Monday, January 12, 2015

Series Review: The Darkest Minds Never Fade In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)
By: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
Copyright: December 11th 2012
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
POV: First Person
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.
Main Character: Ruby - tough, vulnerable and unique (kind of like Katniss meets Lyra Belacqua). She didn't ask to be what she is, so it kind of sucks that she has this power that she doesn't want. However, she must learn to control it if she wants to be with the people she has come to care about.

Love Connection: Liam Stewart - He is such a pure-hearted, caring, strong guy. He's almost too perfect. But he's also a little bit awkward (especially with Ruby) so that makes up for his perfection. I like that he is still so optimistic even though he's been through so much bad stuff.

Allies and Enemies: Chubs - I really like Chubs. He starts out so surly and he kind of wants to abandon Ruby (and by kind of, I mean, he totally wants to abandon her). But it's because of how he grew up and he does it because he loves Liam and Zu. So I can't fault him for his loyalty.

Zuzume - She is like a symbol of innocence in this book. Even though she was in one of the camps and she's been through a lot, she is still so sweet and naive about things. She still loves girly things and she still gets excited about new shoes. She's also super tough. I can imagine that she kept Chubs and Liam in line before Ruby came along. Way to go strong girl characters!

Setting: Dystopian-like future America, after a disease has killed off most of the children and left the rest with strange powers.

Random Thoughts: Great world-building. Nice ensemble cast. Good twists, although I did see some coming (but that comes a lot from how much I love dissecting and anticipating convoluted sci-fi/fantasy plot-lines). All in all, this book was very well written and I really rooted for Ruby as an MC. I also really liked Liam. He was a great love interest, he was kind/good and chivalrous (part of his southern charm) but he has flaws as well (and they're just so adorable).

Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2)
By: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
Copyright: October 15th 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
POV: First Person
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Main Character: Ruby - Ruby starts her "coming of age" story in this book. Where she is really trying to use her powers for something instead of just ignoring them. So I'm happy about that.

Love Connection: Liam Stewart - Oh Liam, I feel so bad for him in this book. He's definitely a victim of what happened to him at the end of Darkest Minds, but he's still strong. I just love him in this book.

Allies and Enemies: Vida - Is it weird that I immediately liked Vida even though she was a huge B to Ruby? I don't think so. She's obviously so damaged, but there is something so strong inside of her (and I really like those characters).

Jude - He is the heart of this story (he kind of takes over for Zu in that aspect). He's so sweet and cares about all of his teammates. He really is the first to truly show affection to Ruby in the Children's League.

Chubs - I was so happy that Chubs was back in this book! I was very concerned about him at the end of the last book, so the fact that he came back and played a big role was very important to me.

Dystopian-like future America, after a disease has killed off most of the children and left the rest with strange powers.

Random Thoughts: Fast paced story! It went from scene to scene so quickly that I was never bored. Sometimes I was almost surprised how fast we got from one scenario to another. It introduced a lot of the country post IAAN. And there was some nice hope when random strangers tried to help out Ruby and her ragtag group of friends (not everyone is evil!). In the same vein, another great thing was that not everyone was who they seemed (a la Clancy in the first book). Some people who I thought were pretty bad turned out to be living in more of a grey area. Ruby also seems to be learning this lesson often. I think it's an overarching theme in this book since she is trying to come to terms with having to be a cold-hearted operative and the fact that her powers are super strong and she's able to use them for questionable tasks.

In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3)
By: Alexandra Bracken
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
Copyright: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
POV: First Person
Rating: 3 out of 5
Ruby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.
They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Main Character: Ruby - Uh-oh, Ruby starts to get kind of whiney in this book (like Katniss is Harry in Order of the Bella always). I understand that A LOT has happened to Ruby. And I am fine that she is trying to deal with all of the baggage she has built up. But for the first half of the book she makes a lot of shady decisions when I know she is capable of so much more (so frustrating!)

Love Connection: Liam Stewart - Liam gets a little whiney too. I don't know why, but it bothers me when the "new" obstacle put in the way of the love story is that they betray each other, or can't trust each other. There is so much more happening out in the world! They need each other! (okay, rant over)

Allies and Enemies: Vida - Thank goodness for Vida. She has baggage, but she deals with it in a dynamic and interesting way. She is not afraid to speak her mind and admit when she's wrong (well...kind of)

Cole - I don't know how to feel about Cole. He is Liam's older brother, and he went through a lot to protect Liam from their bio dad and his abusive ways. But he is the one who really encourages Ruby to lie to Liam and the others, and I don't like that. Underneath it all, I think Cole really wants what is best. He sacrifices a lot for the kids (even his relationship with his brother). So I lied, I do know how I feel, and I like him.

Post-bombed LA--The Ranch base of the Children's League--The camps--dystopian America.

Random Thoughts: Slow start with a very broken heroine. So not my favorite beginning to a final book. Granted, it is a very organic path for a story like this to take, so it didn't completely drive me away from the series. 

Unfortunately, In the Afterlight does get a little bit into Lost season 4 territory. You know, that season where they concentrated all on the lore of the island. Well In the Afterlight concentrates on the origin of IAAN and the cure. And when things get overly sciencey we must tread carefully. I don't like that there's a possibility that a story can lose people because it forgets to keep a strong hold of the characters that readers have grown to love. I felt like the third book did this a little bit with trying to explain how the powers worked deep down (something about electricity and currents) or how to control them. I liked the explanation we've already gotten, that Ruby needs to accept her powers as a part of her and stop fighting them. Why couldn't it just have stopped there? Also, they spend almost all of the book in an underground base, so that super slowed down the pace of the story. I wish that Ruby hadn't spent most of the book inside her own head (haha, kind of ironic since the abilities are mental). 

I still liked the book though because I still enjoyed Alexandra Bracken's writing style and her characters. And the last 20% of the book was a doozy. It was worth shuffling through the first three-quarters of slowness. I don't want to give too much away if you haven't read it, but Ruby gets some great closure when it comes to Thurmond and her relationships from there and I loved it!

Also, I really liked Vida in this book. She was great with Chubs and Zu. And since I am very fond of those characters I like anyone who those characters like (hehe, I'm a pushover sometimes).

Series Rating: 4 out of 5

Alexandra Bracken took me on a very twisting journey with this series. I really like her characters and I think her writing is tight. I also happen to think she's a cool person as an author. I think that there was a little bit of a dip in the third book that slowed the pace of the series, but that happens a lot and since it didn't completely ruin the story for me, I am fine with it.

I would say my biggest problem (and this is probably why the third book wasn't as great in my mind) was Ruby's constant back and forth with Clancy. It was very repetitive at times. Seriously, there's a part where Ruby thinks to herself "Again, and again, and again. Every time, I walk right into it." And I thought "Girl, I know exactly how you feel, this is what I think every time you try to mind fight Clancy." He is the worst. Maybe because he is too evil? I don't particularly like villains that are just villains. I much prefer the ones that have a redeeming characteristic so that I can be conflicted about and for them. I feel like Clancy did go through some pretty bad childhood stuff when his parents put him in the camps to be experimented on, but somehow I didn't feel bad for him during any of the "flashback" snippets. I mostly felt bad for Nico, so that's good because I was on the fence about that character too. I just wish that I could feel sad that Clancy was driven to be as evil as he is, but I don't. However, that is just my one reader's opinion. Clancy was definitely put through the ringer, so maybe other readers felt bad for young Clancy, just not me.

However, I liked the overall series. The world and story were really well crafted and I thought that Ruby was a great protagonist. She wasn't perfect but she always wanted the right thing. I like that she didn't always know what was right. These kinds of stories don't have a perfect solution and therefore the main character should know that. Ruby was smart enough to know that nothing comes easy, but she still was optimistic enough to want to change things for the kids she loved. I know that the dystopian trend is coming to a close, but this book just made it to publishing and I am so grateful for that. Because it doesn't matter the genre of this story, it's a good story and the characters are awesome.

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