Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Publishing Date: January 1st 2013
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
Page count: 496 (paperback)
I need to warn you: although I am giving this book 5 stars and I do truly believe it was amazing, there’s was a substantial chunk in it that I was thoroughly bored with. From about 30% to about 50% I would rather do other things. That’s why it took a while to get through. But after that 20%, whoo-eee! It was a rollercoaster ride of spunky heroines and explosions and running and screaming and just plain awesome.
Darkest Minds is a YA dystopian set in a near future where a deadly disease wipes out most of the population aged between ten and sixteen. Those kids leftover from the plague either develop strange powers, or these powers are latent and activated by age ten, or something else equally as strange happens. It’s not entirely certain how the powers come about. All we know is that if you don’t die from the plague, you’ll be gifted/cursed with one of five powers, segregated into colours. Greens are super smart, blues have telekinesis, yellows have some kind of electricity manipulation, reds are pyrokinetics, and oranges are a kind of telepathy mind fuck where every person is different. You can play with people’s minds, affecting their memory or free will through the power of suggestion, or cause illusions. It’s not a definite art, but the oranges are considered the most dangerous. Most of them are murdered in the camps that reminded me of concentration camps set up to ‘rehabilitate’ the kids. In reality, the camps are like prisons for the freak kids. These already damaged kids (either their parents are afraid of them or don’t want them, or they are torn away from their homes) are damaged further by the horrendous treatment. They aren’t taught how to control their gifts, they are taught to fear them.
Insert our terrified somewhat-of-a-doormat heroine Ruby into the fray. Ruby’s not a Green, but she is pretending to be. That’s not a spoiler. Ruby is afraid of everything – and most of all, she’s afraid of herself and her abilities. After Ruby is sprung from the camp she meets up with three other kids and they go on a road trip across Virginia to try and find the one fabled kid who can help them return to their families. Ruby is hoping he’ll be able to help her control her abilities so she can touch someone without fear of hurting them. Of course, things go wrong, kids make stupid decisions, and pretty much when think things are going okay everything explodes in your face.
That’s what I liked about this book. Ruby starts off as this completely spineless coward and she grows so magnificently into a confident, brave young woman. The romance in the novel is a beautiful slow bloom, and they never even say ‘I love you.’ There’s no insta-love there! And the boy… swoon! Liam is one of the nicest written boys in YA literature I’ve come across. He rivals Sam from the Wolves of Mercy Falls for sweetness and maturity. He’s a great character whose relationship with Ruby develops very slowly from hostility through to respect, admiration and mutual adoration. They’re so damn cute! But not in the same way Sam and Grace are. Ruby and Liam are running for their lives, and their relationship comes second to the greater good.
But oh yes. This book. Although there was a rather substantial section with which I was bored, and several times Ruby made me want to punch her for being very typical helpless YA heroine and keeping unnecessary secrets, she ended up growing into a capable, smart, courageous young lady that I really admire. I both loved and hated some of the choices she made: some of them were very stupid, but in the heat of the moment I don’t expect her to think clearly. Other times she was calculated and wily. An admirable girl for YA readers!
I have been looking forward to reading a Bracken book for a long time, and I am pleased my first foray into her writing was Darkest Minds. Check it out.
An advance reader copy was kindly provided by the publisher.