My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lately, the fourth graders at Ruby’s school have been dropping like flies from a rapidly spreading “disease” labeled as Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN). As Ruby begins to lose more and more classmates, her parents start to become more aware of just how many lives this disease has been taking, and they are extra careful with Ruby. When one of her classmates dies in front of her, the effects of this disease become more real for the young girl. Like most children would be, Ruby was afraid of contracting IAAN because of what had happened to most of her friends, but ironically, the rest of the world was afraid of Ruby and the other children who lived.
On the morning of her tenth birthday, Ruby expected to waltz into the kitchen to the smell of blueberry pancakes, but instead she was shoved into the garage by her parents, who seemed to be terrified of her. Ruby didn’t understand the reason at the time, but she soon realized what she’d done. She also realized she couldn’t take it back, which she tries to right for the remainder of the book.
From this point in the story, Ruby is shipped off to Thurmond, a prison/rehabilitation camp, with many other kids who have freakishly abnormal and uncontrollable abilities. Ruby is there for six years until fate intervenes.
The Darkest Minds is not the type of book I would typically read, even though it is considered to be dystopian. Psychic abilities never really interested me, so I feel like I went into this book with a slight bias to begin with. From its description and ratings, I really thought I would enjoy it, and honestly, the plot was not horrible. Predictable, but not horrible.
The main thing that caused frustration for me was Bracken’s writing style. To put it nicely, The Darkest Minds was a cheesefest. The longer I read it, the more I rolled my eyes at her word usage. Had I read it in junior high, I don’t think I would have even noticed. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind when a book is a little corny, go ahead and ignore me here. The fact is, though, Ruby’s conversations and inner thoughts were way overdone.
Speaking of Ruby, the protagonist, I want to talk about a few of her best qualities:
It was told from her perspective, but I never came across any redeeming characteristics in this 16-year-old girl. It’s not news, but typically the characters we’re meant to root for must have some upstanding traits. Sometimes it seems like she’s trying to be unselfish, but then she does something equally selfish to counteract the goodness she was about to attempt. Frustration is a good word for how I felt all through the novel.
I know I’m being hard on the girl, but I didn’t hate everything. The plot was decent and would have been enjoyable with a different style and protagonist. If it had been written from Zu or Liam’s perspective, I like to think I would have finished it with a smile, but who knows? Bracken’s predictability also made it a slow read for me. When I know something is going to happen for 200 pages, I don’t feel like reading anymore. Bracken hinted way too hard at what I think was meant to be a big revelation near the middle of the book, which caused a couple eye rolls from me.
So, overall it wasn’t so bad that I questioned its ratings. I could see my middle schoolers being attracted to this book for many reasons:
1. Psychic abilities
3. Simple cover design
4. Darkness and mystery
I’ve further realized “dark” books like this absolutely aren’t for me, so it’s likely I won’t be finishing the series. Just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it’s not for you, though. Take my considerations in and make the decision for yourself.
Goodreads Rating: 4.31
Recommended for: Young Adult Readers, Fans of Red Queen, Dystopian Lovers
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