Speculating on SpecFic

Fantastic Literature: From epic fantasy to fairytales to myth-making

The Darkest Minds  - Alexandra Bracken I've had this book for a long time, and I didn't read it because I was sick of dystopias. But once I started it, less than 24 hours ago, I couldn't put it down. Lots of novels these days get tagged "perfect for fans of The Hunger Games" and usually, it's for no reason other than it's a YA novel, and people are trying to cash in on the phenomenon. But in The Darkest Minds we get a novel that is perfect for fans of The Hunger Games. The qualities we loved about THG, the gripping dystopia, the kick-butt heroine, the examination of humanity, are all present in this riveting novel, but used in a new way.Firstly, the premise - a disease has killed off a significant number of children aged between 8 and 12, and the survivors manifest psychic powers. The government, presumably threatened by a generation of abnormal children, locks them up in camps, under guard, and tells their parents that they are being rehabilitated. In reality, they run tests on a few unfortunates, and basically keep the rest under lock and key, without any real plans for the future. Fast-forward five years, and Ruby, who was captured on her tenth birthday, is now a fifteen-year-old girl living in a camp that is under constant surveillance, with the threat of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of brutal male guards hovering over her and her fellows as they mature.Ruby has instantly become one of my favourite YA characters - empathetic towards others, persevering in her goals, and although she's guileless and too trusting, she's a wonderful girl none-the-less. Ruby is believable, complex, and relatable: I understood her motivations and fears, and rallied behind any decision she made. The same goes for the other characters in the book - Liam, the leader of their band of escapees, Chubs, the smart and mistrusting guy who escaped the camp with Liam , and Zu, the ten-year-old girl who they rescued. The traits of the cast play well off one another, and it's a delight to read about them.The plot of The Darkest Minds is enthralling, filled with surprising twists and turns, and intricately constructed. There's a lot of action, but many unknowns as well, and the reader, learning alongside Ruby, only knows as much as she does. This might prove frustrating to some readers because Ruby is clueless for quite some time, but I liked it because the world Bracken has created is unveiled slowly and carefully.One of my favourite  aspects of the book is the romance, because doesn't take over the action and intrigue of the plot, but it's still present. The development of Ruby and Liam's relationship is subtle and realistic, with their feelings growing naturally over time. It's welcome change from the inexplicable, insta-love situations of most YA.Alexandra Bracken has taken an old concept, and executed her revitalisation masterfully. The Darkest Minds is easily the best book I have read in a while, and I heartily recommend it to all who are love young adult books and dystopian worlds, and especially fans of The Hunger Games.A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.