Title: The Darkest Minds | Never Fade | In the Afterlight
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds
Release Date: December 18th 2012 | October 15th 2013 | October 28th 2014
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have 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 having a life worth living.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
Ruby has been trapped in Thurmond, held prisoner there ever since she turned ten and her “gift” wiped all memory of her from her parents’ minds. For six years she’s stayed under the radar but when a new test exposes her as an Orange hiding amongst the Greens she is forced on the run. She joins Liam, Chubs and Zu, who escaped their own camp, on their search for the mysterious East River but the longer Ruby spends outside of Thurmond the quicker she realises the danger isn’t over, not for her or for any of the children with gifts.
The Darkest Minds has a lot to develop at the very beginning of the story, both in terms of the situation where any child is at risk from the mysterious illness which killed so many and left the few survivors with strange and dangerous abilities, and in terms of Ruby’s backstory. There’s a lot of exposition at the beginning but rather than make the book feel stilted it worked to create a dark atmosphere that continued throughout the whole trilogy.
When we first meet Ruby she’s nothing more than a shadow, terrified of someone finding out about her status as an Orange and terrified of others fearing and despising her for what her gift is. We see her grow more confident travelling with Liam, Chubs and Zu but it’s mainly working with the Children’s League in Never Fade and In the Afterlight that she comes into her own. In the second and third books we watch her transform into a leader, someone relied on, someone confident and in control of her abilities even though part of her still fears them.
Liam, Chubs and Zu are Ruby’s heart. When she meets them Chubs is more standoffish than both Liam and Zu are, not willing to trust her when he knows she’s lying to them, but she quickly becomes part of their family. When there’s no other option she sacrifices her freedom for theirs but there’s still that strong bond between them and in Never Fade, despite not having seen Chubs in months and despite Liam not knowing who she is, she gravitates towards them knowing she can trust them over the Children’s League.
The friendship between Ruby and Chubs was one of my favourite parts of this series, then again Chubs alone was one of my favourite parts of this series. When Chubs finally lets Ruby in he becomes one of her loyalist friends, he doesn’t fear her gift and in return Ruby doesn’t turn her back on the bad things Chubs has done. Whereas Liam is an idealist Ruby and Chubs are realists, they understand sacrifices have to be made to protect those they love.
In Never Fade having lost Liam, Chubs and Zu Ruby closes herself off. She does what’s asked of her while waiting for the day when she knows her friends are safe enough for her to escape. However despite pushing them away she comes to care for her team, and struggles to protect them when the danger seems to be coming from within the Children’s League. I loved Jude and Vida; Jude is one of those open and bright characters you can’t help but be drawn to, wanting to connect with everyone, and Vida while sharp and distant is fiercely loyal of those she loves.
Although this trilogy is told solely from Ruby’s POV through her gift and their individual development we still get an incredible insight into the secondary characters. A lot of the characters working against Ruby are morally grey rather than being wholly ‘evil’. This is a series where everyone is out for themselves, where people know the only hope they and their loved ones have is themselves. When you add the powers these children have into the mix it creates people like Clancy, those who are willing to use their gifts to get whatever they want, to exert their power over those weaker than they are or those without any gifts.
One thing Alexandra Bracken is exceptional at is developing relationships, and the relationship between Ruby and Liam is no exception. There no insta-love, no love triangle, which there easily could have been, and no doubt in their feelings for one another. Ruby and Liam’s personalities complement each other and though there were times when they clashed they always come back together stronger, and when it comes down to it they always have one another’s backs.
I mentioned earlier in my review that The Darkest Minds has a lot to develop at the very beginning of the first book but the attention to detail doesn’t falter as the trilogy expands. In the first book we learn about the situation, the disease which killed so many children and the camps the survivors were rounded up into, in the second we learn more about the country outside the camps, the different factions fighting for or against them, and in the third book we finally understand the why. When it came to the world building there were no questions Alexandra Bracken left unanswered.
The Darkest Minds:
In the Afterlight:
The concept Alexandra Bracken developed in The Darkest Minds trilogy is a dark one, and these books are not light hearted at all. The ending for The Darkest Minds shocked me and the ending for Never Fade left me emotionally destroyed. Ruby is faced with so many tough decisions, and the sacrifices she has to endure are heartbreaking. When it comes to emotional twists Bracken doesn’t pull any punches, but that’s part of what makes The Darkest Minds trilogy one that has stayed with me for so long.
What did you think of The Darkest Minds? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.