Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Posted February 25, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Science Fiction, Young Adult / 30 Comments

Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #1
Published by Disney Hyperion
Published on: December 18 2012
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 488
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
One StarOne Star
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When 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.

Review Icon@!-#Dystopia

I had serious misgivings about reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.

I started reading Brightly Woven (Bracken’s YA Fantasy stand-alone) a few years ago, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t mark it as DNF b/c I wasn’t totally writing it off. I was just putting it aside for later. WAY later. So when people started talking about The Darkest Minds last year, I didn’t pay much attention.

Then one of my favorite writers reviewed it as THEBESTBOOKEVEROMG!! So I bought it when it came out. And it sat on a shelf for a year.

Then a bunch of bloggers started reviewing it. A year later. And they’re all THEBESTBOOKEVEROMG!! So I just had to jump on that bandwagon to see what I’d been missing.

*throws book at wall*

The Darkest Minds is about a generation of youth who are born with superhero-like abilities. The additional abilities are jump-started at the onset of puberty. The kids who don’t die when their brains basically EXPLODE, are bused to government camps where they are “rehabilitated.” There are five divisions of abilities:

Green: super smarts

Blue: telekinesis

Yellow: manipulation of electricity

Orange: mind control

Red: fire starters

Greens and Blues are safe, Yellows are in the middle, and Oranges and Reds are frickin’ dangerous. Ruby (our MC) is an Orange, but she gets placed with the Greens (which is good b/c Big Brother starts killing off Oranges when they can’t be “rehabilitated”). If you’re wondering why I keep putting “rehabilitated” in quotations, it’s b/c I still don’t know what it’s supposed to mean. Lots of things are alluded to in reference to the camps and what happens there: scientific experiments (electro-shock therapy style), isolation, sensory deprivation, rape-as-punishment by the a**hole guards, but all of those things are in reference to studying/exploitation, not “curing” an “illness.”

And I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I start reading a book, I immediately have issues with it. In The Darkest Minds, my first issue was that there is a line that you can point to (like B.C. and B.C.E.) and on one side you have normal kids, and on the other side you have mutant freaks. Every single kid. BUT . . . wait for it . . . only AMERICAN kids.


Because last time I checked, Americans (myself included) were a bunch of mutts. The fact that I know I’m 25% Lithuanian is HUGE. Hardly anyone is a full quarter of anything in America. My other 75% is half a dozen different nationalities THAT I KNOW OF. If it were kids of Western European descent or Eastern European or Asian, etc. I could maybe buy into the whole idea (but it would still be hard b/c these things happen over time, NOT immediately), but it’s not. It’s just Americans.

Willful Suspension of Disbelief only works if the subject is remotely believable.

So that was a huge problem for me. Almost as big as the previously mentioned rape-as-punishment allusion. Not cool ever. REALLY not cool in a YA book. A girl covers for her friend and mouths off to the guards which results in the girl getting gang-raped for two days.

*retrieves book to throw it at wall again*

And then there’s the triangle. The only reason I picked up on the “interest” between Ruby and Boy1 was b/c all of a sudden someone’s staring at someone else’s lips. But that wasn’t terrible. I liked Boy1 and once I knew what was going on, I was cool with it. But then there’s Boy2, and you would have to be an absolute idiot to not immediately know that Boy2 is the BAD GUY.

But somehow there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading. Up until the point where I was 50 pages away from finishing the nearly 500 page book, anyway, and then I just kept going b/c I’m STUBBORN.

And I really wish I hadn’t. I really wish I had quit b/c those last 50 pages made it impossible for me not the read the next book. Sigh . . .

HOWEVER, all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will also hate it. I wasn’t crazy about The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey either, so I would suggest that if you liked Yancey’s book, you’ll probably like this one (to me, both books had a similar overall feel). My biggest objection was only alluded to, and very briefly at that. And maybe there’s a perfectly rational explanation for why only American kids mutate and I’m to obtuse to see it. It wouldn’t be the first time. So if SciFi/Dystopians are your thing, give it a shot. But if they aren’t . . .

Jessica Signature

One StarOne Star

My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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30 responses to “Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

  1. Oh thank god! There is another book thrower (even if only in my mind—I won’t throw my kindle)!

    I don’t read a lot of YA but that does seem like a strange thing to have in a YA book. I don’t like it when it shows up in Adult books but I would have a huge problem in YA.

    • Yeah, it straight-up pisses me off. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it than other people b/c I’ve got three younger sisters (the youngest are 14 and 19), so anytime something like that happens in a book, I can’t help but think about them. Regardless of why—it makes me go all Mama Bear.

  2. I didn’t love or hate the book. I listened to it last month, and the narration was awful. I was interested, but the whole time I was WTF is going on??? And I still didn’t like how there’s NO explanation for why these kids have abilities. Maybe there was, but I didn’t hear it. So I’m right there with ya!

  3. it’s always difficult to start a book when everyone is saying that it is the best book ever. I know I saw it on some blogs but I don’t really remember so I never checked this one out and I think now it will stay like that. I agree with you it’s strange about the american thing… mainly if it’s only them. It would have bothered me the whole book.

    • It bothered me the whole book and then some LOL. And I never read a book solely based on reviews, BUT if it’s a something that I’m already considering . . . it can make the difference. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t work out :/

    • That’s b/c you’re smarter than I am. And less obstinate 😉 I really hate when books walk such a fine line—when some indefinable thing keeps you reading against your better judgement. Someday I’ll learn *shakes fist* LOL.

  4. Thanks for reviewing, I think I’ll stay away from this one. I don’t think I’d finishes it, specially with somebody mentioning in one the comments up top that the narrations was bad.
    Thanks Jessica 🙂

  5. Rape as punishment? Yeah, I don’t think I could stomach reading about that, Jessica! And if there were other instances like that, I think your three stars are pretty generous. The premise sounds pretty cool, though, although I have to agree with you about the American kids, too. It’s one of the things I have the most trouble with when I’m reading dystopians, or even fantasy – why does everything have to happen right where the US is right now?

    Great review 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • That’s why I’m so annoyed with myself for finishing the book, Lexxie. I was thinking 2 stars the whole time up until those last 50 pages, and then I got caught in THE FEELS. And about the American thing—who knows? Maybe it’s a bunch of ethnocentric American writers LOL.

      Thanks for stopping by 😉

      • Oh well. I have such mixed feelings about DNF’ing a book. I just stopped reading two this week – could not get into them. And now, I’m thinking maybe it will be better later.

      • I really try not to DNF books too, but sometimes (IMO) it’s just better that way. Maybe the next book will be wonderful, and I won’t regret finishing this one anymore. I can only hope 🙂

  6. It’s too bad you didn’t enjoy it as much as other people do! I have this one on my to-read list. Your review actually makes me curious to read it. Great review 🙂

  7. Hmm, this confuses me–because I had a hard time getting into this one at first, then got convinced I should read it because my co-blogger really liked it, then I see your 3 stars and think maybe I was right, and then you say you didn’t like The Fifth Wave, which I loved. Hah! There is no magic formula here, I just need to give the book another try sometime.

    Sorry you were disappointed, though. I’m often the black sheep when it comes to popular opinion, too.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if there WAS a magic formula? Think about how much time it would save, LOL. SciFi/Dystopians are always hit-or-miss for me, and this one was sadly a miss. Maybe it won’t be for you. And hey, even if you don’t like it, there’s nothing wrong with being the black sheep. I rather enjoy it some days 😉

    • I started reading the novella (1.5), and in front half that I’ve read, it’s been mentioned that a virus is the cause of the mutation, so that makes more sense now. Maybe that was mentioned in the book, and I just read over it.

      I’m glad you liked it—we like a lot of the same books, so it gives me more hope for book 2 🙂

  8. This is one of those books that you think, did they read the same book I just did? As is often the case with much loved books, I don’t like them at all. So thanks for this review. Dystopian is not my genre at all, so I am not tempted in the slightest. For your sake, I hope book 2 will be better and explains it all.

    • I hope so too. And yes, this is definitely one of those books. It’s always so disappointing, especially if the differing viewpoint(s) is from someone who you normally agree with. I want to weep and wail and cry out that, “I thought we were soulmates!” LOL. Oh well. I suppose you can’t agree with everyone on everything 😉

  9. Oh nos! I have the two books and the novella on my reader. Sad face! We seem to have similar tastes in books. I’m very sorry that you didn’t enjoy this book. I’m hoping I’ll have better luck with it. Totally get the book throwing though. If I get mad enough, I throw it and then run over to make sure I didn’t damage it. 😉

    Here’s to hoping your next read turns out better!

    • The read after this was definitely better. And BONUS—after some time and distance, I no longer feel compelled to read book 2 🙂 Maybe I will someday anyway, and here’s hoping you like this one more than I did! (Also, it’s a figurative throwing of books. I couldn’t stomach actually damaging them 😉 )