Title: The Darkest Minds, Never Fade, In The Afterlight
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: Young Adult
Summary: 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.
Ahhhh. These books. Can I just gush about these books for a second? I am so in love with the world that Alex Bracken created. Not only is it so realistic, it’s vivid. I have so many feelings for these poor kids who didn’t ask for the life they were given. Forced into camps that are, really, reminiscent of concentration camps. I cried – literally burst into tears.
I had the real privilege of reading these books back to back to back. I feel like I can’t review them separately because they’re all one large story. And because of that, I got to see a larger arc that was so sweet to find.
This review is quite long, but bear with me. I’m writing my way through the big emotional points in the series in what I hope comes across as analysis. It seems that Ms Bracken’s wordiness is contagious.
**There aren’t too many spoilers, but if you haven’t read the first one and don’t care to be spoiled, I would skip to the last paragraph.
The Darkest Minds:
We start with Ruby at Thurmond. “It rained the day I walked into camp.” Ruby is beyond hope at the very beginning. She’s lost her parents, she’s even lost the one friend she had at camp, due to her abilities. Ruby is an Orange trapped in a camp of Greens, but she knows that to stay Green means to live. So she hides her abilities, instinctively thinking they’re wrong and bad because she’s only seen examples of them on bad people that died for them.
But no one can hide forever. And even though it took six years, eventually she gets caught as an Orange. But not by the PSF’s that want to kill her, by the Children’s League that wants to use her.
It takes Ruby no time to realize her next path and runs to save her life. In running she finds Liam, Chubs, and Zu (The Black Betty Gang). It takes her a little while to find a comfortable rhythm with them – particularly with the very cautious Chubs – but she does eventually. Which is good, because the first time she actually needs to use her abilities for herself is the first time she finds out that there’s some good to them at all. A particularly stubborn Skip Tracer finds the gang on the run, but Ruby is able to “persuade” her into thinking she never found them at all. Ruby is so sure that she’s going to be kicked out of Black Betty, that when the others explain to her that she saved them, that they want her, she starts crying. It’s the first time since the outbreak of IAAN that Ruby feels she belongs somewhere. Even if she doesn’t feel she deserves it.
Together the four of them find East River, only to realize it’s not what it seems. On the outside it’s a kid’s Utopian society. Everyone works, and in return they’re fed and clothed. It’s run by the Slip Kid, otherwise known as Clancy Gray, the only son of the President of the United States – the man who forced the kids into the camps.
Clancy has too much up his sleeve to be trusted, and in the end Ruby has to contact the Children’s League to save her friends. Only, the Children’s League is the one place Liam doesn’t belong. So to save him, Ruby uses her powers again, this time to make him leave her.
This is the part that I say I raced through Never Fade because I hated that Ruby wasn’t with Liam. I need to go back and reread it because now that I’ve finished, I feel like I gipped characters like Vida and Jude in the process. I loved them just as much as the Black Betty gang in In The Afterlight, so I know I’ll enjoy the second read through.
Never Fade introduces the Children’s League at it’s height. They’re a military force that has learned to use children with abilities to their advantage. Ruby finds herself with Jude and Vida on a variety of Ops. She’s turned into a trained fighter and learns to channel her emotions into physical activity. Until she meets Cole, Liam’s older brother, and learns that even though she forced Liam away, he’s in great danger.
Once she’s able to save Liam, she’s then forced to live with her decision to erase herself from him. She sees the consequences of her ability, how she can play with memories, but not feelings. It’s with Liam that she learns it’s possible to give memories back.
In The Afterlight:
The final book in the series starts with grief. It’s a grief that literally has no end. First it’s for Jude (and always for Jude), as he never escaped the LA bombing with the rest of his friends. He doesn’t get to be a part of the planning for rescuing kids from the horrible camps. Ruby is constantly aware of this, and yet she’s called upon by Cole and the rest of the kids to lead, to keep an eye on Clancy, and to free Thurmond.
There’s a lot of emotional back and forth in this last book. Liam, who doesn’t agree with the Children’s League tactics, tries to take his own approach to freeing the camps. It causes friction between the two lovers that almost breaks them. But a love that can survive even brain tampering can’t be snuffed. Even with big brother Cole in the way.
Ruby eventually finds herself back at Thurmond, this time to escape with every last kid she left behind. And she succeeds.
“It rained the day I walked into camp. And it rained the day I walked out.”
**I missed a lot in the above summarization. But if you’ve read the series you understand, and if you haven’t, please do! I took a wild rollercoaster ride with these books and I’m so glad I picked them up. There’s a part of me that wishes I had found them sooner, but you can’t put a price on binging books like this. The Darkest Minds is a five star series, for sure.