The Darkest Minds
Written By: Alexandra Bracken
Published: December 2012
In the near future, children between the ages of 10 and 18 are afflicted with a disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration, which is referred to simply as IAAN by most characters, which kills most of those who contract it, and gives the ones lucky enough to survive super powers. On her 10th birthday, Ruby Daley wakes up to find that her parents no longer recognize her, and she is sent to the brutal Camp Thurmond along with several other children from her area. While there, Ruby learns that the children are being separated into groups by color: Greens, who are highly intelligent and are good at solving puzzles and breaking codes; Blues, who are telekinetic; Yellows, who are electrokinetic; Reds, who are pyrokinetic; and Oranges, who have telepathic abilities. She manages to convince the doctor doing her intake exam that she’s a harmless Green, and for six years she tries to keep her head down and hopes that no one notices that she’s actually an Orange. One day, after a test of the facility’s suppression system, Ruby is informed by a doctor that they know she’s really an Orange, and that she has a limited amount of time before they come to eliminate her. After escaping with the doctor and another inmate, Ruby learns that the people who rescued her, the Children’s League, aren’t what they seem, and she runs from them as well. In her escape, she teams up with a small group of other kids who have run away from a different camp, consisting of Liam, the group’s leader, who is a Blue; Chubs, who’s a Green, and Zu, a young Yellow. Afraid that her new friends will cast her out if they learn she’s an Orange, she keeps up the ruse that she’s a Green for as long as she can as she and her new friends seek out a safe haven for kids like them. On their way, they meet some familiar faces, as well as discovering new threats that they must face.
The Darkest Minds is the first book in this series, so not all of the characters are well developed. You learn the most about Ruby, who is the main character and narrator, and most of the more minor characters don’t get much more than a name and a color, if they even get that much. With Liam and Chubs we learn that their parents attempted to hide them from the government before they were eventually caught, and we also learn about Liam’s brother and his history with the Children’s League. Zu is the one we learn the least about since her character is voluntarily mute for the time being, due to the torture and experimentation she received at the camp she, Liam, and Chubs were at before they escaped.
Released in the midst of the YA dystopian craze a few years ago, The Darkest Minds holds up okay. Most of these books have similar plots, which a small group of special-in-their-own-ways teens accidentally stumbling on a governmental conspiracy and then leading the charge to topple said corrupt government, and in the realm of these books, this looks to be one of the better ones. I haven’t read/started the remaining books in the series (there are two more in the series proper, with a collection of short stories and a post-series follow up novel as well). The biggest issue I had with the book was the was oversimplification of the powers the kids developed. It would have been interesting, at least in my opinion, to see slight variations on the categories, but it’s understandable that she would want to keep things easy to manage.
If you like dystopian YA, or just want an easy fantasy novel to read, then you’ll probably like this one. The characters are, for the most part, likeable, and the story is easy to follow without spoonfeeding information to you. Some bits of plot stumble on longer than they should, but that can be said about nearly every book written. It also seems like something that could possibly happen, given how little we actually know about how the brain works.
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