Mild Spoilers Ahead!
One of my favourite book series just now—actually, it’s probably one of my favourite series of all time—is The Darkest Minds by the wonderfully talented Alexandra Bracken. There are so many things about this book and its sequel, Never Fade, that I love (such as the fact that the titles of all three books in the series complete a full sentence; “The Darkest Minds Never Fade In The Afterlight”), and I can’t wait to see how Ruby’s story plays out in the final book of the series, coming out October 28th.
First, take a look at the official synopsis of the first book and try to tell me that you’re not interested;
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.
Kids on the run from a government which imprisoned all children who survived the IAAN virus—a virus which killed almost all American adolescents, leaving its survivors with unearthly powers? I had already bought this book before I’d even finished reading the description.
Ruby is sixteen when she escapes from Thurmond, the rehabilitation camp where she had been held for six years. As with all of the IAAN survivors, she is assigned a colour to match her abilities. Ruby is an Orange; one of the dangerous ones. Greens aren’t all that dangerous with their enhanced mental capabilities, and Blues only seem to have fun with their telekinetic powers. Yellows are somewhat more dangerous, having control over electricity. But it’s Oranges that the government seems to be most afraid of, because Oranges have the ability to enter into other people’s minds, to see what they want to see and control others to their will. That’s the power which Ruby has at her disposal, but it’s the power she hates. She doesn’t want it, and she’s afraid of herself for having it. After she escapes, she meets up with a group of friends who she not only grows to see as a family, but the reader grows to think of as a family too; Liam, Chubs, and Zu. Together, the four of them travel across the United States to find the East River in an old minivan we grow to love: Black Betty.
So what is so good about this series? Why do I love it so much? I can’t even pinpoint it, to tell you the truth. There’s something about Alex Bracken’s words and the world that she’s created inside of these books. Something enchanting, something dark and harsh, yet hopeful and bright. The way that the Black Betty Gang comes together isn’t typically conventional, and the way that they grow and become more and more attached to each other is just so heartwarming, regardless of how many twists and turns they have along their way to the East River.
The entire cast of characters in The Darkest Minds deserves thousands of pages of praise because everyone in this series is so fully dimensional, there isn’t any character who could be taken out or replaced. I feel like everyone has to be there, or else the series wouldn’t be the same. As a main character and first person narrator, Ruby is exceptional. While reading the books, it doesn’t feel like we’re reading an author writing a characters thoughts, it genuinely feels like we’re being directly told the story by Ruby. Liam is the main love-interest in the series, but from the very first time we meet him, it’s obvious that he’s so much more than that. He’s not just there to be someone for Ruby to lovingly gaze, it’s very clear that he has an incredibly intricate life. He has to serve as the leader of Black Betty, and has to be there for Chubs and Zu, almost like a big brother. And talking of Chubs and Zu… Chubs is one of those characters who you just can’t help but love. I want to be his best friend. I want to spend a day hanging out with him, pulling pranks and telling people bad jokes. He’s just a cool guy in a really difficult situation. And Zu. Little Suzume. All you need to know about her is that sometimes people can speak loudest without ever having to utter a word. And when we move onto Never Fade, we meet up with our favourite fictional “f-bomb” dropper Vida, and adorable child Jude. Finally, we have the main antagonist, Clancy Gray. It’s strange to talk about loving the antagonist of a series, but if you’ve read the books you’ll understand. Clancy is one of my all-time favourite bad guys, not becuase I think ‘Oh he’s just mis-understood, I’m sure he’ll turn out good in the end and everyone will know the truth.’ No, the reason why Clancy is such a good bad guy isn’t that he does bad things, it’s because somehow we just know he’s taking pleasure from doing bad things, and we know that he knows that what he’s doing is wrong. He’s so genuinely evil, and that’s something that I think we don’t see enough of these days; bad guys who are just in it for being bad.
At the fundamental core of the series though is the writing… Words can’t even describe how good the writing style is. Alex has this really unique style, and manages to draw you into the story within the first few words. As I mentioned a bit ago, the way that Alex writes Ruby’s narration really sucks you so far into the story that you start to forget that you’re reading words off of a page that an author wrote, but you really start to feel like you’re watching the story through Ruby’s eyes. The way that the world is described, the way that Ruby’s feelings are described… everything is just so real.
5 Stars, 10 out of 10, A+. Give any top-mark grade you want to this series, because it deserves it. If you haven’t picked this series up yet, I think it’s obvious that I really recommend it; especially with In The Afterlight coming out in just a few months. Now is a perfect time to jump on the bandwagon and see what all of the fuss is about with this series.