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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds (edition 2012)

by Alexandra Bracken

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4845721,248 (4.03)8
Title:The Darkest Minds
Authors:Alexandra Bracken
Info:Hyperion Book CH (2012), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:NetGalley, Kindle Purchase, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken




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[Cross-posted to Knite Writes]

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.


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. ( )
  TherinKnite | Oct 16, 2014 |
So I feel like you can't trust anyone in this book. So many complexities and stories. I really don't like Clancy. That is one messed up kid.

And that ending, it was just so sad. ( )
  forsakenfates | Sep 21, 2014 |
I'll skip the summary and just get to my thoughts on this book.

First off, it took me a good while to get invested in this story - exactly 171 pages, if I want to be precise. But, for some reason, as soon as it was revealed that Liam was responsible for breaking Zu and Chubs, as well as other children, out of their prison camp, I was completely on board for some reason.

I really enjoyed the relationships between all four of the major characters. Although there is a romantic element to the story, it doesn't overwhelm the reader. The budding friendships between Ruby and Zu, as well as Ruby and Chubs, were just as well developed as the relationship between Liam and Ruby. And I really liked that Liam was more "beta" in this book; it seems that a lot of dystopian novels have a super alpha male lead, but Liam was caring and emotional, taking his failures to heart and always wanting to do better.

As for the Slip Kid...aka Clancy Gray...I didn't like him from the start, and it wasn't surprising to me that he turned out to be a "baddie." The East River camp just ran too smoothly for him not to be shaping minds and attitudes, especially since everyone in Ruby's group already knew that he was an Orange. Ruby, above all, really should have realized that he was doing more than he let on to the others, especially when he had her "playing" with the minds of other kids in the camp for "practice."

Even though this book was published in 2012, I somehow, miraculously, managed to somehow remain unspoiled, and I'm glad that I did. Chubs! What happened to him? :( And Ruby erasing Liam's memories of her...ahhhhhh...I knew that she was going to do that, but I still literally screamed out loud when she did it. It reminded me a lot of scene in X-Men First Class when Charles mindwipes Moira, and I pretty much had the same reaction in the movie theater.

I'm looking forward to reading the next two books in the series, as well as the novellas interspersed between them. ( )
  schatzi | Sep 7, 2014 |
I felt too confused at first to really get into it, but it did get better as it went. ( )
  Mirandalg14 | Aug 18, 2014 |
*No spoilers.

This is a hard review to write. I enjoyed this book, but so much of what I enjoyed is spoiler material, so I find myself grasping for things to say that could convey my jumble of feelings. I’ll mercifully try to keep it to the point.

This book was a bit disarming. I read the synopsis, so I had an inkling of what to expect, but once I started reading, my expectations and the reality were very different. The premise is pretty implausible, but Bracken’s execution made it easy to overlook that.

This was a dark and scary world. I don’t want to live in Ruby’s world. The more I read, the more uneasy I became, because I never knew what was going to come at me/Ruby next. I never once felt “safe” and that worked for me. It kept it interesting. Personally, I like dark reads – the darker, the better. I prefer them to lighthearted ones, so keep that in mind when trying to decide if this is a book you’d like to read.

I appreciated Bracken’s writing style. Often, authors will dump a crapload of info on you in order to set up their world, but Bracken gives it to you a little at a time. This has the added bonus of making the aforementioned darkness easier to digest. You get snippets here and there that paint a pretty grim picture, but when the time comes to really get Ruby’s story, it’s pretty brutal. There will be no coddling.

I’m on the fence about Ruby. For the most part, I thought her story and circumstances were tragic, but just when I’d start warming up to her, she’d do something stupid. She made a lot of mistakes. It became more and more frustrating and it was hard to accept a lot of her choices. Conversely, you need to keep in mind that she was removed from her home at 10 and she spent 6 years being physically battered and severely mentally and emotionally abused at an internment camp. It’s easy for me to see what choices she should have made, but I wasn’t in her shoes. She’s little more than a child in a teen’s body and her lack of love, guidance, and education made it easier for me to overlook some of her follies and ultimately cut her some slack.

While a lot of things in this book will make your heart and mind race, I did find it to be a bit long. I felt like it didn’t really hit its stride until about the midway point. I was pleased that for the first half, there was little to no focus on romance. I knew it was coming, but at least there was no insta-love, so hallelujah. When the romance did finally come, I wasn’t overly impressed with it or the love interest, but at least he’s not a douchebag, so again, hallelujah.

There were a couple of side characters that, for me, really made the story. They seemed to burrow themselves right into my cold, black heart and I was emotionally invested in them from beginning to end. I ran the gamut of emotions with these two, from laughter to tears. Had they not flanked Ruby and her love interest throughout the story, I would have enjoyed this a lot less.

Be forewarned, this book ends on a brutal cliffhanger. The fates of all the major players hang in the balance, so if you’re not a cliffhanger type of person, you may want to wait for book #2, which is slated to be released in December 2013.

In conclusion, this is a solid story and in comparison to the generic YA that’s out there, this is a very solid story.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog:

( )
  JennyJen | Aug 14, 2014 |
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"Sixteen-year-old Ruby breaks out of a government-run 'rehabilitation camp' for teens who acquired dangerous powers after surviving a virus that wiped out most American children"--

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