In the past few years, the young adult market has become absolutely flooded with new series from the dystopian genre. This is mostly due to the success of The Hunger Games. So, as a reader, it’s been somewhat of a chore to weed out which series in this genre have something new or attention grabbing to offer. I believe Alexandra Bracken has definitely created something wonderful in the first book of the series of the same title, The Darkest Minds.
The reader is thrust into the life of our protagonist, Ruby Daly, on the morning of her tenth birthday. We find out that for the past couple of years, children have been dying in mass numbers due to an unexplainable disease the government calls IAAN. There is no known cure, and no way to predict whom it will happen to next, or when the symptoms will appear. Ruby’s happen to appear on her tenth birthday, when she wakes up and finds her parents no longer know who she is; she has somehow erased all their memories of her. Ruby ends up in a detention facility, where she spends the next six years languishing in fear and wondering what is wrong with her.
As Ruby toils through her repetitive days at the rehabilitation center, with no one to talk to and no one to trust, she one day meets the woman who will help her escape. But does she really want to help Ruby once they’re out on the other side, or did she help her escape for her own gain? Ruby isn’t waiting around to find out. She joins up with a group of escapees from another camp. Together, their journey will lead them down roads they prayed they’d never have to take.
The first thing I enjoyed about this novel is that right off the bat, the reason that this world is upside down and the dystopia has occurred is laid out for you. So many books of this genre just kind of throw the reader into a post apocalyptic world without really explaining how it came to be that way. The reader quickly learns here about how children are dying off, and that the plans to lock them up for their own safety quickly turn into something much, much darker that throws the country into chaos.
Ruby is a strong protagonist who isn’t afraid to let her feelings show, even when she’d really rather they stayed bottled up inside. When she meets up with the group of escapees, Liam, Chubs, and Zu, they don’t exactly become fast friends, and there is no hint of instant love between Ruby and Liam. She is slow to open herself up, because sadly, she expects to be let down. This kind of vulnerability is hard to achieve in young adult novels.
I also appreciated that the author doesn’t just show you the romantic relationship between Ruby and Liam, she actually takes time to show how Ruby develops friendships with Chubs and Zu, and comes to care for them when she hasn’t cared for anyone in so many years. Too often a book will focus on a developing romance and toss other characters aside, but showing how Ruby interacted with both her friends and enemies gets you that much more into her shoes.
I am very excited to read the next book in this series, and I am hoping that it will be as good as the first. Ruby is a girl who’s got no problem with taking care of herself, and that’s what she’s going to have to do to survive in this new world.
Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Disney Hyperion. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.