Monday, December 24, 2012

The Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

So, my first encounter with this book was it being deposited neatly in front of me by someone whom I trust dearly to give me excellent books.

I saw the cover, had a slight tremor of fear, read the back, and grew a little suspicious.

But I trusted them, so I took the plunge and read it.


I'm going to say it right now and predict that this should easily be as popular and awesome as Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If it doesn't reach that point, I weep and throw things at the literary community. Mostly throw things.


So the amazon summary of the book so you can properly embark on the journey with me, "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."


Again, one of the horrible things about the summary is that it hints at East River which we manage to stumble in near the halfway mark. I will forever hate it when book summaries reveal more than a quarter of the book's plot. Forever hate.

Here's my summary. Ruby wakes up on her tenth birthday, expecting a birthday celebration but is instead carted off to a camp for children. The other children in her class at school have begun to die from a disease referred to as IAAN which is lethal once puberty begins. Some kids manage to survive the disease, but they're forever changed. They develop abilities that put them into different color groups; Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, and Green. Each color refers to a different talent that develops; red is never explicitly explained but are hinted at to have something to do with fire, orange centers around affecting other's minds, yellow has to deal with electricity, blue has to deal with telekinesis, and green has to deal with the inner working of the mind such as logic puzzles and photographic memories.
Ruby has survived the disease so far and is carted off to camp to be sorted into one of these colors. It is hinted that she can see other's memories in the beginning and she manages to convince the sorter that she is a green since greens appear harmless. She doesn't know what she is and doesn't want to explore her abilities to figure it out for fear of punishment.
The camp itself kept reminding me of the holocaust camps, but a little more humane. They were separated by colors, gender, and age group; kept on a strict routine schedule; given meaningless tasks to perform; had different procedures performed on some of them in search of a cure; but they were fed, clothed, allowed three minute showers, and had bunk beds to sleep in. The camp is just described as very inhumane and almost as if the children are animals. Oh yeah, all of the camps residents are children except for the adults who police them. The adults carry guns and a device that emits a frequency that causes extreme pain to their mutated brains.
Ruby has a friend, Sam, whom after an incident, Ruby accidentally erases every memory Sam has of her from her mind. Ruby also has a terrible side effect of headaches whenever she accidentally uses her ability.
Luckily, Ruby is noticed by an anti-government force that gets her out; but once she's out Ruby notices that everything isn't quite as it seems and escapes from them. In her escape, she stumbles across Liam, Zu, and Chubs; children who have escaped from another camp.

I'm going to stop there simply because it was a lot of summary.

Here's what I need to discuss.

The characters were lively, believable, distinctive, and downright creepy sometimes. The world building was astounding as it takes place in the USA and shows how the society slowly decomposes when it starts to lose it's children. I find it slightly annoying that it was stated at one point that Mexico and Canada had built walls in an attempt to keep the disease out, but I wanted to see the disease happen in other parts of the world as well. There were a lot of specific details worked out so that I wasn't curious about anything that I shouldn't have been curious about while I was reading it.

There were some very specific details about different locations in the West Virginia, Virginia areas that I have no way of knowing are accurate barring visiting the places. But as a resident of Michigan, the story felt realistic in the details it provided of the settings.

Sometimes, sometimes I found Ruby to be a little obnoxious with how petrified she was of herself; but based on the beginning of the book this was well-founded ingrained fear. She had six years in that camp to become so scared.

There were also a lot of little details put into place in the early stages that came back into play later on. I appreciate that immensely.

The violence and precise language of the book portrayed a grim picture of what Ruby's life had become. I found it very fitting considering her situation and her experiences, but this would make me much more hesitant to recommend it to younger readers; say 12 or younger. There are some uncomfortable parts, some gruesome parts, and some stuff that should probably be left for high schoolers.

Now I'm going to make a brief visit to SPOILER LAND as there's something that's nagging me about this story. Don't read the following if you don't want the end of the book ruined for you. I MEAN IT.

So at the end of the story, Liam, Chubbs, and Ruby manage to escape the East River camp and track down Jake's father (Jake took a bullet protecting Chubbs so Chubbs could escape). Chubbs goes up to the father's door step armed with Jake's letter that Liam asked him to write just in case. Jake's father answers the door, goes into a fit of rage, and shoots Chubbs. This spirals into Ruby signaling the anti-terrorist organization for help and hoping to get Chubbs to safety. THEN EVERYTHING ESCALATES EVEN QUICKER.

Once Chubbs, Liam, and Ruby are taken away, Ruby wakes up in a room to find that she's been isolated from the others and Cate (the woman who originally saved her from camp) comes in and seems to gloat slightly about helping her and how Ruby will be a great asset to them, blah blah blah. Ruby is all ON ONE CONDITION LET MY PEOPLE GO (LOL, not really), she really goes, LET LIAM GO. Cate begins to get all flustered like LIAM WILL COMPROMISE US. HE KNOWS WHERE WE ARE NOW. BLEH. So Ruby goes a little bonkers and removes every memory that Liam has of her so that he can go free and she'll stay.

Now what drives me up the wall about crap like this, UP THE FREAKING WALL. Ruby removed all of Liam's memories about her. WHY DIDN'T SHE FREAKING REMOVE CATE'S MEMORIES OF HER. Why didn't she just make Liam, who is a blue, help her escape? There is a vague notion that she'll stay to free Chubbs, but really? I was pretty damn convinced he was dead before he was carted away. Ruby fell into the "I'M TRAPPED IN A CORNER, BUT I'LL MAKE THE BEST OF IT; AREN'T I CLEVER? *DOES SOMETHING DUMB*" syndrome. I SHAKE MY FIST. SHAKE IT.

Despite this weird, seemingly slap-happy-I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing-anymore-please-just-end-book-one-so-I-can-get-to-book-two end of the book; there is still so much going on in the world that I really want to see what happens. She's nicely set up a weird government plot on top of strange disease plot on top of romance plot on top of finding Zu one day plot on top of other things I'm probably failing to mention plot.

I believe this is the first one in a series, and I am eager to read any following books.

Happy reading!

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