Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Darkest Minds

Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Supernatural/Young Adult

Type: Kindle e-book
Source: (Kindle e-book)
Series: #1 in the Darkest Minds series
Series Order:
  1. Darkest Minds (2012)
  2. Never Fade (2013)
Source: Kindle e-book
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
First Published: December 2012
First Line: "When the white noise went off, we were in the Garden, pulling weeds."

Book DescriptionWhen Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who 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 a life worth living.

My Thoughts:  If you've seen my Book Index at the top of the blog you'll see that I love Young Adult/Dystopian reads. I've read The Hunger Games trilogy, Divergent/Insurgent, Shatter Me, Immortal Rules ... the whole YA/Dystopian enchilada and, for the most part, I've really loved the genre.  My love of these two genres also makes me more of a connoisseur and I expect a lot from authors to keep me interested and add something new to a very popular genre.

That said, I have some very different and perhaps conflicting feelings about this book.  Overall, I have to say that I'm intrigued by it as the start to a new series.  It had a fast pace in the beginning and a great 'edge of your seat' ending but there were some aspects of the book that took away from the general positive feeling.

But let's start with the positives, shall we?  I think that one of the strongest aspects of the book were the some of the characters.  Even though the book centres around Ruby and Liam my favourite characters were secondary to the storyline.  It was wee Zu and Chubs who really stood out for me. Chubs was, by far, my favourite character. 

Chubs starts out at the beginning of the book as pretty obstinate and not a fan of Ruby's at all.  But over time we see why Chubs feels the way he does and we get to see more of the real guy behind the sarcasm.  I loved him.  I think that Chubs' personality, emotion, honesty and humour easily overshadowed Ruby and Liam. 

Ruby, as the main character, goes through a big metamorphosis.  We first see her as a very timid girl with no real world experiences and just a very beaten down, weak person.  She is then thrust into the real world where we see her struggle to gain confidence so she can learn to take matters into her own hands to change her life and the lives of those like her.  That said, she wasn't a character that I was really ever drawn to and I think that's because her struggle to gain confidence took a little longer than I was comfortable with. 

Also, the girl squanders her super powers.  Instead of learning how to use them and being in awe of how cool it is that she even has these powers she ignores them and is upset at even having them.  Say what??  She seemed like more of a weak Bella Swan (gah!) main character and that never sits well with me.  Ever.  She spends a lot of the time bemoaning the fact that she has these powers and makes decisions which seemed like she gave little to no thought to and were just generally stupid decisions that put her in danger.

Then there's Liam.  I just didn't love this guy.  Compared to Chubs' character Liam lacked depth and just general 'oomph'.  I think my lack of interest in Liam didn't help the romance aspect either which, if I'm being honest, felt like it came out of nowhere.  Much too sudden and it felt like the reader was expected to accept the fact that these two are now a couple when only a night or so before they were all awkward and unsure of each other.  And another little thing that bugged me about Liam was the fact that he's suddenly referred to as "Lee".  At first I was wondering who this Lee character was.  Confusing.  Why use a nickname (only one syllable less) when you don't need to?  

I know it seems like my positives quickly turned into negatives.  I hate dumping on a new book but I can't ignore certain facts.  Honestly, there were big gaps in the world building and general storyline that I just couldn't ignore. 

My major criticisms about this book mainly stem from the huge gaps in information or a lack of detail.  Honestly, for a good portion of the book I had the feeling like I sort of had the gist of the world and this vague virus that has annihilated civilization.  It's not a feeling that I enjoyed.  I felt in the dark about how this world was set up, the reasoning behind this mysterious virus that has annihilated 95%+ of American youth and even the 'powers' that these special kids have.  It was frustrating that so much was just glossed over and that I, as a reader, was just supposed to accept it.

For example, why would all of the parents of these 'mutant' kids be so willing to hand over their kids to the government to put in camps and never seen again?  What parent does that?  And why house all these kids for years on end?  What's the government's plan for these kids?  Doesn't the government worry about the effect on future generations if so many of their youth are dying/being killed off?  Why did this virus only affect American kids?  Why not use these little mutants and teach them to use their powers and become an army of X-men-type warriors? (Where is Professor X when you need him?) Why waste their powers? Too many unanswered questions that just didn't make sense to me.

This funky fog stayed with me for the entire book but the pace of the book towards the end and the 'edge of my seat' feel that I got helped me to forget (for the most part) this fog as I read the cliff hanger.  And a delicious cliff hanger it was!  The end of the book picks up the pace and tension big time!  So I can only hope that future books in the series will continue with this surge of energy and propel the storyline even further ahead.

Don't get me wrong.  I did enjoy this book but there is definitely room for improvement.  I will say that it kept my interest and I loved the fact that there isn't just one bad guy.  This dystopian world is utterly fractured so it makes perfect sense that different factions are vying for power and are willing to go to great lengths to ensure that they have these kids with super powers on their side. 
"The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces."

There is a huge amount of potential for the future books in the series to take off.  I hope that a lot more info will be given to the reader to help us really get a better grasp about the world that has been created.  The ideas in this book were great ... it was just the execution that needed more fine tuning to help the reader get up to speed.

There are some unanswered questions at the end of the book but those only added to my desire to jump into Never Fade, the second book in this series which I have been graciously given to review by the publisher, as soon as humanly possible.

I recommend this book for readers who loved The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi, The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa or Divergent by Veronica Roth.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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