OK, I’m tired and have a cold, so I’m cheating and borrowing Goodreads’ synopsis for this one:
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.
When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.
This book was … interesting. There were times I really liked it, and times I wanted to take Ruby and shake her. The best way to describe it is a cross between the Divergent series, and Article 5 (which I just read recently, so that’s probably why it put me so much in mind of it). The relationship between Ruby and Liam often reminded me of the relationship between Tris and Four in Divergent. Their travels across a country that in just a few short years is destroyed by a virus that either kills children or turns them into monsters reminded me a LOT of Article 5. Let me try to explain.
I’m going to put a SPOILER ALERT here, because while I am going to try not to give away major plot points, some of these details are ones that aren’t really discussed until the end of the book, or are the kind you need to infer for yourself.
The concept of this book was cool. When a child turns 10, they get this “disease” that either kills them, or gives them supernatural powers. The variety of powers isn’t really explained clearly. Each type of ability is assigned a color, and that is how children are sorted when they are sent to “rehabilitation” camps. Reds can set fires, and are considered extremely dangerous. Oranges can read and sometimes control minds. Yellows have some sort of power over electricity. Blues are telekinetic, and can move things with their minds. And finally, Greens seem to have photographic memories and are really good with letters and numbers, like code-breaking and the like. Children who survive the onset of their powers are sent to “rehabilitation” camps, but really they are just imprisoned and forced to do hard labor because people fear them and don’t seem to know what to do with them. The thing that was weird about this was that there is never really any mention of anyone wondering how this disease came about, does it go away after Ruby’s particular generation, why does it affect children of a certain age, etc. There were a lot of things that weren’t explained about this mysterious disease. Maybe this was because we readers only know what Ruby knows, which isn’t much, or maybe it just got on my nerves that none of the characters were asking these questions. I don’t know exactly, but I know I wanted to know more and I wasn’t getting any answers.
The leading lady in this novel is a 16-year-old girl named Ruby. Ruby is sent to Thurmond rehabilitation camp when she is 10, but the story picks up when she is 16. Everything we learn about Ruby before age 16 we learn in flashbacks and inner monologue. While she has been there, with the staff believing she is a Green, she makes almost no friends and refuses to talk for over a year, trying to lay low and stay out of trouble. When it is discovered that she is really an Orange in hiding, Ruby is forced to escape the camp or die. She joins up with Liam, Chubs, and Zu, children who have escaped another camp and are looking for the East River and Slip Kid, who claims he can keep them safe and help them reunite with their families. While searching for the East River, Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu must dodge the military, bounty hunters, and other tribes of kids who are all just trying to survive. I had a lot of empathy for Ruby, not being able to control her powers, not understanding who she is or what she is supposed to do, being cut off from everyone who cared about her in such a tragic way. Her life pretty much sucked. HOWEVER, I still wish she could have made up her own mind every once in awhile. It wasn’t until the very end of the book that she FINALLY started thinking for herself and taking charge of her own life. If you are a frequent reader, you might notice that wimpy female leads get on my nerves, haha. And Ruby was wimpy. That was where the similarities to Tris from Divergent ended, because Tris (while occasionally wimpy) still thought for herself and made tough choices, even if they were the wrong ones. I can’t recall Ruby making any choices for herself that weren’t minor or stupid.
OK, I think I have ranted for long enough. Was this book terrible? No. Do I want to read the next one? Yes. I’m also interested in Alexandra Bracken’s other novel Brightly Woven, which according to Wiki looks like high fantasy, and I am going to try to get my hands on it. Also according to the ever-reliable Wiki, the film rights for Darkest Minds have already been optioned. For the first time ever, I think this might actually be better as a movie. I think less time in Ruby’s head might be better for this story, and it is certainly action-packed. It will be interesting to see if it makes it to the screen.