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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds (edition 2012)

by Alexandra Bracken

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Title:The Darkest Minds
Authors:Alexandra Bracken
Info:Hyperion Book CH (2012), Hardcover, 496 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

  1. 00
    Unwind by Neal Shusterman (aeleone)
    aeleone: Similar set up with children abandoned by their parents sent to a camp. The Unwind series does not have supernatural powers, but it does have a very messed up world in which children are not valued.

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[Cross-posted to Knite Writes]


Six years ago, children (in the US only) nearing puberty were wiped out by a mysterious disease. The small percentage who lived developed abilities — telekinesis, pyrokinesis, electrokinesis, telepathy, or enhanced intelligence. The US government, terrified of these super-powered kids, designed an ingenious containment system: “rehabilitation camps” (AKA concentration camps). And they rounded up all the innocent children, many whose parents gave them away freely (against every parental instinct), and locked them away. Where they, of course, didn’t really try to rehabilitate them at all. They experimented on them. Experimented on them some more. And for the ones who became too dangerous — where, they were all executed.

Yes, the belligerent and/or most dangerous children were ALL executed.

Hooray, United States?

Now, a girl named Ruby, who is an “Orange” (that is, has telepathic abilities centered on memories — for some reason, the kids have to be color coded; else it wouldn’t really be a concentration camp, would it?) but has been living under the guise of a “Green” (super intelligent) for six years at the camp called Thurmond, finds herself in danger. A new “Calm Control” system, which blasts the kids with a horrendous sound only they can hear, has outed her as an Orange, and she has to flee the camp before they kill her.

Thankfully, a woman who works for the “Children’s League,” supposedly an advocate group for kids, helps break Ruby out, but Ruby only travels with her a short while before she realizes the League is up to no good. So she runs away from them and into a trio of kids, a Blue (telekinesis), a Yellow (electrokinesis), and a Green. Named Liam, “Zu” (Suzume), and “Chubs.”

Then the never-ending road trip plot begins. The trio is searching for the legendary kid-only safe haven, East River, run by the notorious “Slip Kid,” who is supposedly an Orange like Ruby. Ruby tags along with the trio in the hopes that the Slip Kid can teach her how to properly control her powers. Along the way, the kids run into numerous dangers, like “skip tracers,” who are bounty hunters that turn in kids to the government for payment, the Children’s League — who, Ruby learns, teach kids to weaponize their powers and use said kids for their own mysterious ends — and the government agents hunting for Ruby.

And, as it turns out, Liam. Who led a breakout of another, smaller camp, a few weeks prior to the story’s opening.

So they drive. And drive. And drive. And drive. And sleep. And sleep. And talk. And talk. And have a couple of fights.

And then there’s this scene in a Wal-Mart where the trio luckily finds out where East River is. Yay!

So, East River.

It turns out the Slip Kid is actually Clancy Gray, the son of the President of the United States. Because of course he is. Clancy was the first person interned at Thurmond, and he used his powers to convince the doctors there he was “cured” of his “issues.” Then he proceeded to manipulate his father and everyone else for a little while, using his telepathic abilities — until his dad caught on and tried to have him killed. What a great dad.

Clancy immediately tries to get close to Ruby, who is one of the few Oranges left. Ruby lets him get uncomfortably close in exchange for training, and the trio of Liam, Chubs, and Zu gradually drift apart in the following weeks as they get used to life at East River.

There’s a huge lull in the plot before, finally, Clancy’s ever-erratic and downright suspicious behavior hits a crescendo. When Ruby, Liam, and Chubs try to leave the camp, Clancy gives Liam a beat down, and while the poor guy is recovering, East River is attacked by the government. Clancy is horrified — that the people who showed up are NOT the Red (pyrokinetic) soldier-slaves he was expecting. See, he manipulated his dad into rounding up all the Reds and making them an army so that he could take control of them one day — by allowing his own camp to be attacked. What a great kid.

Ruby manages to get away from Clancy with Chubs’ help, but East River is destroyed and many of the kids are killed. Ruby and Chubs manage to locate Liam in the aftermath, and together, they leave what’s left of East River and head off to fulfill one of Liam and Chubs’ long-time goals: delivering a letter to their dead friend Jack’s father.

Unfortunately, when Chubs delivers the letter, Jack’s father SHOOTS HIM. Turns out the letter, which the boys refused to read, was a cold response to Jack’s father, spurred by the man’s decision to willingly send his son away to camp. Whoops.

Ruby and Liam try to keep Chubs alive and flee before the government arrives, but Ruby realizes they’ll never make it. So she uses the beacon the Children’s League gave her at the beginning of the book to call them in, and her rescuer, along with some others, take Chubs to the hospital and hole Liam and Ruby up in a safe house.

Ruby agrees to work with the Children’s League as long as they let Liam ago, and to make sure Liam let’s her go, she wipes his memories of her (and Chubs) and sends him on his way.

The End.

Cue sequel.


My Take


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.


Is It Worth Reading?

I can’t recommend this one. I know a lot of people like this book, but I, personally, can’t say it’s a book worth reading. If it sounds interesting to you, please do check it out. Every reader is different and has different tastes. But this one just didn’t do it for me…at all.



2/5 ( )
  ClaraCoulson | Nov 16, 2015 |
Diese und weitere Rezensionen findet ihr auf meinem Blog Anima Libri - Buchseele

„Die Überlebenden“ von Alexandra Bracken kommt mit einer tollen Ausgangssituation: Nachdem eine mysteriöse Krankheit die meisten Kinder in den USA getötet hat, bleiben die wenigen Überlebenden, darunter auch Protagonistin Ruby, mit beängstigenden Fähigkeiten zurück – so beängstigend, dass die Kinder von ihren eigenen Eltern in Rehabilitationscamps geschickt werden, denn sie sind eine Gefahr für die Menschheit.

Leider hat mich dieses Buch irgendwie ein wenig verwirrt zurück gelassen. Einerseits fand ich das Konzept wirklich, wirklich super und fand es ziemlich leicht eine Verbindung zu den Charakteren aufzubauen – allen voran Protagonistin Ruby-, andererseits hatte ich aber irgendwie einfach das Gefühl, dass ich diesem Buch einfach viel zu wenig passiert ist und das obwohl es voller Action ist… Oder vielleicht gerade deswegen?

Ruby ist ein netter, sympathischer Charakter, mit dem ich schnell warm geworden bin, obwohl ihre Vergangenheit irgendwie unklar und seltsam zu sein scheint, was von der Autorin leider nicht gerade gelungen umgesetzt wurde und eher nervig denn faszinierend und spannend ist.

Die Idee hinter der Geschichte war an sich ebenfalls wirklich gut und hat mir prima gefallen aber auch hier hatte ich das gleiche Problem wie mit Ruby: Das Gefühl, dass die Autorin ein an sich gutes Konzept nicht so gelungen umgesetzt hat, wie es möglich gewesen wäre. Außerdem hatte ich immer wieder das Gefühl, dass zu wenig Erklärungen und Hintergrundinformationen geboten werden, was den Lesefluss für mich immer wieder unterbrochen hat.

Und das zieht sich leider durchs gesamte Buch. Obwohl mir die einzelnen Elemente in Alexandra Brackens „Die Überlebenden“ von der Idee her allesamt sehr gut gefallen haben, bin ich bei der Umsetzung immer wieder angeeckt. Das mindert natürlich den Spaß am Lesen und lässt mich einfach etwas zwiegespalten zurück. Trotzdem ein solides Jugendbuch, das mich irgendwie auch neugierig auf mehr gemacht hat. ( )
  FiliaLibri | Nov 10, 2015 |
Who doesn't love a good young adult dystopian story? Sure, we've encountered essentially the same premise in countless books, but for the most part they each have their own characters to get to know and their own trials and tribulations to survive.

Bracken's writing must be particularly vivid as I can still recall most of the story visually, as though I saw it in movie format rather than listening to the audiobook.

The president's son was a somewhat predictable character. Was anyone surprised that a politician's son would be an orange? Or that his goals for his camp weren't what they first seemed to be? But perhaps he gets a bit more depth in the next book in the series.

I'd love to adopt Zu. Or maybe I could persuade her to adopt me.
( )
  PerpetualRevision | Oct 25, 2015 |
Ruby is living in a world where IAAN (Ideopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration) strikes children when they reach the age of ten. Children with IAAN have varying degrees of special powers. They are seen as a threat by the government so they are rounded up or sent by their parents to rehabilitation camps. Ruby is sent to a government rehabilitation camp because she has IAAN. Life in the camp is brutal and highly monitored. When Ruby turns 16 she is liberated from the camp by the Children's League, a group that claims they want to help these children. At this point Ruby's life becomes an adventure with many twists & turns. When she meets up with Liam, Chubs, and Zu (escapees from another rehabilitation camp) she doesn't know if she can trust them and if they'll trust her. They are trying to get to the East River Camp to hook up with the Slip Kid, a mysterious figure that helps these kids understand their powers and eventually reunite with their parents. When they finally meet the Slip Kid, they are in for a big surprise. Lot of suspense and action. Sets up nicely for book two of the series. ( )
  alsparks | Oct 23, 2015 |
Review to come ( )
  glitzandshadows | Oct 12, 2015 |
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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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