Many young adult novels these days are heavy on plot and light on character development. This is not the case in The Darkest Minds, the first in a series by Alexandra Bracken. This series takes place in a futuristic Virginia where, out of nowhere, kids between the ages of eight and fourteen begin to die suddenly from a mysterious illness. The kids who miraculously survive this illness are not loved, but feared. This is because their survival identifies them as having dangerous mental abilities ranging from photographic memories, to telekinesis, to being able to read and control the minds of others.
Protagonist, Ruby, is one of these feared children and is shipped off to a “rehabilitation camp” with other survivors where they are separated into groups by their powers. These camps are cold cruel places where the children are not allowed to speak with one another and most of the kids “disappear” soon after arriving. Ruby knows that she has special abilities beyond what the other prisoners have, and she works very hard to hide these and blend in with the kids.
Her plan can’t last forever, however, and after six years Ruby escapes from camp only to encounter more danger. She ends up traveling with three other escaped prisoners; a protective golden boy about her age, an intelligent grump a couple years her junior, and a mute girl of ten. The relationships that develop between these four kids is where Bracken really separates The Darkest Minds from other typical young adult novels. All of the characters are likeable, imperfect, and funny.
That’s not to say that Bracken’s novel is all warm and fuzzy. She includes plenty of action and intrigue to keep the plot moving forward and readers hooked. Overall, when it comes to young adult series, I typically only read the first book. I’ve been let down too many times by a less-than-stellar book two or three. However, Bracken’s characters are likeable enough to make me want to read on and see what happens next!
Sara's Rating: 3 stars