The Darkest Minds
By Alexandra Bracken
Publication date: Dec. 18, 2012
Disney Hyperion, 496 pages
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.
— Goodreads.com description
DID THAT JUST HAPPEN? HOLY CRUD, ALEXANDRA BRACKEN.
Okay, I’m still reeling from the ending of this book, but let me backtrack a bit:
Kids on the run! In the woods! Glory me, I love nothing more in books. Well, besides romance. Thankfully, Alexandra Bracken delivered both and then some in The Darkest Minds.
This book was just brilliant, full of so many things to love: friendship, betrayal, bravery, secrets, mind games, budding romance…everything! “Intense” is the word for this book – from the action scenes to Ruby’s quiet, reflective moments isolation and sorrow, you feel every bit intensely.
I’ve been a Bracken fan since Brightly Woven and am so pleased to have fallen in love with this book as well. Beautifully done!
BONUS TIME: Alexandra Bracken is stopping by today to discuss share parts of her playlist for The Darkest Minds, including one of her personal favorites…
I’m not above including songs in the book that I, personally, love. “Layla” is actually one of my all-time favorites, and always included on my road trip playlists. The lyrics were inspired by a book by Persian poet Nizami, “Layla and Majnum,” about a man passionately in love with a woman he can’t have due to her parents’ objections. It’s about unattainable love, really. The more infamous backstory is that Eric Clapton wrote this because he was in love with Pattie Harrison, George Harrison’s wife. Talk about a strange love story—George basically just stepped aside and let Eric have her!
There’s a quick reference to it in The Darkest Minds that I think speaks for itself—it’s a moment that Ruby recalls that reflects one of those few moments of warmth and happiness they get to share as a group:
It was a glimmering memory of my own. Of a few days before, when Liam had been in the driver’s seat, singing along to Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” at the top of his lungs, so off-key that it had even Chubs laughing. Zu had been sitting right behind him, moving in time with the music, her entire body rocking out to the wailing electric guitar. And it had been so easy then, to laugh and pretend, even if just for a second, that we would be okay. That I belonged with them. (pg 286)
This is another instance of Liam giving someone a classic rock-related nickname. The song itself, if you’ve heard it, doesn’t make a lot of sense outside of the fact that it’s a man proclaiming his love and loyalty for a Lady Jane who may or may not be Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII. Even Mick Jagger said, “Lady Jane is a complete sort of very weird song. I don’t really know what that’s all about myself. All the names are historical but it was really unconscious that they should fit together from the same period.”
Really, Liam’s being a bit of a wise ass with this one. The Lady Jane in the story is definitely not someone you’d ever, um, aspire to love. The “Lady Jane” in The Darkest Minds is the skiptracer who’s been ruthlessly following the Black Betty crew, even before Ruby climbed aboard. They have no idea what her real name is, only that she has some kind of an English accent—hence the Stones connection.
In The Darkest Minds, you’ll notice that most of the radio stations the kids are listening to really only play classic rock. This is partly because Liam’s driving and driver picks the station, partly because there really are no teeny bopper pop stars (or, you know, a real audience for them), partly because I think people find their favorites to be comforting to listen to, and partly a decision that was made by the remaining broadcasting companies.
Essentially, most of the radio stations decided that they’d avoid playing tracks that reference children or being young, believing it’d be too painful for their listeners to hear. “Forever Young” is about as sweet and hopeful in that field as you can get, which is why Ruby hears the radio DJ freak out when the track starts playing by mistake.
This was actually inspired by a rumor that went around after September 11th, that I think was, eventually, proven false. Supposedly, several of the big broadcasting companies put out these “no play” lists of songs that they felt would be too terrible for listeners to hear following the enormous tragedy. Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” and the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” are two that I remember were rumored to have been “banned.”
A lot of the emotional undercurrents of The Darkest Minds were directly inspired by the feelings and observations I had as a teenager in the aftermath of September 11th. I wanted to examine what happens to society in the wake of a huge national tragedy, and how the fallout seems to filter out to every aspect of life. The idea of corporations feeling like they had to protect people from experiencing their own feelings was really interesting to me.
Alexandra Bracken was born and raised in Arizona, but moved east to study at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She recently relocated to New York City, where she works in publishing and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. You can visit her online at www.alexandrabracken.com or on Twitter (@alexbracken).
The Darkest Minds Blog Tour Schedule
January 6: TheSkipKids.com
January 7: Mundie Moms
January 8: Laura’s Review Bookshelf
January 9: The Book Smugglers
January 10: Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf
January 11: The Book Muncher
January 14: The Compulsive Reader
January 15: Anna Reads
January 16: Emily’s Reading Room
January 17: *Headdesk*
January 18: BlookGirl
January 21: Once Upon a Twilight
January 22: Sara’s Urban Fantasy Blog
January 23: Good Choice Reading
January 24: Novel Novice
January 25: Tynga’s Reviews