Monday, February 24, 2014

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) by Alexandra Bracken

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." She might have survived the mysterious disease that's killed most of America's children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she's on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her-East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can't risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.


When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.


Released: December 18th 2012   Pages: 488
Publisher: Disney Hyperion      Source: Library

First Look: ***** I'm not sure what drew me to this book.  I can't stand the cover, mostly because SPRAY CHEESE.  Have I ruined it now?  Also, rereading the description, there's not much about it that makes it sound different from the huge mass of dystopians published recently.  (Note to publishers: You can stop now.  The YA world is more than ready to be done with this trend.)  It's been on my to-read list for awhile, so my guess is that I added it before I started being stricter about what dystopians I add to that list.

Setting: *****  I wish anything in this setting actually made sense.  It wasn't fleshed-out.  It lacked development, and logic.  The Psi thing (the powers the kids have) came out of seemingly nowhere, the explanation almost skimmed over.  If a nation loses most of its under-20 population, sends the survivors into concentration camps, and discourages couples from having children, there's an obvious problem.  Am I the only one who sees this?  Your society can't survive if you have no younger generation.  

If so many kids died, how do you expect me to believe that the parents that still have kids would willingly let them be carted off to some camp somewhere, no matter what sort of camp they thought it was?  What was the point of the camps, anyway?  They wanted some of the kids as weapons, but what about everyone else?  Why waste resources making them do busywork?

Also, I wish the author would've actually explained what powers went with what color.  (Within the story world, different mental powers are classified using colors).  It's useless telling me about what the Oranges or Blues did if I don't even know what they are.

Characters: *****  Ruby is a flat and uninteresting protagonist.  Other reviews I've read talk about how she's so strong and "kick-butt".  Um...did we read about different girls, here?  Nothing that Ruby does gives me that impression of her.  She spends most of the novel moping in self-pity about how dangerous she is to everyone else (yet she still hung around with them...why?) and how she is a monster.  There are plenty of fictional characters who consider themselves monsters and don't brood over it constantly: Loki, Bruce Banner, and even BBC's Sherlock Holmes.

Even with that, I still have no idea what kind of personality she has.  If a character has a decently developed personality, I should be able to run them through some mental checks and roughly determine their Meyers-Briggs personality type*.  (It's a weird thing I do.  I mentally type people, fictional or real, all the time.)  It took me almost the entire book to determine that Ruby is an introvert, and I'm still not 100% sure of it.  The whole time, I felt like I was reading about a cardboard cutout of a girl, rather than an actual human being.    

People on Goodreads keep talking about how awesome and adorable Liam is, but I'm not buying it.  I liked him more than any other character, but that isn't saying much.  He's a more interesting character, but he still isn't three-dimensional enough for me to care.  He's almost too perfect.  I had no opinions whatsoever about anyone else, except the president's son.  I can't remember his name for anything, I've already returned the book, and I can't find it online, so I just won't name him (unless someone wants to remind me).  Anyway, I didn't understand why Ruby hung around with him at all.  Every single thing he did was suspicious and made me uncomfortable.  And that was before he starting acting all rape-y, which I'll talk about later.  If I had been the main character of this story, and I met this guy, this would've been me:


Plot: ***** The plot felt promising in the first few chapters.  However, the setting failed to "ground" me right way, which distracted from whatever was happening with the plot.  And then I was bored for the next 300 pages or so.  The bulk of this book is a glorified road trip.  The characters drive somewhere, get out, and maybe something happens.  Each time, they just get back in the car and keep driving, and it feels repetitive.

The last 150-ish pages are the most interesting part of the book.  At this point, the entire book took a turn for the better.  If the whole book had been like that, it would have been so much better.  Unfortunately, this much-needed return of an actual plot comes far too late.  By that point, I was already beyond caring.

(This paragraph has a mild spoiler, but nothing huge.)  Then there's that "incident" with President's-Son-What's-His-Name.  His relationship with Ruby is nothing short of creepy the entire time, but the end of their relationship is so much nope.  Essentially, he takes control of Ruby's mind, starts kissing her (and it's more than just a peck on the lips), and forces her to like it, to want it.  And then, if I remember correctly, she passes out.  Can it get more rape-y?  But after it happens, it's mentioned, but the whole incident feels blown-over.  You can't just write a scene like this and then fail to acknowledge the implications of it.  For all I know, as a reader, this creeper raped her.  You can't just ignore that, but that's exactly what happens.  

Uniqueness: ***** Kids start developing supernatural powers when some sort of apocalypse happens, then are forced to fight against the powers-that-be on their own?  Been there, done that.

Writing: ***** The entire time, I felt that the writing disconnected me from the story. I never felt a connection to the characters; nothing made me care.  I felt detached, like I was watching a video of a movie playing on someone's screen.

Still, I have no other specific reason to dislike the writing.  Other than the fact that it distanced me from the story, the narration was decent.  If it had given me a closer connection with the characters, I would have even said the book was well-written.

Likes: ...Get back to me later on this one.

Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Overall: The Darkest Minds could have been a compelling, gritty dystopian novel, and it is praised as such by the majority of its online reviews.  I don't see why so many people love it.  The main character is flat and has no personality.  The side characters aren't much better.  Nothing happens for about three hundred pages, but by the time it gets interesting, I had already mentally checked out.  The narration gives the entire book a detached feeling.  I have absolutely no interest in reading the sequel.

Similar Books: It involved teens with powers in a dystopian environment like The Lost Code or even Gone.  It also has a feel similar to The Always War and Ashes.

*My link has tiny, cursory descriptions of each type and what they mean.  For much better, in-depth insight, go here.
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1 comment:

  1. loved, loved, loved this book. This is a must read I can't wait to read the nest book in the series.
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