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The Darkest Minds (A Darkest Minds Novel) Paperback – October 22, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–When Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration broke out in the United States, most teens died, and the few who lived manifested psi powers, from telekinesis to mind control. The government, already on edge from political and economic issues, used scare tactics, misinformation, and bullying to insure that parents sent their children to government “rehabilitation” camps. Ruby was placed in Camp Thurmond at the age of 10. Once there, the youths with special powers were punished, not rehabilitated. At 16, she is liberated by the Children's League, but they, too, want to control her, and she breaks from them to join fellow escapees Liam, Chubs, and Zu. They are determined to find the Slip Kid, who is rumored to help kids reunite with their families. This ragtag foursome outfits themselves at an abandoned Walmart, fights off unfriendly youth “tribes,” and begins to forge bonds of trust and romance. Ruby makes a thoughtful sacrifice, for the good of those she loves in the final chapters of the book (Hyperion, 2012), the first in a trilogy. Narrator Amy McFadden grows more comfortable with the voices as the title progresses, adding more nuance, particularly to major characters, and the proper note of teenage sarcasm. This dystopian tale will attract fans of Scott Westerfeld's “Uglies” (Simon Pulse) and Lauren Oliver's “Delirium” series (HarperCollins).–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
In the not-so-distant future, most of America’s children have died; but those who live find that they have psychic abilities that range from moving objects to getting inside people’s minds. Sixteen-year-old Ruby, using her powers as an Orange, has escaped the survivor facility she has lived in for six years. She has also used her abilities to make the doctors believe she is a more docile Green. Now Ruby intends to keep her secret, even from new friends, including handsome Liam, persnickety Chubs, and the mute but sweet, young Zu. This ragged band searches the Virginia countryside in hopes of finding the Slip Kid, who seems to have outsmarted the government. Instead they find trouble on almost every turn of the page, but eventually discover what seems to be a youth utopia. Bracken is skilled at ramping up the action, but there is so much going on here, it’s hard to keep it all straight. Still, the character development is good, and the book’s ability to tackle larger issues is solid. In the end, Ruby must make an important decision. Then it’s on to book two. Grades 8-12. --Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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When we meet Ruby were literally thrown into the book so it is incredibly hard to follow at first, she's a bit whiny and doesn't fully explain anything so the reader is left lost and confused for awhile. I had no idea that I was basically going to be decoding the entire first couple of chapters.
Minus Ruby being a tiny bit whiny in the beginning, I actually really like her character. She's complex enough to be interesting without having so many quirks that you want to punch her in the face. And the whole no control of her powers thing is great because she has so much room to grow.
So now another issue, why are blues and greens in the camp? Is it just to make an overall statement to the public? To be honest greens need to be spies or something and blues could have government jobs too! I understand the other colors but not blue and green.
So we see Ruby deal with erasing herself from her best friends mind... That was alright. She was so dramatic about it though. "And then I didn't speak for a year" all right Ruby whatever works for you.
When she meets Liam, Chubs, and Zu ... I really started to see her change. A secret holding her down and so confused about what was going on, she started to get a lot more interesting for sure. That group needed a cute nickname though, they were such an awesome ragtag bunch, I loved it.
Traveling with them was interesting, I like how I didn't immediately learn everything about each of the characters. It leaves a lot more room for future books, or just for this one really.
I think Chubs is underrated. From the minute I met him I knew I would like him. Sometimes introverts make the best characters because when they do finally come out of their shells, they're awesome. He is one of those characters that you're supposed to hate but you kind of love just for who they are.
But Zu is really the MVP of this group. She's so kind and quirky and this young girl has had such a terrible life but she sees the best in people. I just want to go shopping with her, maybe she could vamp up my wardrobe. I need to see more of her in the next book!
Liam was ok, the whole knight in shining armor act was kinda lame. But I can see how he will be a better character if he can get something quirky or fun about him.
Ok,so we are finally at the traveling goal for this group: Slip Kid. Can we talk about how that was NOT a plot twist. The minute I heard the name Slip Kid, I knew exactly who it was. I thought he was a total creep from the beginning and I still think that. And that whole implied rape scene made me feel super uncomfortable. I struggled to read past that. But at least Ruby got some control of her power.
The end is lame. I don't like the sacrificial heroine act at all and I think if Liam ever found out, he would be pissed.
My Thoughts: If you've seen my Book Index at the top of the blog you'll see that I love Young Adult/Dystopian reads. I've read The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent/Insurgent, Shatter Me, Immortal Rules ... the whole YA/Dystopian enchilada and, for the most part, I've really loved the genre. My love of these two genres also makes me more of a connoisseur and I expect a lot from authors to keep me interested and add something new to a very popular genre.
That said, I have some very different and perhaps conflicting feelings about this book. Overall, I have to say that I'm intrigued by it as the start to a new series. It had a fast pace in the beginning and a great 'edge of your seat' ending but there were some aspects of the book that took away from the general positive feeling.
But let's start with the positives, shall we? I think that one of the strongest aspects of the book were the some of the characters. Even though the book centres around Ruby and Liam my favourite characters were secondary to the storyline. It was wee Zu and Chubs who really stood out for me. Chubs was, by far, my favourite character.
Chubs starts out at the beginning of the book as pretty obstinate and not a fan of Ruby's at all. But over time we see why Chubs feels the way he does and we get to see more of the real guy behind the sarcasm. I loved him. I think that Chubs' personality, emotion, honesty and humour easily overshadowed Ruby and Liam.
Ruby, as the main character, goes through a big metamorphosis. We first see her as a very timid girl with no real world experiences and just a very beaten down, weak person. She is then thrust into the real world where we see her struggle to gain confidence so she can learn to take matters into her own hands to change her life and the lives of those like her. That said, she wasn't a character that I was really ever drawn to and I think that's because her struggle to gain confidence took a little longer than I was comfortable with.
Also, the girl squanders her super powers. Instead of learning how to use them and being in awe of how cool it is that she even has these powers she ignores them and is upset at even having them. Say what?? She seemed like more of a weak Bella Swan (gah!) main character and that never sits well with me. Ever. She spends a lot of the time bemoaning the fact that she has these powers and makes decisions which seemed like she gave little to no thought to and were just generally stupid decisions that put her in danger.
Then there's Liam. I just didn't love this guy. Compared to Chubs' character Liam lacked depth and just general 'oomph'. I think my lack of interest in Liam didn't help the romance aspect either which, if I'm being honest, felt like it came out of nowhere. Much too sudden and it felt like the reader was expected to accept the fact that these two are now a couple when only a night or so before they were all awkward and unsure of each other. And another little thing that bugged me about Liam was the fact that he's suddenly referred to as "Lee". At first I was wondering who this Lee character was. Confusing. Why use a nickname (only one syllable less) when you don't need to?
I know it seems like my positives quickly turned into negatives. I hate dumping on a new book but I can't ignore certain facts. Honestly, there were big gaps in the world building and general storyline that I just couldn't ignore.
My major criticisms about this book mainly stem from the huge gaps in information or a lack of detail. Honestly, for a good portion of the book I had the feeling like I sort of had the gist of the world and this vague virus that has annihilated civilization. It's not a feeling that I enjoyed. I felt in the dark about how this world was set up, the reasoning behind this mysterious virus that has annihilated 95%+ of American youth and even the 'powers' that these special kids have. It was frustrating that so much was just glossed over and that I, as a reader, was just supposed to accept it.
For example, why would all of the parents of these 'mutant' kids be so willing to hand over their kids to the government to put in camps and never seen again? What parent does that? And why house all these kids for years on end? What's the government's plan for these kids? Doesn't the government worry about the effect on future generations if so many of their youth are dying/being killed off? Why did this virus only affect American kids? Why not use these little mutants and teach them to use their powers and become an army of X-men-type warriors? (Where is Professor X when you need him?) Why waste their powers? Too many unanswered questions that just didn't make sense to me.
This funky fog stayed with me for the entire book but the pace of the book towards the end and the 'edge of my seat' feel that I got helped me to forget (for the most part) this fog as I read the cliff hanger. And a delicious cliff hanger it was! The end of the book picks up the pace and tension big time! So I can only hope that future books in the series will continue with this surge of energy and propel the storyline even further ahead.
Don't get me wrong. I did enjoy this book but there is definitely room for improvement. I will say that it kept my interest and I loved the fact that there isn't just one bad guy. This dystopian world is utterly fractured so it makes perfect sense that different factions are vying for power and are willing to go to great lengths to ensure that they have these kids with super powers on their side.
"The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces."
There is a huge amount of potential for the future books in the series to take off. I hope that a lot more info will be given to the reader to help us really get a better grasp about the world that has been created. The ideas in this book were great ... it was just the execution that needed more fine tuning to help the reader get up to speed.
There are some unanswered questions at the end of the book but those only added to my desire to jump into Never Fade, the second book in this series which I have been graciously given to review by the publisher, as soon as humanly possible.
I recommend this book for readers who loved The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi, The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa or Divergent by Veronica Roth.
My Rating: 3/5 stars
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