The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds

Title: The Darkest Minds | Never Fade | In the Afterlight

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Series: The Darkest Minds

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

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

“They were 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.”
– The Darkest Minds

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.

“Life isn’t fair.” I said. “It’s taken me a while to get that. It’s always going to disappoint you in some way or another. You’ll make plans, and it’ll push you in another direction. You will love people, and they’ll be taken away no matter how hard you fight to keep them. You’ll try for something and won’t get it. You don’t have to find meaning in it; you don’t have to try to change things. You just have to accept the things that are out of your hands and try to take care of yourself. That’s your job.”
– Never Fade

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.

“It feels like we should do something,” he said. “Like, send her off on a barge out to sea and set her on fire. Let her go out in a blaze of glory.”
Chubs raised an eyebrow. “It’s a minivan, not a Viking.”
– The Darkest Minds

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.

“That’s not very Team Reality of you.”
His smile matched mine. “Screw Team Reality—I’m leaving to join Team Sanity.”
– In the Afterlight

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.

“I feel like I’m losing my damn mind, like your face has been carved into my heart, and I don’t remember when, and I don’t understand why, but the scar is there, and I can’t get it to heal. It won’t go. I can’t make it fade. And you won’t even look at me.”
– Never Fade

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.

“It is the fire.
The spark.
Black is the colour of memory.
It is our colour.
The only one they’ll use to tell our story.”
– In the Afterlight

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:

Three Stars

Never Fade:

Five Stars

In the Afterlight:

Five Stars

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.

26 thoughts on “The Darkest Minds

  1. Honestly surprised how the sequels greatly surpassed the first book for you! Sounds like the author found her groove in the later volumes and focused on developing even further all the things she set up in the first book. Glad to see how much of a fan you’ve become of this series though! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful review, Beth! I am so happy to hear it’s one of these series that just gets better and yay for great relationships between the characters, too. You know me, I’m a huge character kind of person and I love it when their relationships are well-crafted 🙂 I can’t wait to give this series a try 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie, and yeah I actually found I enjoyed this trilogy more re-reading it than I did when I picked it up the first time around. The character development is amazing (but it improves the most in the second and third books for sure). Oh I really hope you enjoy it then! 🙂 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, it’s interesting to me that you went from three stars for the first book and five stars for the next two books. They must have really improved as the series went along. Thanks for such a detailed and great review! I’ve been thinking of reading these since the movie came out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah when it came down to it the first book was good, but it felt like a lot of the action and the overall series arc was only really built on at the very end. The second and third books just took the series so much further and the development of the plot ad characters was better paced too. It was still an amazing trilogy all in all.
      That’s all right, I’m glad you enjoyed this review and if you pick them up I hope you enjoy the books as well! 😀 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Now that I read the post, I agree with everything you have said. The attention to detail and the way she answers questions is amazing. The character development that Ruby goes through is amazing and now I think I can say that this trilogy is one that will stay with me. I can’t wait to get into The Darkest Legacy! Great series review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s good to hear! 🙂 Yeah all in all this is an incredible dystopian trilogy, and while I love that we got more from the world in The Darkest Legacy even if the series finished with In the Afterlight it would have been a solid ending. Ruby has one of the best character arcs I’ve read, and oh I really hope you enjoy The Darkest Legacy, I finished it a little while ago and really loved it. Thanks so much. 🙂 ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was definitely a very good ending. It had a ending that there is more room for books and it wouldn’t be like weird if there was more but it was an ending to the current storyline and everything wrapped up. That’s why I’m so excited for The Darkest Legacy. And it’s those books that you always want more from and she pays so much attention to detail. Nothing is left unanswered and the novellas provide some great background to some of the storylines in the original books. It’s just an overall really well thought out series. I do agree that if you compare all of them, the first book is the weakest because it’s setting everything up but once it sets up, it takes off. I think she did a really good job and I just want more! Also the character development is on point and I’m glad that the romance there wasn’t too much on it. It also really focused on secondary characters even though we only had Ruby’s POV. But I can’t wait to see the world in Zu’s eyes!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, it was an open ending but I kind of liked that because it would have felt so rushed and kind of untrue to the world if it had been a happily ever after finale. The Darkest Legacy is brilliant at carrying on the series but still standing out as a new story you know? I think if you enjoyed this trilogy you’ll enjoy The Darkest Legacy as well.
        Oh the novellas were amazing right? It’s rare that I enjoy novellas as much as the full length novels but I think with Alexandra Bracken she manages to get so much on the page in such a short amount of space you know? Her writing really packs an emotional punch. Character development is incredible, and in the end I loved Zu’s story as much as I did Ruby’s. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I actually like open ending because then you get to figure out what happens and it’s different for everyone. And you also make a very good point. It can’t have a HEA but the world is slowly recovering. Yes Alexandra Bracken’s writing can pack so much in so few pages! I’m excited to get into her other novels like Passenger and The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding! I’m glad that The Darkest Legacy can also stand on its own while still being tied to the original trilogy. Also I love picking up references so I’m super excited to get into it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah in my mind it was hopeful because even though there was a lot still to do I did imagine the world recovering and eventually there being some kind of HEA. Passenger is incredible, I love time travel stories and that duology for sure is one of my favourites, but I haven’t read The Dreadful Tale of Propser Redding yet.
        There are plenty of references, even to In Time as well which I loved seeing! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    3. Yes exactly! It was hopeful and realistic and it was great! I don’t like when everything ties up too neatly because that’s not life. I’m glad she was realistic. I have Passenger in my shelf so I can’t wait to get into it. Even though In Time was my least favorite of the novellas, I love the references to them. Especially in Zu’s perspective. I just started like I’m only 11 pages in XD Hopefully I’ll get more into it soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh In Time was actually one of my favourites. The reference in The Darkest Legacy is a small one though, kind of blink and you’ll miss it, but it just kind of added to the experience, that something that happened in one of the novellas still has ramifications in this latest book.

        Liked by 1 person

    4. Oh it was only my least favorite because it was just very slow in the beginning and I was just confused. I also saw there was a reference to Beyond the Night and it was so small but I saw it. It’s interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Yea it was explained in the author’s note that it was meant to look into the world of skip tracers and it did help a lot. I still enjoyed it though. I’m just more of a person who likes the characters.

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Exactly!! When Zu appeared it just made everything better! That’s why I’m so excited for The Darkest Legacy and I want to see how much she has changed since then.

      Liked by 1 person

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