I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been to start The Darkest Minds series by Alexandra Bracken, a young adult paranormal dystopia and semi-post-apocalyptic set of books. All three of the main books are out and there are a number of extra companion novelettes available to boot. The first book in the series, The Darkest Minds, was a GoodReads Choice Award Nominee for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2013. I was luckily granted the full set by a fellow YA bibliophile. Disney Hyperion | Hardcover | 2012 | 488 pp
Ruby was just shy of 10 when a virulent new disease struck the American population. Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration, or IAAN for short, only affected the young – around the ages of 8-14. Most of the kids in this age group died. Few survived. But the disease did not die off. It came for each new child entering the age bracket. Mexico and Canada walled themselves off to protect their citizens from this all-American disease. The economy collapsed, the president extended his term and became a tyrant, society fell into chaos, and new pregnancies were forbidden unless approved by permit – a law punishable by swift death if broken.
The kids who didn’t die – they had it worse. The virus bestowed upon the survivors new extra-sensory gifts instead of death, which sounds really great at first. But it wasn’t, because the government became fearful. The kids were rounded up, hunted even, and brought to rehabilitation camps, while the government promised parents nationwide that it was for their own good and that they would be returned just as soon as they were safe and normal again. But that wasn’t the case. The children were never heard from again.
When the government realized that they could not “cure” the kids, the facilities eventually turned into concentration camps. The ‘PSI kids’ were experimented on, tortured, and many of them were outright slain – especially the most dangerous.
Upon arrival – they were sorted into categories: Red for pyro abilities, Orange for mind control, Yellow for electricity control, Blue for telekinesis, and Green for psychic abilities. Ruby knew what she was and she knew they would be terrified of her. She managed to lie her way into a Green categorization even though she was not. For six years she was a prisoner, managing to hide within the Greens while the Reds, Oranges, and Yellows disappeared. She was safe until they developed a new wavelength embedded in the ‘Calm Control’ siren that would identify any lingering dangerous ones. And this is where The Darkest Minds begins.
Suddenly Ruby, now at age 16, is on the run and out of the camp for the first time in six years. Chased by PSI agents from the camps and the Children’s League who vowed to protect children but were just terrorists masked by a good name, Ruby teams up with three other runners from another camp: Liam, Chubs, and Zu. With stories and clues about a safe haven led by the mysterious Slip Kid – a camp escapee, they desperately try to find a way to safety as they outrun all of their pursuers. But Ruby’s biggest foe is the one she can’t escape, and that’s the monster within.
I just loved the action, action, action. Non-stop action – a complete race for survival. We have some scenes in here to rival Die Hard, True Lies, and Firestarter combined. (These references just popped into my head – no relevance intended.) It’s an all-out war between the PSI kids who want to be free and the government and other factions who want them controlled or dead, and when the PSI kids are free to hone their skills – it’s simply no contest.
Ruby’s character is someone you can appreciate. Although she has a tragic backstory with her parents and a certain accidental moment with her new powers, she isn’t completely annoying – a trait often found in psychologically-wounded protagonists. Instead she’s someone you can get behind and watch as she grows from paranoid, frightened fugitive to a strong and decisive hellion. And normal – to the extent that a “normal-paranormal” character who just wants to survive is allowed. Moreover, Ruby is more concerned with the safety of her new friends and that selfless behavior is always a winning attribute.
The Darkest Minds also falls into the ‘paranormal romance’ category ever so slightly and get this – there is no love triangle. Yup. It’s perfect – not over the top, not mushy, and not ruined with a third wheel (but I can’t promise anything for the next books in the series).
Absolutely lots of fun and I can’t wait to dive into book two this weekend.
The Darkest Minds
by Alexandra Bracken