The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken | Book Review

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Have you ever liked something but had trouble explaining why? You could point out all the bad things about it but when asked what you actually liked or why you like it, you have to pause to consider your answer. Well that’s how I felt about The Darkest Minds. I finished reading this on the 23rd and usually I can jump right on my computer and start banging out a review. But I couldn’t. Partially because I had work early the next morning but also because I didn’t know what to say. So did I ever figure out what I liked about this book? I sure hope so. Here’s my review for The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken.
Let me start off by giving a brief synopsis. One day a virus starts spreading among children ages ten to eighteen. Many die, but those who don’t are left with powers. The government freaks out because some of these powers are really dangerous. A program is started where children are moved to camps to be “rehabilitated.” At least that’s the story the government feeds the people. Ruby was ten when she was taken from her home and put in a camp. Six years later and she’s still there, hiding in fear of the camp finding out what her real power is.
Okay, here’s something. Let’s start with the obvious. The characters. This book had some really good characters. There’s about four of them (3 solid and two half good characters). This is a YA novel and, like I’ve mentioned before, both in Triple B (I went to the Guy Fieri school of naming things) and Future Flicks with Billiam, they tend to get a bad rap. This book, however, has the misfortune of being so close to a stereotypical cheesy YA novel that readers could balk at the book before they even get a few chapters in.  The main character is a moody angsty teenager, but guess what? She was kept in a prison camp for six years since she was ten. Compared to her, Katniss has it good. What makes Ruby complex is her inner struggle between wanting to keep away from people and live a hermit-like life versus her desire for human contact beyond daily pleasantries. A boy touched her hand! Like OMG! Yes OMG because it’s never happened before.
Talking about love, this book has a love triangle. Wait! Don’t go! It’s not a Twilight-esque love triangle. This one actually makes sense. Since this is a spoiler free review I can’t tell you why, but trust me when I say I didn’t even bat an eye when I realized what was going on. Trust me. I can’t stand lazy writing and I would have jumped all over it like a douche bag on a vape supply sale.  There were a lot of stereotypical things in this book. A lot of tropes summoned to move the story along. But they were well done and always given a really good reason. This book was well plotted and thought out so either Alexandra Bracken got really lucky, or she knows her craft.
I never finished talking about the characters, did I? There were two other main characters that we got to know well, one we didn’t, and a side character who we got to know pretty well. This book doesn’t overwhelm you with people/names to remember and backstories to memorize. As for the people who were critically important to the story, I feel that we got to know them well. I liked how we got to know each character in their own way without having it shoved down our gullets. Here’s a new character! Here’s everything you need to know. Okay, lets move the story along. Nope, none of that here.
Here’s the thing though. I’m saying all these positive things about the book but if this genre, if this story, doesn’t sound like something you’d be into, then you probably won’t like it. Let me put it this way. Stephen King is one of the best writers of the modern era, but that doesn’t mean everyone will love him. Cormac McCarthy is considered a wonderful writer but I think he’s garbage and his books shouldn’t even be used as toilet paper. The same goes for The Darkest Minds. Just because Alexandra Bracken did a great job fleshing the story out, just because she has multi-dimensional characters, doesn’t mean anything if YA Dystopian Thrillers (with a hint of Sci-Fi) aren’t your thing.
The only other thing about the book that I think is worth mentioning/warning people about is the pacing. As a first book in a series, it does have a slow burn, but in doing so, it does a great job of setting you up for the other books in the series and leaves you wanting more of the world. It introduces who is important. And it prepares you for what comes next. But to do all of that, the first book has to be a character study with bits of action thrown in to keep cobwebs from forming. It wasn’t a boring book, but if a character heavy book isn’t your sort of thing, then go read something else.
From this point you can probably guess what my recommendation is. This is very easy. If anything about what I’ve said interests you, then pick this book up and enjoy it. If not, then walk away. This isn’t one of those novels that can transcend genres. If you want one of those, pick up Ender’s Game, A Monster Calls, or Me Before You. Just a warning though if you want to pick this book up. It’s part of, at the very least, a four book series. So if you want to see it through to the end, you’ll have to read them all.
I enjoyed The Darkest Minds and I hope that I can at least convince one person to pick it up. I think there are a lot of people out there who would like it and I’m pretty sure you know who you are.
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Braken gets an 8 out of 11

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