The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

November 13, 2013

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult dystopian novel which tells the story of Ruby, a young survivor of the IAANS plague.  IAANS killed off most of the children between the ages of about eight and fourteen and those who survived, like Ruby, are left with supernatural powers.  This frightens the government who responds by placing them in “rehabilitation camps.”  The Darkest Minds is about Ruby’s escape from such a camp and her search for a way to live a normal life.

What I liked

Multi-layered characters.  The people we meet in The Darkest Minds are generally neither wholly good nor wholly evil.  There are a lot of shades of grey in the characters and it’s often difficult to tell whose side a person is on.  Even those characters who are not, shall we say, altruistically concerned about Ruby’s welfare have good and believable motives for their actions.  This adds a great deal of depth to the characters and a nice level of narrative tension.  Even the mute Suzume has a real personality.

Beautifully descriptive writing style.  I immediately fell in love with Bracken’s way of writing.  She has a wonderful way of describing things that made me laugh as well as making crystal clear what she meant.  A couple of examples I noted were “the kid is basically a grumpy seventy-year-old man trapped in a seventeen-year-old’s body.”  Wonderful!  It also describes Chubs to a T.  “We got Hansel and Greteled.” Tee hee!

Nice balance between narrative tension and romance.  Too often in YA, the romance overshadows the narrative plot, which for me is off-putting.  The romance between Ruby and Liam was beautifully developed – enough to really make me feel sad at the ending – yet didn’t overshadow the plot.  After all, these kids are basically running for their lives – I’m sure romance isn’t at the forefront of their minds.

The worldbuilding.  I really enjoyed the world of The Darkest Minds.  The premise of the IAANS disease and the supposed threat of the superpowered kids was well thought out and executed.  Again, it was portrayed that there was neither a wholly good or wholly wrong side in this struggle.  

Brisk pacing.  Tied into the above, other than a brief slump about a third of the way through, the book kept me listening in to see what happened next.  The fact that the characters had shades of grey kept that tension high, not knowing what their real motives were.

The narration.  Amy McFadden narrated this book and did a great job.  She really brought Ruby, Liam and the others alive for me.  Here’s a sample

What I didn’t like

Other than a brief point where I lost interest about a third of the way through, I loved The Darkest Minds.  It is a gripping story with wonderful characters.

It will come as no surprise to learn, then, that I gave The Darkest Minds five stars out of five.

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