Thursday, August 16, 2012

Joint Review Discussion + Giveaway: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

For the third month in a row, Michelle of Galleysmith and I are doing joint review discussions. These are more in-depth than my usual reviews and discuss plot points in a non-spoilery way. We'll post about a different book every Thursday, and our third book is THE DARKEST MINDS.

Publisher summary:

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 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 been cursed with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.
Now sixteen, Ruby has spent nearly half her life desperately trying to hide the fact that she’s outwitted the camp’s sorting system—that she isn’t powerless, or safe. She’s one of the dangerous ones… and everyone knows what happens to them.
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 teens who escaped their own camp, pursued along the way by terrifying bounty hunters. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close to him. 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. Before the end, Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

Michelle and I decided to discuss four topics: Genre classification, "Black is the Color", Government Control and Characters. The first two we discuss below, the second two we discuss over at Galleysmith.

Genre Classification

THE DARKEST MINDS is one of those novels where something horrible happens (semi-apocalyptic) and then a corrupt government takes over, ruling over the country with an iron grip and making the lives of our characters miserable. It reminded me a cross between ASHES by Ilsa Bick (disease that affects only teens), Kristen Simmons’ ARTICLE 5 (brutal police force rounding up kids and putting them in rehabilitation camps) and SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi (main character with paranormal abilities who can’t touch people lest she screw them over).

You know what it reminded me of? X-Men. Mutant kids who are persecuted and segregated for their abilities then rebel was definitely reminiscent of X-Men. This just happens to be a situation that occurs at semi-apocalyptic time when the corrupt government has the ability to take over. Despite the similarities in theme I thought this was a fantastic read. Though I appreciated the character focus I do wish we knew a bit more about how these circumstances arose.

Ha! Yes - I always heard SHATTER ME compared to X-Men and it works here too for sure. I’m not always a fan of integrating paranormal abilities into real-world dystopians (I prefer “realistic” dystopians, lol), but Bracken does a great job of showing how terrifying it would be to suddenly have these strange (and amazing) abilities. The way Ruby is portrayed is absolutely consistent with how I imagine someone in her position would develop. She’s learned to blend in and keep her head down no matter what. And making friends has never been a safe proposition for her, which is super heartbreaking.

I didn’t mind the paranormal abilities so much. The way Bracken tied them in with IANN made them a natural progression instead of just some magical appearance. She integrated everything very well without having their prevalence be too overwhelming to the story overall.

Black is the Color

The original title of the novel was Black is the Color, a title which speaks to one of the kid characters assurances that all the kids of all the colors are equal, when they most assuredly are not. Oranges, like our main character Ruby, are the most powerful and dangerous (and most seem to be psychotic as well), while Reds (firestarters), Yellows (electrical manipulation) and Blues (telekinesis) can also cause a lot of damage. But Greens (increased intelligence)? I never really got why parents would be frightened enough of their super smart children to let them go, especially after 98% of the children in the US died.

One of the best parts of the book was when Black is the Color was mentioned as a way to unify all the kids as opposed to segregating them. Only, it didn’t really work out that way because in the reality of it all the strong were groomed for more (nefarious as it was) and the weak were just kind of there. It really wasn’t an all inclusive culture but a society built on segregation hiding behind the idea that they were all fighting for freedom and equality.

This brings me to the idea of the Children’s League. I struggled with understanding their true role in it all. Did they want to have control instead of the President? Did they want to free the kids? It wasn’t ever truly clear to me what their grand intentions were.

You’re right about that. But I don’t think the think the Children’s League’s intentions were meant to be clear (though, I’m suspecting that the CL has less than benevolent intentions). I think we’ll be finding out a lot more about them in the next book.

I can’t decide if there is some deflection there. I got the vibe that not everything was as it seemed (both from the positive and negative side). There was definitely more to allude to the latter than the former but I still find myself wondering if there is so much more to it. I didn’t realize there is another book, this excites me! I was left feeling like I wanted more at the end of this one. Especially given how things with Ruby and Lee played out.

I’m pretty sure it’s a trilogy!

Don't miss the rest of the discussion over at Galleysmith!

THE DARKEST MINDS comes out in hardcover on December 18, 2012. Visit the author's website for more information.  Want to read it early? I have one ARC to give away to a reader in the US curtesy of the publisher. Simply fill out this form by August 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm CST to enter to win!

See index of all dystopian reviews at Presenting Lenore

FTC disclosure: I got the ARC at BEA 2012 (thanks Susan!)


Alyssa Susanna said...

Cool! I love Alexandra Bracken's first novel, Brightly Woven. Can't wait to read this one. I hope it's a trilogy! :)
Thanks for the giveaway!

Zibilee said...

I was thinking that this sounded a little like Heroes, and the way that all the people with special abilities were rounded up by the government. But I guess X-Men fits too! I would like to read this one, and your comments on it have really fueled my interest!

melissa @ 1lbr said...

I was thinking X-men the whole time I read this one! But I actually ended up not liking it for a lot of incoherent and silly reasons (ok, not all of them are). Interested to see the rest of your discussion, though!

Jessy said...

I really enjoy these back and forth discussions. Darkest Minds sounds pretty interesting and I'm adding it to my TBR list now.

Ryan Snyder said...

wait... how do you enter the giveaway? lol. and i have been waiting to read this. :)

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story said...

Not entering because I have an e-ARC, but I adored BRIGHTLY WOVEN and started following Alexandra Bracken's blog. I wanted this since it was still BLACK IN THE COLOR, and enjoyed seeing you mention the original title here!