And here we are at Never Fade, the second book in Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds series, a dark and dangerous young adult dystopia. Bracken ups the ante in the second book, duplicating the energy of the first but using a more sophisticated and mature protagonist. Hardcover | Disney-Hyperion | October, 2013 | 512 pp
I wouldn’t consider these books standalone and so if you haven’t read the first book, be advised that I’ll be starting this review off with a major spoiler on the first.
In Bracken’s world of The Darkest Minds, a virus limited to the United States took the lives of millions of children, and those who survived had neurological transformations which gave them paranormal abilities. Color-coded by the government, Ruby is an Orange with the power of mind manipulation – the most dangerous distinction. Most of the Oranges have already been exterminated by the government. After escaping from the concentration camp for all gifted children, she met up and bonded with three other escapees. When they were cornered at the end, Ruby made a deal with the League (an anti-government terrorist organization who claimed to be in it for the children) to work for them as long as they let Liam and Chubs go. To make matters more final, she erased her existence from the mind of Liam, her love interest.
In Never Fade, Ruby is a little bit older and a lot stronger, serving on several missions to disable the government. She hopes to eventually free all of the children still held in those awful camps. There are some people in the League who don’t seem to have similar interests in mind and when one of her gifted brethren is killed, there is evidence to suggest mutiny. Someone in the League wants to kill the PSI kids and she was almost next.
When Liam’s older brother Cole returns to the League, Ruby is pulled into a new operation. Cole had filled a flash drive with medical data he had downloaded from the federal scientists working with the disease and gifted kids. But that drive was now in the hands of Liam by accident and they needed to get it back. Unfortunately, no one knew where he was; Liam was off the grid. It was the perfect cover for Ruby who left the league during one op by incriminating one of the rogue League agents before going off the grid with Jude, a fifteen-year-old Yellow (powers of electricity). Her real mission was to find Liam and the flash drive, and only few in the League knew since Liam was wanted by all parties.
Ruby and Jude are joined with Vida (a Blue – powers of telekenisis and also from the League) when they find Chubs who had managed to evade detection by hiding among his enemies. And when they finally find Liam, he’s on death’s door, treated harshly by a band of Blues led by a ruthless impersonator. Worse yet, he has no idea who Ruby is, and can’t understand why he has so many feelings for her.
A thousand things are happening at once when you get to the turning point in the story. A staged assassination on the President on the east coast brings missiles down on the west coast. The League is suffering from a coup within their own barracks. Clancy, the son’s president and infamous ‘Slip Kid’ from the first book is back and manages to infiltrate the League for his own purposes. And everything else seems to go to hell in a hand basket.
Just like the first book there is non-stop action. Think ‘X-Men’ kids and young adults versus adults. When they can work together, it’s no contest really. But when they are surprised, the government agents have a ‘white noise’ weapon that emits a frequency of sound only the kids can hear, one that renders them incapacitated for a time.
I enjoyed this second book but there were a few moments of frustration that really detracted from the book. When Ruby sees the video evidence of a League agent killing a kid, she decides not to say anything. This was incredibly frustrating move when exposure would have better ensured her safety. Everyone seems to run away when they have a spat, and then they get in trouble when they’ve wandered off. Naturally. It was akin to checking out that dark, scary basement alone in a horror movie. And then there’s Liam who freaks out around Ruby. Would someone tell him, please? And finally, it seems that every other person in power is downright evil. Even the PSI kids turn on each other. Come on.
Aside from some frustrating moments, I couldn’t put the damn book down for a second.
by Alexandra Bracken