Ruby's story is heart-wrenching and horrifying but her resilience and her persistence are fierce to behold. The other characters in the story are vibrant and beautifully written-even at their most villainous.

Bracken has created a disturbing world with elements that are both fantastical and uncomfortably possible in our own world. Ruby's voice throughout the novel is as smooth as honey filled with descriptions that bring the eerie Virginia landscape of the story vividly to life. The Darkest Minds is a stunning, sometimes harrowing, start to a series; confirming that Bracken is an author to watch.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2013
On the morning of her birthday, ten-year-old Ruby is suddenly sent to Thurmond, a rehabilitation camp for kids with special abilities where the children are classified by color depending on their powers (Greens, Blues, Yellows, Oranges, and Reds). Ruby lives in terror as the kids are subjected to abuse and even experimented on. Six years later, she seizes an opportunity to escape and finds herself tagging along with a group of escapees from another camp. They embark on a search for East River, a safe haven for kids with abilities. But as Ruby and her friends soon discover, East River isn't the place they expected it to be.

This was such a letdown. What started out as an intriguing premise turned out to be anything but that. While I was initially hooked by the setting and by the depths of darkness and despair of the world and its characters, I discovered, much to my dismay, that the story got sloppier as it unfolded. The time Ruby spent in the camp was fine (in terms of a structured plot, that is, not because I'm okay with children being tortured), but once she goes on the road trip with Liam, Chubs, and Zu, the story really meanders. Their aimless wandering was so pointless; that particular stretch in the story could have benefited from an editor's deft hand. Was a detailed shopping expedition at Wal-Mart really necessary? When the group finally ended up at East River, I hoped that Ms. Bracken would tighten the reins on her erratic plot, but unfortunately this was not the case.

The main protagonist was also a factor that prevented me from truly liking this story. Ruby's appeal is lost on me; I have no idea why several of the boys who encounter her are attracted to her. At first I felt sorry for her; it's hard not to when she was taken away from her parents on her birthday and had to spend six years at Thurmond, abused and closed off from the rest of the world. But her vague, indecisive, and wishy-washy ways quickly got on my nerves. Every time she whipped out that panic button and debated using it, I let out a frustrated groan (the fact that she kept the button at all instead of getting rid of it is one of the more blatant and awkward uses of Chekov's gun that I've read in a while). For someone who has been sheltered for more than half a decade, Ruby sure is accepting of everything around her: she doesn't question, doesn't debate, doesn't seem to want to learn with the exception of trying to figure out the extent of her powers. Her character growth wasn't realistic; I had a hard time buying her feats of bravery.

The promise of a fascinating and gripping story ultimately fails to deliver due to a problematic protagonist and a rambling plot that stutters to the finish.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2014
Where do I start?

Yet again, I am sorely disappointed by a hugely popular YA title with an epic premise.

On every front.

There is honestly not much I can praise this book for other than its premise. The underlying idea of the story was fantastic — dark, intriguing, and full of promise…that never came to pass. Honestly, I’m more disappointed with this book than I was with Cinder — because I thought this book sounded a hundred times more interesting. I’ve looked forward to reading this one for months, and now…

Good Lord.

Anyway, let me stop moaning and get to the actual review.

Let’s start with my biggest problem this time: the plot. As in, what the heck was that plot? Was that even a plot? I’ve read some pretty poorly structured books in my time, but I can’t actually recall the last book I read that had a plot as badly constructed as the plot of this book. The first quarter of the book is literally the most interesting part, followed by the last ten percent or so. Everything in between that is a combination of repetitive road trip scenarios and weeks of living the same days over again at a freaking camp. I was so bored for over half of this book that I literally started skimming at times.

And to make matters worse — the writing.

But before that, a brief aside: I often have this issue with YA where I find the writing style to be incredibly immature. As in, more appropriate for Middle Grade readers than the teens the book is supposedly being marketed toward. I find this disconnect grating, especially when the focus of the book is on older teens (16+), facing older teen issues — which, ding, ding, ding, it almost always is. It never ceases to annoy me that books about 16+ year-old kids are written with first person POVs that sound all of 12.

And in the case of The Darkest Minds — it annoyed me more than ever. Because the themes in this book were so dark and disturbing that the contrast with the immature writing style made it the most awkward, paradoxical read I have ever forced myself to sit through. There was implied RAPE and ACTUAL SEXUAL ASSAULT in this book, along with a slew of mature language and violence. But the writing style made it sound like 1) the narrator was much younger than she actually was and 2) that it was intended for an audience younger than it actually was.

It drove me nuts the ENTIRE book.

For the love of GOD, people, please stop writing your 16-year-olds with the voices of preteens! They are NOT the same.

-internally screaming-

So, yes, the writing style. What a disjointed mess — that sounds a bit harsh, but…I can’t really phrase it any other way. The transitions between scenes in this book were downright awful and frequently confusing. Ideas jumped from place to place with no rhyme or reason. The foreshadowing and Chekov’s guns were basically shot at you with a rocket launcher and painted neon yellow — to the point where NO twist in this book was surprising. At all. I saw all of them coming light years away.

Which only added to how boring this book was for me.

And the style issues bled right into the numerous character problems.

Oh, the characters. Let’s start with Ruby. One of the worst protagonists I have had the misfortune to read in a long, long time. Her woe-is-me attitude bogged down the entire book, especially given how often her “I’m a monster” insecurity was repeated in the narration. She was inconsistently characterized, split between being a shy, sensitive wallflower and a loyal badass — where each personality was exchanged for the other whenever it was convenient. She makes the dumbest decisions yet is praised for her actions repeatedly by characters who should be more capable than her.

Okay, enough with Ruby.

The rest of the cast…was equally terrible. Liam the love interest was as bland as an unsalted cracker. Zu was cute but became a “useful prop” whenever the scene called for it — and then was put on a bus when her character was no longer needed. Chubs, I suppose, was an interesting character, but he was pushed too hard into the devil’s advocate / voice of reason role too much/too often right after his introduction, and so, when he suddenly switched his views (seemingly between one page and the next), his character, too, came off as inconsistent.

I’m not even going to go into the antagonists to any specific degree. Basically, everyone is an antagonist except the protagonists, and none of them are particularly interesting or well defined. This book is a classic case of Adults are Evil, plus the inexplicably psychotic kid here and there. Everyone is terrible, has ulterior motives, and fails to be utilized in the plot in any engaging or surprising way.

So, plot, writing, and characters…what else was terrible?

Oh, yes, the world-building. I was so disappointing by the world-building in this book. The underlying premise was so fantastic, but the world-building ended up boxed into the same tired dystopian tropes I’ve been reading for years. Nonsensically color-coded abilities. Death camps filled with abusive, horrible ADULT guards (that torment CHILDREN, of course). Generic post-apocalyptic American landscape conveniently missing most of the actual inconveniences of a post-apocalyptic landscape. Vaguely described events that shaped this horrible future but are never adequately explained. And so on and so forth.

And…

No, that’s it.

That’s my rant for the day.

This book was terrible across the board. It was boring. It was confusing. It has a cast of characters I couldn’t relate to and didn’t like AT ALL. The world-building, while it should have been excellent and rich, was lackluster at best. The writing style came off too young and caused an awkward disconnect between the narration and the actual content of the story.

Suffice to say, I will not be continuing this series.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I had serious misgivings about reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.

I started reading Brightly Woven (Bracken’s YA Fantasy stand-alone) a few years ago, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t mark it as DNF b/c I wasn’t totally writing it off. I was just putting it aside for later. WAY later. So when people started talking about The Darkest Minds last year, I didn’t pay much attention.

Then one of my favorite writers reviewed it as THEBESTBOOKEVEROMG!! So I bought it when it came out. And it sat on a shelf for a year.

Then a bunch of bloggers started reviewing it. A year later. And they’re all THEBESTBOOKEVEROMG!! So I just had to jump on that bandwagon to see what I’d been missing.

*throws book at wall*

The Darkest Minds is about a generation of youth who are born with superhero-like abilities. The additional abilities are jump-started at the onset of puberty. The kids who don’t die when their brains basically EXPLODE, are bused to government camps where they are “rehabilitated.” There are five divisions of abilities:

Green: super smarts
Blue: telekinesis
Yellow: manipulation of electricity
Orange: mind control
Red: fire starters

Greens and Blues are safe, Yellows are in the middle, and Oranges and Reds are frickin’ dangerous. Ruby (our MC) is an Orange, but she gets placed with the Greens (which is good b/c Big Brother starts killing off Oranges when they can’t be “rehabilitated”). If you’re wondering why I keep putting “rehabilitated” in quotations, it’s b/c I still don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. Lots of things are alluded to in reference to the camps and what happens there: scientific experiments (electro-shock therapy style), isolation, sensory deprivation, rape-as-punishment by the a**hole guards, but all of those things are in reference to studying/exploitation, not “curing” an “illness.”

And I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I start reading a book, I immediately have issues with it. In The Darkest Minds, my first issue was that there is a line that you can point to (like B.C. and B.C.E.) and on one side you have normal kids, and on the other side you have mutant freaks. Every single kid. BUT . . . wait for it . . . only AMERICAN kids.

Eh??

Because last time I checked, Americans (myself included) were a bunch of mutts. The fact that I know I’m 25% Lithuanian is HUGE. Hardly anyone is a full quarter of anything in America. My other 75% is half a dozen different nationalities THAT I KNOW OF. If it were kids of Western European descent or Eastern European or Asian, etc. I could maybe buy into the whole idea (but it would still be hard b/c these things happen over time, NOT immediately), but it’s not. It’s just Americans.

Willful Suspension of Disbelief only works if the subject is remotely believable.

So that was a huge problem for me. Almost as big as the previously mentioned rape-as-punishment allusion. Not cool ever. REALLY not cool in a YA book. A girl covers for her friend and mouths off to the guards which results in the girl getting gang-raped for two days.

*retrieves book to throw it at wall again*

And then there’s the triangle. The only reason I picked up on the “interest” between Ruby and Boy1 was b/c all of a sudden someone’s staring at someone else’s lips. But that wasn’t terrible. I liked Boy1 and once I knew what was going on, I was cool with it. But then there’s Boy2, and you would have to be an absolute idiot to not immediately know that Boy2 is the BAD GUY.

But somehow there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading. Up until the point where I was 50 pages away from finishing the nearly 500 page book, anyway, and then I just kept going b/c I’m STUBBORN.

And I really wish I hadn’t. I really wish I had quit b/c those last 50 pages made it impossible for me not the read the next book. Sigh . . .

HOWEVER, all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will also hate it. I wasn’t crazy about The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey either, so I would suggest that if you liked Yancey’s book, you’ll probably like this one (to me, both books had a similar overall feel). My biggest objection was only alluded to, and very briefly at that. And maybe there’s a perfectly rational explanation for why only American kids mutate and I’m to obtuse to see it. It wouldn’t be the first time. So if SciFi/Dystopians are your thing, give it a shot. But if they aren’t . . .
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2013
I found a new book to add to my "favorite books EVER" category. The Darkest Minds is a spectacular book, and everyone should read it! It has all the right elements to an alluring and emotional story.

This novel is about children who are forced into these rehabilitation camps because they have special powers, and we follow the story of a girl name Ruby. Although they all have powers, some children are considered more dangerous than the rest because they have the ability to manipulate and control minds-Ruby is one of them. She has been taught all her life to fear her powers, but it was only a matter of time before she embraced them and that is where her story began.

The concept of this story is so unsettling and frightening-these teenagers have to fend and protect themselves and one another because the government and their families have turned against them. They are never safe, and it seems like they only have three options: 1. death 2. "rehabilitation" camps 3. live their lives on the run. Life for them is never safe, and that really adds suspense and anxiety to the story. It's like every peaceful moment is nothing more than the calm before the storm because in this world, no place is safe for long. Ruby is always on the run, and I felt as if I was pulled in and running along side with her-that's how much I connected with her character.

Liam, Chubs, and Zu were all fantastic and very well developed characters. I love Liam's enthusiasm and his ability to see the silver lining in any situation, despite the thick dark clouds that seem to always hover around him. He's strong and smart, but never arrogant or unkind. He was definitely a sweet character, and all the Ruby and Liam moments had me swooning like a little girl.

Chubs, is one of the my favorite characters, hands down. I love his sarcasm and sometimes upright hostility, but even in the beginning when he didn't like Ruby, there was something about him that I did like-his ability to rationalize even in the murkiest situations. The friendship that he and Ruby created was beautiful, and he is a lot stronger than he seems.

The ending to the book had me in tears :( I was stuck between anger and sympathy for Ruby, and we all know that those two feeling are completely conflicting. I need Never Fade right now because all this wondering and speculating in my head cannot be healthy...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Short and Sweet:
Such a cool, cool book. I LOVED the characters. Loved them. They were so real, and wonderful: I felt what they were feeling. Believable to the point of missing them when I turned the final page! Easy, easy, easy 5 star rating!

To Elaborate....
From the very first page I was loving this book. Ruby's back story is just vibrantly emotional and heartbreaking. I was immediately interested and invested in her. It also doesn't take long for the action to begin in this one and once it does it never lets up.

The struggles the characters face and the world they live in are all at once terrifying and heartbreaking. This is a world where these misunderstood children are dehumanized and cast off to what are essentially prisons and forgotten about by the world as a whole. The government pretends to be rehabilitating these 'dangerous' tiny citizens, but in reality they have a much darker plan for the most powerful among them and keep the remaining children detained and controlled through a mix of intimidation and bullying.

Reading The Darkest Minds was much like watching a fast-paced thriller movie. Every time you thought you had a minute to catch your breath some new (or old) threat would present itself. It was literally unputdownable and a standout read among it's peers. The ending is so unexpected and badass that Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, Bk 2) is now one of my most anticipated fall 2013 reads!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2012
Haunting. Bleak. Devastating. I think it's safe to say that I've grown too used to a lot of the lighter "dystopian" books out there because I was unprepared for the heartbreak contained inside the pages of Alexandra Bracken's The Darkest Minds. In this world, children either die from a mysterious disease, or they survive but evolve with unexplainable abilities. The unexplainable is always accompanied by fear and, in this case, the children are rounded up and locked up in "rehabilitation" camps. From the first page, Alexandra Bracken offered a tense -- and often draining -- reading experience but I must say it was a welcome departure from a lot of the fluffier dystopian fare I've read.

Just as her world was richly detailed, Alexandra Bracken's characters were also layered and multidimensional. It would have been so easy to make Ruby such a miserable character to read about, but instead she grew throughout the course of the novel. She endured a lot, struggled with herself and what she could do (and did do), but she was also admirably resilient. Liam, Chubs, and Suzume are the three other core characters and it was so interesting to learn their backstories and abilities. I must say that the bond that Ruby forms with them was the highlight of The Darkest Minds for me. It was so organic, from the initial mistrust to the gradual acceptance, and I loved the heavy focus on their dynamic.

As I reached the conclusion for the book I was pretty much Darth Vader's "Noooooooo" in real life, no joke. HOW COULD YOU DO THIS, ALEXANDRA BRACKEN?! The sequel is now easily one of my most anticipated titles for the new year. The Darkest Minds will make you sad and break your heart, but it's so perfectly paced and you will grow so attached to the Black Betty gang. This is definitely a book worth your time.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2013
The book is playing with interesting ideas, but overall I was disappointed with this novel; it had potential.

The pacing in the beginning and end is excellent--but the middle of the story drags as the main characters travel in their van. This is the time for character development, but while we, the reader, learn a little more about each character through dialogue, there is nothing else to hold our interest but a few temporary setbacks.

The three kids Ruby spends most of the story with are the most interesting characters. Their relationships with each other are comic and sometimes dramatic; we start to care about their struggle to find their families.

The other characters are not given time in the story to reveal their desires and pain. There are so many characters that we meet once or twice in the book, and they are either one-dimensional baddies or we don't get the time to learn more about them.

While Ruby is the protagonist, the narrator of the book, she is my least favorite of the four kids. If she isn't crying or worrying about something petty (like the group discovering she is an Orange), she is making constant mistakes and then hating herself for it (and I don't know which is worse--they are both repetitive attributes).

Characters should have flaws, but I expected Ruby to come out of that camp strong, independent, and her flaw would be her unwillingness to trust anyone or show emotions (since they aren't supposed to in the camps). She's the complete opposite; it isn't until the very end of the book that she finally starts to act how I figured she should have acted from the get-go. But it's a stretch calling it a character arc when the arc doesn't appear until the last two chapters of a 31 chapter book.

Our protagonist plays a victim throughout. There are a few empowering scenes when she uses her powers and controls the situation, briefly, but those scenes come far and few between her moping, leaning on Liam for support, and being mentally and physically violated by males of her age.

The biggest con to this book is its ending. It becomes obvious as the reader hits the third quarter mark that the author had a sequel already thought up when writing this story. The story doesn't end; it just stops, just when it gets interesting too.

It is certainly not a bad novel. At times it is engaging and some of the descriptions, like when Ruby sees into other peoples' minds, give great visuals. But after reading a 490 page book and having it just stop, abruptly, with so many lose ends, it will disappoint those who thought they'd purchased a complete story.
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