The Darkest Minds #1
Published December 18, 2012 by Hyperion
Paperback, 488 pages
Lent by my lovely friend
It's sometime in the future and America has been hit with a deadly disease targeting children ages 8 to 13. No one really knows what the cause of this particular disease is (named IAAN, for short) except that it basically wiped out the entire teenage population of the United States. With the exception of a few special children... The ones that miraculously avoided getting hit by IAAN have one thing in common: incredible superpowers that have their generation named Psi for a special gene they share that allows them to read people's minds or set fire to anything they touch.
Ruby is one of these kids and she gets sent to the biggest baddest rehabilitation camp for the Psi, Thurmond. It's brutal at Thurmond so when Ruby gets offered the opportunity to escape Thurmond, she takes it. But it turns out that life outside camp isn't so easy either and Ruby has to face up to a lot of new discoveries about who she is, what she can do and how it may pose a threat to everyone around her.
Well, that would have been an extremely disappointing read if I hadn't stopped caring maybe 20% into the book. I was upset and then... I just became indifferent to all of it and it was mostly a feeling of "I've already read 200 pages, there're only 200 left, let's just get through this damn book as quick as possible" and now? I'm confused. I'M CONFUSEEEED. Because I don't get it. I really truly don't get where the hype comes from. And I hate saying this because it makes me sound like a pretentious prick, like all holier than thou and such, but I really honestly DON'T GET IT. Because The Darkest Minds was just so boring and it doesn't even have anything to do with the fact that science fiction and dystopians usually bore me anyway.
The Darkest Minds actually started off decently for me. Even not being so into science fiction / dystopian, I thought that the idea of this world where America is bankrupt and dealing with these kids with supernatural abilities by throwing them into "rehabilitation camps" that really just forced them to do menial labour was really fucked up and unnerving but interesting.
(Also can I say that if this really happens, HOLLA FOR BEING CANADIAN and not having to be affected by IAAN.)
But that's where I ran into my first problems. See, The Darkest Minds had an interesting set up for a world but it never ran any deeper than that. I just felt like there was a real lack of explanation for how America went from international worldpower to being bankrupt. It was maybe two paragraphs in the first few chapters and then, done? And this is just a personal thing but I wish there was some sort of time frame given for this new America. Like I understand that not everyone wants to put a year to a world so I'm not faulting anyone for anything here but it's hard for me to get into a dystopian without some sort of time frame so PERSONAL PREFERENCE HERE.
Okay and the thing that probably bugged me the most was the fact that we don't get any explanation for how IAAN comes to be. Like it just happens. It's just accepted? From reading up on the other two books, I'm under the impression that the cause of IAAN eventually gets revealed but I had such a problem with the book just being like "here's this thing that happens and no one knows why and oh yeah, there are some kids that don't get killed by it and they have superpowers." LIKE HOLD UP, there are so many questions about that. And I KNOW we supposedly find out later about the cause and it's uncovered and everything but IN THIS BOOK, it just felt like a lazy out and I really feel like the lack of information given about everything was to this book's detriment. Like I hate infodump as much as the next person but I'd definitely rather the author just puking out all this information about their world so that I at least have some sort of UNDERSTANDING over having zero information and explanation at all.
Also there was this one statement in the book that made me so confused ("The government was never scared of the kids who might die, or the empty spaces they would leave behind. They were afraid of us - the ones who lived.") because it sounds like the government knew about the Psi kids even before IAAN and OK SO THIS COULD WORK AS AN INCENTIVE TO KEEP ON READING IF IT'S INTRODUCED IN THE NEXT TWO BOOKS but it was included at the end of the first chapter so without knowing that there's more information coming in the rest of the trilogy, it just made me super super confused especially given how little information we're provided with in the first place.
And then another thing on the lack of explanation - we never truly get told what each of the colours' powers are. Like never explicitly. So in the book, Psi kids are classified by colour based on what their powers are. Green all have the same power, Orange all have the same power and so on and so on. Throughout the book we sorta get hints at what the colours do but I was just WAITING for Alexandra Bracken to come straight out and say THIS GROUP DOES THIS. Like I don't understand why she couldn't have done that because it would have saved everyone from a lot of confusion later on. I mean, I kinda picked up on the fact that Greens have a photographic memory and that Orange can do creepy mind shit and Reds set fire to stuff and Blues transport stuff but I just wanted to be told and not have to painstakingly piece the hints I'm given throughout the book. Also what the fuck do Yellows do? I never got that? Like melt electronics???
I also never really felt pulled into Ruby's narration. Honestly? I thought the writing was bland and Ruby a pretty one-note character. I understand she went through a lot and what she told us about Thurmond sounds horrible but as a reader, a 400 page pity fest is not fun to read about. She was always saying "I'm a monster. I need to be locked up. I'm dangerous. You can't love me. I'm not like you." It got repetitive super fast. Like yes you can accidentally do horrible things but if you're learning how to control it, you can use it to help people? She was just so so frustrating. ALSO SOMEONE HELP ME BECAUSE I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE ENDING AT ALL. HOW DID SHE END UP MAKING THAT DECISION? DID I MISS SOMETHING?
AND I WAS SO NIM ON THE ROMANCE. As soon as Liam was described as hot (or something along the lines of that), I was like NO NO NO I DON'T WANT THIS TO HAPPEN. And it happened. And I was not pleased with the end result or the execution. It just didn't feel organic, especially not when Ruby was pretty much isolated from boys at Thurmond and talked about how she didn't feel comfortable around them. I get that she could still find someone attractive but the pace at which she finally ended up falling in love with Liam was hard to believe given her background. I felt like their attraction had no basis except for the fact that they were the only people around of similar age and of opposite gender. Also Liam was just a super boring character. And with the ending, it seems like the romance is a huge part of what happens in the second book and ugh I just don't know if I can get into that if I'm not on board with the romance.
The Darkest Minds was also just soooo long. Like there were so many scenes you could have cut out. There were so many things that Alexandra Bracken threw at us, it was almost like she wanted to include as many relevant tropes for the dystopian genre as possible. It was one thing after another after another and I never could guess what was going to happen next but I always knew SOMETHING was going to pop up again so it was predictable in that sense. There just didn't seem to be a very natural flow to the book. I can name about two or three scenes that immediately jump to mind that could have been cut.
I think the two bright spots in the book were Chubs and Zu who I really really liked. But in reality, they're such a tiny part of the story that I never really got to know them as well as I wish I could have.
There was one part that really had my attention but the rest was confusing and boring. Especially the ending. I still don't get the ending. EXPLAIN SOMEONE?
Well The Darkest Minds was not at all what I expected and not in a good way. It's a shame to so furiously dislike this book when a bunch of my friends absolutely loved the heck out of this. But I just couldn't see the appeal. To me it was boring and confusing. The worldbuilding could have been stronger in some areas, the characters fell a little flat and the romance felt wholly unnecessary. I do think Alexandra Bracken has an incredibly interesting idea here with kids who have superpowers that pose a threat to the government and an America gone total-disaster-zone but the execution could have gone a LOT better. This book has a HIGH rating on Goodreads though so I'm very definitely in the minority. I suggest checking out other reviews to gauge if it's for you because it's a favourite of many!
Had a Divergent vibe with the classifying business... I think if you like dystopians, this might be a good one to try.
Jen @ Books & Other Happy Ever Afters says: "The slow pacing and shaky world-building were excused with my love for the characters and the fantastic ending."
Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide says: "I really, really enjoyed this book! I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I was getting into when I started and I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised!! THE DARKEST MINDS is a combination of a dystopian world with paranormal abilities."
Zoe @ Stories On Stage gives it 3.5 stars: "While it’s unfortunate I didn’t find this to be the gripping and heart-breaking novel that most readers did, I will say that it is quite strong in the entertainment department, and was certainly enjoyable despite its flaws."