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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wrap-Up: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken | #WednesdayYA [1.3.4]

Just a heads up before we get into what I thought of The Darkest Minds - our twitter discussion of the book is happening TONIGHT, so if you've read TDM and want to join in, please do! Follow along on twitter to the hashtag #WednesdayYA and chime in with your thoughts on the book! It promises to be an interesting discussion, as I liked the book but last time I spoke to Liz, she was not in a happy place with it...
So: Twitter. Tonight. 8:30 EST is when it's going down.  

Hope to see you there, but until then, here's what I thought of The Darkest Minds!

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Sci-Fi/Dystopia, 488 pages
Published December 18th 2012 by Disney Hyperion
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.

***Because I am writing this wrap-up before the twitter chat, this will be a pretty quick blow by blow of my thoughts; I will come back in and add bits of our discussion later, for those of you who miss it.***

The Good:
I liked Ruby, and found her voice to be fairly authentic. It made sense to me, the way she reacts to people and to human touch, and how she thinks she's damaged and unlovable. And even though she seems fairly high-functioning and not as maladjusted as she should be, given her relative isolation (in the sense that, even though she's surrounded by people, they're rigidly controlled and kept from socializing and learning the way an adolescent brain needs to to thrive), I do like that there are attempts to explain this, and to reference how stunted her adolescence has been.
I also liked the other characters, and connected with them quite easily, feeling and worrying for them pretty readily. I think Ruby is a good 'in' to this, as she explores their dynamics, but I also just plain liked them, and rooted for them.
My last good thing, is I think Bracken has left herself a lot of room to brow the series, and questions that can be answered, while (I'm sure) new questions will arise. I think there's a lot of potential here for the series and the characters to go in very interesting directions (and judging by the excerpt of book 2 that was provided at the end of this book, we're going to get to explore some of the more uncomfortable areas, which intrigues me!).

The Bad:
I always take issue a bit with stories which hinge on the premise that some huge world-altering event, and then says it only affects people between the ages of 10 and 17, or something like that. Or, as in this case, a story that takes that very narrow range and pushes it one step further, but acting as if there's a magical switch flipped, biologically. You turn 10 and BOOM! mutant super-freak. I want to suspend my disbelief and get into your story, and it's one thing when the "magical age" is some form of tradition or initiation, but humans are vastly different when it comes to how and when their bodies react to something (whether it be a normal biological process like puberty, or an outside catalyst), and there are always going to be outliers. Leave some wiggle room, leave some ambiguity and some mystery, and I'm far more likely to just go with it than if you try to fill in the details with murky science and "facts" that just don't make sense.  Fortunately, this wasn't brought up too frequently, so I could mostly ignore it, but the story does hinge on this concept, and though I'm sure it will be explained more fully as the series goes

The Bears-Mentioning:
It can be slow moving, I'm not going to lie. But though it sometimes did feel every bit of its nearly 500 pages, I actually liked the pacing of it. Sometimes, for some readers, slow never works, but I think, if done well, as a nice slow-burn, developed story, slow can actually be kind of nice. In this case, it had enough peaks and valleys and moments of everything happening very quickly, that the otherwise slower pace of the story worked for me. It gave me a chance to really know the characters and decide who to root for. But it does bear mentioning.

And that's my thoughts on The Darkest Minds for now. If you're able, join us for the twitter chat tonight, and if you're not, come back here later for an amended review with some of the comments from the chat included. =)


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