The Darkest Minds was a book I picked up knowing little about it. Published at the height of the dystopian-YA-novel craze, it has received rave reviews from many. Looking at the average rating for this book on Goodreads (4.29/5.0 on 70,173 ratings)– I had high hopes. Also, reading the synopsis I had high hopes. This book was gearing up to be something unique and different. A dystopian-concentration-camp-X-Men-road-trip with some romance tucked in for fun. I could get behind this, if only for the entertainment value.
There were a number of things which distracted me about this novel. But the most pressing was implausible world building.
We enter into a world where a mysterious disease, Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN), has killed off some 95% of prepubescent children. With no preamble, the children are suddenly educated regularly about dying and death in school so they can cope with their friends falling over dead at any second. The other 5% who survive slowly develop crazy psionic powers. When children start to develop these powers they are immediately rounded up and sent to “rehabilitation camps”. In these brutal concentration camps, the children exist doing mindless work in a brutal environment, seemingly for the sole purpose of keeping them locked up and emotionally oppressed until they die. Interestingly, powers are classified by colors. Blue, green, and yellow are the more “harmless” colors. Red and orange are the “violent” ones. And that’s all the we get on those colors for the majority of the book.
The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces. – Charles Carrington Meriwether IV, aka “Chubs”
There is so much about the world above I question– I omitted a ton of details! (Series of questions I am still asking:
I feel like this book is also a bit scatterbrained. Yes, Ruby is trying to find her way in the world. As someone who has spent her entire pubescent life in these camps, she escapes feeling broken, confused, scared, and naive. I actually really love that about our protagonist: She missed a lot of critical development, and that makes her character believable. But it also makes her frustrating. She can’t make up her mind. In fact, the whole book feels like all the characters are geared young when only Ruby should be developmentally behind the others. All sorts of things happen on this road trip, many of which are just circumstance, but little of it draws me in and shows me the story is going anywhere. I found both Ruby and her journey a challenge to connect to.
That girl was gone forever, and all that was left was a product of the place that had taught her to fear the bright things inside of her heart. – Ruby Daly
Once we venture far enough into the story we better understand some drivers, things change substantially. And quite abruptly. Suddenly, Ruby stops being this scared character and becomes something else entirely. It feels like an uncomfortable and sudden shift. Just like the romance. BAM! Romance! It was… distracting.
When a girl cried, few things are more worthless than a boy. Having two of them just meant they stared at each other helplessly instead of at me. – Ruby Daly
There are definitely some good things about this book. I really enjoyed a number of the characters. I really enjoyed Zu. A dumb (as in can’t speak) character is not a disability we often see in books. I also loved
There were some great messages in this book about oppression and understanding child development and needs. Here is one of my favorite quotes:
“Listen to me very carefully,” she said … “The most important thing you ever did was learn how to survive. Do not let anyone make you feel like you shouldn’t have — like you deserved to be in that camp. You are important and you matter. … I will never hurt you, or tell at you, or let you go hungry. I will protect you for the rest of my life. I will never fully understand what you’ve been through, but I will always listen when you need to get something out.” – Cate Connor
This is an important message for anyone who has been oppressed. When you are taught for years that you’re not important and psychological games have broken down everything you thought you were, you need reassurance. This will not be something solved overnight, and you need to be patient with the years of repair required. I am glad I read this book if just for this quote. More people need to hear this more often; whether you can see their scars or not.
This quote surprised me.
And, you know what? I enjoyed that this book surprised me. I’ve read way more dystopian YA than I’d care to admit, so I was a bit shocked at the surprise factor. It was darker than most books I read, and that was a good thing. Surprises kept jump up, but I didn’t feel like I received Mortal Danger Fatigue.
In the end, I closed the book without caring to know more about these characters. We ended on a really strong note with quite a cliffhanger. But, the fact that I am not inclined to pick up the next book doesn’t speak well of the series. … I don’t think I even care enough to wonder where the story goes, despite the cliffhanger.