It’s probably the most poorly kept secret in the world, but I love YA novels. I absolutely adore them and I am always itching to get a new one. For Christmas, I got several books and I had in my possession the whole Darkest Minds trilogy. I have been reading the books as part of my independent study and I thought reviewing the first book would be fun. SPOILERS BELOW! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
The first book like all first books starts us off slow. We begin by learning that our main character Ruby lives in a “rehabilitation” camp where she is subjected to the cruelties of the guards and the general monotony of life there. It is there that, a member of the Children’s League (a group attempting to overthrow the President) infiltrates the camp and breaks her out. And that is just the exposition of the book.
One of my hangs ups about this book is the fact that the whole thing is written in the first person. I hate the first person. I find a first person narrative very limiting and stagnating and that was one of my problems with this book. We never know how the other characters interpret the situation around them. We have to simply rely on Ruby’s interpretation of things and hope that we’re getting the whole story.
The characters were greatly written. Bracken does an excellent job of establishing that they are kids and that the dystopian world that they live in have deprived them of so many things. There was a scene where Chubs, a supporting character, was upset that he would never be able to attend college and get a degree all because the world went to shit. And that was saddening to read. And the fact that Zu, another character, despite being mute is completely enamored with all things pink is both sweet and heartwrenching.
However the intercharacter conflicts, I found, were annoying. Chubs and Ruby were in conflict most of the book and the whole time I just wanted both of them to shut up and get along because there were much more important things going on than who had Liam’s attention and faith. The interpersonal conflict though becomes better once they meet Clancy, the President’s son, and his “safe haven”. Clancy being able to connect with Ruby and manipulate her, increase the tension between character and give them more depth.
The dystopian society that Bracken writes is nothing that is completely outlandish or too heavily rooted in fantasy like The Hunger Games or Divergent but takes place sometime during modern day with a President that refuses to lose his seat of power and uses legislation to do that. The world that Bracken builds is heavily based in reality and I find that refreshing to read. The fact that the President is spouting an America First narrative is something that is eerily familiar and slightly scary.
Though one thing that the book lacks is direction. They seem to just wander around and then try to find Clancy and then once they do they just sort of… do nothing. Like yes, Ruby attempts to control her abilities but there isn’t much else that she does. That and all the other characters just seem to disappear.
I still found the book enjoyable. If I had to rate it, it’d be a 3/5.