The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)

by Alexandra Bracken

3.78 of 5 stars 40 ratings • 17 reviews • 76 shelved
Book cover for The Darkest Minds

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The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1)

by Alexandra Bracken

3.78 of 5 stars 40 ratings • 17 reviews • 76 shelved
"Sixteen-year-old Ruby breaks out of a government-run 'rehabilitation camp' for teens who acquired dangerous powers after surviving a virus that wiped out most American children"--
  • ISBN10 1423157370
  • ISBN13 9781423157373
  • Publish Date 18 December 2012
  • Publish Status Active
  • Publish Country US
  • Imprint Hyperion Books for Children
  • Format Hardcover
  • Pages 488
  • Language English


Avatar for empressofsass

3.5 stars
I’ll post a proper review soon. The book was good but not great. The characters were a little flat for me and the world building was just ok. I wasn’t a fan of the pacing.

Avatar for pamela

pamela 2 of 5 stars
The Darkest Minds was a well written YA novel that collapsed under the weight of its own premise. Alexandra Bracken is a good writer, but there was something about The Darkest Minds that simply didn't ring true.

In a not too distant future, children between the ages of 10 and 18 are afflicted by a new disease that either kills them or leaves the survivors with strange powers. Children who begin to exhibit these new abilities are rounded up into 'rehabilitation' camps, and this is where The Darkest Minds really shines. The camp felt grim and claustrophobic. The sense of fear that these kids must have felt was palpable, and the desperation practically clawed itself from the page. Imagine my disappointment when the rest of the book ended up being nothing more than a road trip in which Ruby, our protagonist, gets a crush. There were a few villains thrown in, but I didn't really get any sense of danger from them, and they were mostly discarded, plot-wise, as soon as they graced the page.

The biggest issue, however, is that the basic premise of the plot is so unutterably flawed! There is no explanation given to the affliction that somehow leaves children with psychic abilities. How on earth does that work? We are also meant to blindly accept that the adults of The Darkest Minds were willing to kill and separate all their future generations? In a world that already has issues with an aging population, this is such a poorly thought out plot device that it just left me stunned. Within two generations the entire human race, or at least the USA would be completely wiped out. Either humanity dies, or the USA stops being a superpower within two decades. This is hardly a viable strategy to future-proof against children with powers. Not to mention the fact that there is so much good that could have been done in the world by these children. There are children who can control technology, essentially alleviating the need for fossil fuels, and children who can mind control, the kind of power a military would be desperate to get their hands on. But, for some reason, this book tries to convince us that killing or imprisoning these children is the only viable solution? Sorry, The Darkest Minds, I'm just not buying what you're selling. It was hard to really get invested in the story if the basic premise was so unbelievable.

The characters were very hit and miss. The secondary characters were the ones with the most life and personality. Chubs and Zu were absolutely delightful and were far and away my favourites to read about. Ruby herself felt like a sketch, without any real life, or depth. She spent a lot of time simply whinging about being a monster and showed very little personal development or growth as she discovered more about her own powers. Some of her decisions were even downright ethically questionable, especially for someone who is more than aware of what it feels like to have choice and agency stolen from them. Liam, Ruby's love interest was so poorly developed that I actually nearly forgot his name while sitting down to write this review. He serves no purpose other than to act as an ersatz father figure and someone who Ruby can crush on. There was absolutely no chemistry between them, and their romance felt forced and contrived. Ruby had much more connection with the book's ultimate antagonist (who will not be named due to spoilers), and I found myself more invested in their potential damaging relationship than how Ruby ever felt about Liam.

Pacing in The Darkest Minds is practically non-existent. It's brilliant for about the first 20%, but the second Ruby escapes from Thurmond it becomes slow and plodding. Alexandra Bracken even makes the cardinal mistake of having one of the most potentially exciting action sequences happen off the page. Instead of experiencing the excitement, we get to sit and do nothing with our protagonist as the other characters experience it elsewhere. By the time the book slowly comes to an end, the reader is left confused by the introduction of so many antagonists over the course of the plot, none of which have been developed to really feel like any real threat, that it simply feels like the entire novel was a meandering road trip, ultimately leading nowhere. Also, I'm pretty sure Ruby actually gets raped just before the end of the book, and no one really does anything or talks about it, and Ruby certainly doesn't have any of the expected emotional response to it. She sort of brushes it off within a few pages.

The Darkest Minds just needed more. It needed more world-building, more plot development, and more characterisation. It simply didn't deliver on its potential, which was such a waste for me. Alexandra Bracken, based on this novel, is a really good writer. Her style of prose and the way she writes is wonderful, but the overall execution just ended up feeling lacking.

Avatar for readingwithwrin

"The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces. He put on a good leader act.. He would never have jumped in front of another person.. He would never have taken a bullet."

So much hype surrounded this book that until I found out that it was going to be made into a movie I didn't want to read it. I am so glad I finally read this one and I loved it! Zu and Ruby reminded me so much of Eleven from Stranger Things and once I made that connection I could not read the book fast enough.

At the age of ten, the children start dying and those that survive have these new abilities that range from helpful to rather dangerous as they don't know how to control them. This causes them to be sent away by there parents where they are said to be kept safe. But that's not the reality of it and instead, the camps they are placed in are like prisons and the children constantly live in fear of the people guarding them.

Ruby and another teenager end up getting taken out of the camp and then she escapes the people that helped her get out. Once escaped she joins up with a new group that consists of Liam, Chubs (Charles), and Zu. Their abilities are all different and how they were treated and how they are dealing with their new life is also different. One thing they do all have in common though is the protection they want to provide for each other even it means hurting themselves due to their abilities.

With the goal of getting in touch with their families and delivering a letter of a friend that has died to his parents. They need to find a way to find addresses and get in touch without getting caught by the authorities. This sounds easy, but with everything being monitored so much and the government and economy have mostly fallen apart America is not a friendly place for anyone especially not those under the age of 20. With their goals, they need to find something called the 'slip kid' who is said to be able to help kids get in contact with their families.

I loved Ruby and Zu's friendship so much, and how we see Zu start to come out of her shell and start realizing that she is worthy of things and that she deserves so much more than what she has gotten up to this point in time. The banter between Liam and Chubs was also really nice and funny most of the time. Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu all had a place in this dysfunctional family and they were all fiercely protective of one another even though they occasionally disagreed on things.

Once they start finding what they want, things aren't what they thought they would be and things start going wrong.
I don't want to say anymore because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone.
All I will say is I wasn't expecting that evening, but Ruby is so much stronger than anyone gives her credit for.

"Don't be scared. Don't let them see"

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Avatar for theliteraryphoenix

This book has been on my TBR list forever – the way my hardcopy reading is going, I would have never gotten to it. Thank goodness for the audiobook! Although I think I really would have liked it better without the narrator….

I’ve bounced back and forth on whether I liked the characters or not in this book, and ultimately, it really came down to the character. For a protagonist, Ruby’s not bad. She definitely grows and evolves, and I love the fact she isn’t awesome at everything. It’s immensely frustrating when a protagonist excels at everything. The lead boy, Liam, is not my favorite, but I thought Chubs was pretty well developed. Zu was adorable. Clancy was the worst. Overall I have to say that Braken did a pretty good job with character development.

The Darkest Minds takes place in a crumbling world, but not a post-apocalyptic one. Especially at the beginning of the book, you get a sense of the chaos that has ensued in the ten years Ruby’s been in camp. Empty houses and city blocks, looted stores, a partially exploded school – all these are nuances breaking apart what used to be a normal life. I had some issues with the calm highway miles and the complete lack of people who weren’t bounty hunters, but neither of these things are enough to break the illusion of the world.

I kept trying to predict this book, and I kept failing. I kept waiting for things to blow up in Ruby’s face, and for the most part, they didn’t. I kept waiting for the worst YA cliches to bounce in and although they started to trickle from time to time… they didn’t fully evolve. Thank you. The book ended differently than I expected, too. When it comes to YA, it’s so important to me that I not be able to predict the book. Predictable books are boring.

Overall, Braken is telling a story of a generation that has developed mutant powers (five varieties only). The older generation, terrified of their children (mostly), have abandoned them to the government. The morality of this has split the country, and meanwhile, the children are tortured, tested on like lab animals, and generally neglected. It’s not a great situation. It’s not the most original idea, but Braken does manage to tell it in an original way.

Also, I kept waiting for a love triangle. I was sure it would happen. It didn’t. Some bits with one of the characters near the end got pretty sappy… but it never actually became a triangle!

The biggest reason for the loss of a heart in this category is the narrator. Amy McFadden was not the worst narrator I’ve heard, but several of her voices (Liam’s!) really bugged me. Ruby always sounded like she had such an attitude as well, which didn’t come across in the writing at all. It just irritated me.

Braken made some interesting writing choice for a YA novel, including what is implied to be a rape scene. Very little of this is described as the main character is being mentally manipulated, but it may not be what some parents want their ‘tweens reading. The scene that bothered me the most? Within an hour of waking after the attack, the protagonist very nearly starts making out with someone else. Not quite, but almost. I was enraged. If Braken allowed it to go from rape to teen makeout session, I was done. It didn’t, but it felt really, really close.

Overall, I really did like this book. There were a couple things that made me mad, but the story as a whole was well-done and interesting, with characters that I became invested in. The book ended with several questions that I want answered – such as Did that character live? Did that other one reach his/her destination? WTF is Ruby’s plan? and so forth. I’ll be picking up the sequel at some point for sure.


Originally posted on The Literary Phoenix.

Avatar for talearchives

Stephanie 4 of 5 stars
Pretty much my reaction after finishing:

I think the summary is very spoiler-y and I suggest not reading it! If you want to know what it's about, then I suggest only reading the first paragraph. I felt like the summary took away some of the tension that could have been there if I hadn't read it.

Now that that's out of the way, let me just tell you that this book stressed me out! The fact that these kids had people tracking them while they were on the run REALLY got to me. They got the PSF's and the Children's League after them the whole time and I don't know why, but it stressed me out. I just KNEW something was going to happen at anytime. So this book took me about a month to read because I would read a little bit, then have to put it down because I couldn't handle it. Yes, I realize how ridiculous I sound.

Besides the whole stressed out thing, I did really enjoy the book. I was curious about this East River place and who was running it (although, I figured out who was running it long before we actually find out, it's really not that difficult). The whole kids with powers thing was fascinating to me, and figuring out what everyone can do.

I absolutely LOVED Ruby's little crew, Liam, Chubs, and Zu. They have an awesome dynamic together that makes reading about their little road trip fun (and sometimes stressful). I got really close to this little group of friends and didn't want anything to happen to them (which added to the stress).

The ending was definitely heartbreaking. Granted, I did see it coming from a mile away and was not at all shocked about what happened, but it didn't make it any less painful and I am NOT happy about it. Though, I do have to say that I have read other books that had a similar ending. I can think of 2 off the top of my head, and I looked, and they all came out around the same year, which, I don't know, is interesting.

All in all, really enjoyed this, will read next book soon. I'll probably read Passenger next just because I've been anticipating it ever since it was announced.

Avatar for chelssik

Chelsea 3 of 5 stars
Initial Thoughts

I was expecting something really similar to the Dark Visions series by L.J. Smith. I don’t know why, but that’s what it reminded me of.

My New BFF

I’m going with the main character, Ruby, for this one. I feel like she gave me a lot of reasons to not like her at the start of the book. She kind of kept her head down and never stood up for herself. Usually I really hate that but later on in the book we find out she kind of had a good reason for that and she’s actually a lot more brave than I gave her credit for at the beginning. I’m glad she finally stopped being afraid and fight instead.

My Crush

Obviously Liam. He’s such a cutie! He trusts everyone completely, which is never good obviously, but it makes him really cute. I just admired how happy he was all the time. He just had one of those personalities that makes you smile whenever he pops into the story. You can tell he’s going to be the love interest here and I really hope the author doesn’t ruin that.

Writing Style

I liked how fast paced this book was. Any slower and it would have been too boring. I did find a lot of the plot predictable or typical for this type of story which is why it didn’t get a full five stars from me. The characters were fairly plain or characters we’ve seen before so I hope the next book takes the story into a more unique direction.

Closing Thoughts

I think I enjoyed this book more at the time of reading as opposed to afterwards. I feel like even now some details were forgettable and even some of the characters as well. I just feel like we’ve seen this story 5 times before. The only thing bringing it up to 4 stars is that I still really enjoyed reading it. It’s a series I’ll finish for sure but I really, really hope the next book surprises me more.

Avatar for inlibrisveritas

I’ve had The Darkest Minds sitting on my Kindle since it was free on Amazon back in November, and I had totally forgotten all about it until my partner for a TBR Pal group chose it for my April read. I’m glad someone nudged me in its direction because it turned out to be a great read.

The Darkest Minds reminds me a bit of a darker, grittier version of X-Men, where instead of having someone teaching you how to use your gifts people fear you and choose to imprison you (which does happen in X-men on occasion). Ruby is one of those with gifts, and at the start of the book she is stuck in one of those imprisonment camps, where she has learned to go unnoticed as much as possible in order to survive. I really love the whole idea of powers and that instead of their being a ton of different abilities there are about 5 types that manifest, and though they are basic in ideas the characters make them seem incredibly cool. I really love the struggle Ruby has with her powers, and how instead of completely feeling at ease with them she sees it as something to avoid using. I know I personally would be ecstatic, but it’s awesome to see a character who actively fights it but has to come to terms with it eventually. Despite her willingness to stand out or use her powers Ruby is still a fighter and purely independent , and I liked that she felt confident in her ability to protect herself and others.

I fell in love with the other three main characters as well. Suzumae (Zu) with her rubber gloves and infectious personality, Liam with his upbeat and quirky conversations, and Chubs…who is basically me in book form. He’s probably my favorite in fact. I love his intelligence and his sarcasm, I’m even fond of his lack of trust in others…because I totally understand that. There was one character I hated immediately, but I won’t say his name because of the risk of spoilers. I wanted to kick him…hard…probably numerous times just to get the point across…such a creep.

The pacing of this is fairly quick and quite the page-turner, with only a few slow moments here and there to help set a scene or give the characters a bit of time to breathe and recoup. I really like the way the story is going, though oddly enough I don’t really know what the overarching story is going to be for the series, so it should be a lot of fun to continue this one.

Avatar for pagingserenity

The Darkest Minds was truly an awesome, unpredictable read. I loved the characters, though they had some flaws, and the relationships that developed between them. I loved the world building and how everything made sense at the end even though the ending was bittersweet.

To read my full review (it's longer and more detailed), visit Paging Serenity.