Series Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Darkest Minds (from Goodreads):
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have 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 having a life worth living.

breakdown

Series: The Darkest Minds Trilogy
Author: Alexandra Bracken
# of Books: 3 (The Darkest Minds, Never Fade, In the Afterlight)

There are 3 novellas. See their reading order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2012 – October 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was lucky enough to get my wish granted to read Bracken’s Passenger before its release and really enjoyed it. While it had its longer moments, I really loved how Bracken built her world and was curious to see what else she had written. Turns out, The Darkest Minds is a big hit among my fellow bloggers and so I was more than curious to pick it up. It was also one of my “Weekly” series to read for my personal 365 Days of YA Challenge and so I did just that during my “Reading Week” (study break) in February (well, at least I attempted to. More on that later).

I don’t really enjoy witch-magic based stories but this seemed to be more of a Darkest Powers type of magic and I was cool with that. Other than that, I really wasn’t sure what else to expect from this series and so I went in hoping to be impressed.

The Concept / The World:

The world of The Darkest Minds seems like a hybrid of many other books that I’ve read before (you can check them out below in my Similar Reads section) but still had its own unique vibe. I didn’t feel like I was reading a knock-off of another novel nor a regurgitation, making it enjoyable to read. It reminded me a lot of the Red Queen in that sense–just a mash-up of the best tropes of its genre.

I also like that the premise is easy to follow. I’m of the philosophy less is more and that fits this series perfectly. I’m not a fan of “magic” based stories but the powers here have a great set-up that makes sense to me.

The Plot:

It took me a long time to get into The Darkest Minds. While I liked that it was building, it definitely hit a plateau for the vast majority of the book that had me wondering “when is this going to get exciting?”. The answer is the last 100 pages. Once you reach the climax of the series, things get pretty great and it makes all those previous pages worth it.

I expected Never Fade to keep this momentum going but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Never Fade, like its predecessor had a strong finish but it was an uphill struggle to get there. I found it to be a little dry at times despite the fact that the plot kept moving. It’s a solid sequel–just don’t expect it to hit the ground running from the get-go.

It was the same situation with the finale, In the Afterlight, but worse. This book seemed to reset everything back to an exposition like level and slowly made an upwards climb to the exciting parts. But by then, it was too late for me. I honestly skimmed this last book just because I didn’t want to leave this series open-ended. I contemplated DNFing it probably once a day for the nearly 2 weeks it took me to read.

I had planned to read this series in 1 week–it took me 1 month to read everything. Sure, it doesn’t help that they are longer than your average book but I just found them all to be so slow and overly descriptive that I didn’t get into them as much as I had hoped. It was like a flashback to the torture that was reading the Maze Runner Trilogy. I would find my mind drifting because nothing was happening and inevitably bored.

The Characters:

I’ll admit, I wasn’t really won over by Ruby. She’s a bit of a dud but understandably so. I mean, she has been in a rigid camp for the last 5 years, negating any chance for fun or a personality. What I really liked was her character development. While the plot might not have been super exciting in The Darkest Minds, Ruby’s character was constantly evolving giving some purpose to the story. I also like that she isn’t perfect–that she makes stupid mistakes–but that she learns from them. It’s a trend that continues throughout the series. She does get a good case of Lead Heroine Sacrifice Syndrome in In the Afterlight and that got to be annoying; but at the same time, I was in such a sour mood reading that last book that I think it altered my perception slightly.

For me, I always connect more to the side characters. I definitely have a few faves in this bunch and I think if you can’t connect/like Ruby, you’ll find someone else to root for somewhere along the way.

The Romance:

The romance was really sweet and was there enough to add to the story, but never took away from it. Which is important I think. I never felt smothered by the romance and its devices where always there to move the story forward. But I could have taken or left it.

Novellas:

There are a total of 3 novellas: In Time, Sparks Fly and Beyond the Night  .

In Time bridges the story arcs of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade though it focuses on characters elsewhere in the world. It gets alluded to a lot more In the Afterlight I found so it might be worthwhile to read. Sparks Fly is kind-of a separate short story that takes place in the world. It’s with a character you’ve met before but it isn’t necessary to read. Beyond the Night is the follow-up to Sparks Fly and is an epilogue of sorts to the series.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Darkest Minds 3.5/5 | [In Time 3/5] | Never Fade 3/5 | [Beyond the Night 3/5]  | In the Afterlight 2/5 | [Sparks Fly 3/5]

overall

Maybe the hype-monster killed this one for me but I think I would have had the same results regardless. This series just had too much description and not a whole lot of action so I found it hard to get into it. While I like the premise, I struggled to get into the plot and enjoy the characters. It needed that little bit more for me.

Read if You Like: post apocalyptic world, teens with powers
Avoid if You: dislike slower starts, want more romance

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Comments 6

  • I still have not read any books by Alexandra Bracken but I think I’ll buy Passenger soon enough! Nonetheless, I’m sorry you didn’t like this series as much as you thought it would. I really want to read this series but now I’m not much eager for it. Great review!

    • I really enjoyed Passenger. It was slower but I felt like it kept building to something.
      Definitely get a second opinion on this series. I seem to be in the minority (at least for the first two books) but I found it to be very slow 🙁

  • Awwww. But you know, honestly I am not surprised that some parts (I guess most parts) of the series was slow. I read Passenger, and also had that problem in that I was constantly bored. I’m still not sure whether I will be picking this up. I really like the concept, but I feel like I will, like you, also be bored 😛

    Awesome series review 🙂

    • Thank you!
      I had my moments with Passenger too but I feel like my like of the characters helped me keep going so I enjoyed it a lot. Here, I really didn’t care for any of the characters so it made it super dry at times!

  • I actually met Alexandra Bracken at Yallfest last year (she was so pretty and lovely) even though I didn’t get a chance to read any of her books yet. I did haul a bunch of them during that event though (including this series). The premise does remind me of a lot of different books but I’m glad to hear it’s similar to The Darkest Powers trilogy since I really enjoyed those as a preteen. But that’s too bad that some of these were a little tough to get into.

    • I’m not sure if it was just bad timing on my part when I picked this series up or if it was just a matter of not really liking the characters but I just didn’t mesh with this series. It definitely had its moments of greatness though, especially the latter half of the first book. I would love to know what you think if you get around to reading them!

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