The Darkest Minds: The Darkest Minds, Book 1
Popular author Alexandra Bracken launches a new near-future trilogy with THE DARKEST MINDS, a paranormal thriller that will keep readers guessing.
Alexandra Bracken's 2010 debut novel, BRIGHTLY WOVEN, was an unusual fantasy that won its young author a nomination as Best Debut Author in the 2010 GoodReads Choice Awards. Now she follows up that success with a very different --- but no less captivating --- start to a near-future trilogy.
"Regardless of the extreme circumstances Ruby faces, these concerns are universal --- and Bracken places these broad questions in the context of a world that is both familiar and frighteningly alien."
Ruby was only ten years old when her parents, terrified of some emergent power in their daughter, locked her in the garage and called the police. Soon, she was taken away from their Virginia home and shut away in Thurmond, the most notorious rehabilitation camp for young people like herself, kids who have been identified as having special --- and in many cases dangerous --- powers. Even at the age of ten, Ruby knew enough to hide the true extent of her powers, faking that she was a relatively harmless Green instead of a far more powerful Orange. The Oranges and Reds don't tend to stick around the camps for very long; their powers make them too hard for even the Psi Special Forces --- the military police in charge of the camps --- to contain.
But after Ruby has been in the camps for six years, she discovers that Thurmond's authority figures are becoming more sophisticated, using signals and tests to discover any Orange or Red campers who have so far evaded detection. When Ruby is identified, however, a sympathetic doctor helps her escape, enlisting her for the so-called Children's League and hoping to use the powers of Ruby and others like her in a fight against the government. But when Ruby questions their methods and motives, she finds herself on the run again, this time in the company of a troubled group of kids like her: kids barely in control of their own dark powers, kids desperate to discover a place called East River and the elusive "Slip Kid" who can offer safety, solace, and answers to their many terrible and dark questions.
Like many futuristic or science fictional trilogy openers, THE DARKEST MINDS contains a fair amount of scene-setting. At times, however, readers might wish that Bracken had spent more time outlining the nature of Ruby's powers, the different powers possessed by those classified as Red or Blue, etc., and even probed more quickly and completely into the nature of the malady that has killed the vast majority of teenagers Ruby's age and younger. To be sure, the disorientation that accompanies Bracken's too-gradual revealing of these details mirrors Ruby's own confusion and frustration; that being said, it's possible that some readers may give up on the story out of sheer bewilderment. Those who stick with it, however, will be rewarded by a story that, although violent and even brutal at times, explores the nature of loyalty and young people's often complex and evolving sense of their own self-identity. Regardless of the extreme circumstances Ruby faces, these concerns are universal --- and Bracken places these broad questions in the context of a world that is both familiar and frighteningly alien.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on November 16, 2012