The Literary Phoenix

Funny, the damage a silly little book can do. Especially in the hands of a silly little girl.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds

by Alexandra Braken

Narrated by Amy McFadden

❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎ ❤︎

Series: The Darkest Minds (1)
Genres: FantasyDystopiaYoung AdultScience Fiction
Published By: Disney Hyperion in 2012 (First Hardcover Release)
Format: Digital Audiobook (14 hours)

Goodreads / LibraryThing

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 got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have 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 having a life worth living.


This book has been on my TBR list forever – the way my hardcopy reading is going, I would have never gotten to it.  Thank goodness for the audiobook!  Although I think I really would have liked it better without the narrator….



I’ve bounced back and forth on whether I liked the characters or not in this book, and ultimately, it really came down to the character.  For a protagonist, Ruby’s not bad.  She definitely grows and evolves, and I love the fact she isn’t awesome at everything.  It’s immensely frustrating when a protagonist excels at everything.  The lead boy, Liam, is not my favorite, but I thought Chubs was pretty well developed.  Zu was adorable.  Clancy was the worst.  Overall I have to say that Braken did a pretty good job with character development.



The Darkest Minds takes place in a crumbling world, but not a post-apocalyptic one.  Especially at the beginning of the book, you get a sense of the chaos that has ensued in the ten years Ruby’s been in camp.  Empty houses and city blocks, looted stores, a partially exploded school – all these are nuances breaking apart what used to be a normal life.  I had some issues with the calm highway miles and the complete lack of people who weren’t bounty hunters, but neither of these things are enough to break the illusion of the world.



I kept trying to predict this book, and I kept failing.  I kept waiting for things to blow up in Ruby’s face, and for the most part, they didn’t.  I kept waiting for the worst YA cliches to bounce in and although they started to trickle from time to time… they didn’t fully evolve.  Thank you.  The book ended differently than I expected, too.  When it comes to YA, it’s so important to me that I not be able to predict the book.  Predictable books are boring.

Overall, Braken is telling a story of a generation that has developed mutant powers (five varieties only).  The older generation, terrified of their children (mostly), have abandoned them to the government.  The morality of this has split the country, and meanwhile, the children are tortured, tested on like lab animals, and generally neglected.  It’s not a great situation.  It’s not the most original idea, but Braken does manage to tell it in an original way.

Also, I kept waiting for a love triangle.  I was sure it would happen.  It didn’t.  Some bits with one of the characters near the end got pretty sappy… but it never actually became a triangle!

 Writing / Narration

The biggest reason for the loss of a heart in this category is the narrator.  Amy McFadden was not the worst narrator I’ve heard, but several of her voices (Liam’s!) really bugged me.  Ruby always sounded like she had such an attitude as well, which didn’t come across in the writing at all.  It just irritated me.

Braken made some interesting writing choice for a YA novel, including what is implied to be a rape scene.  Very little of this is described as the main character is being mentally manipulated, but it may not be what some parents want their ‘tweens reading.  The scene that bothered me the most?  Within an hour of waking after the attack, the protagonist very nearly starts making out with someone else.  Not quite, but almost.  I was enraged.  If Braken allowed it to go from rape to teen makeout session, I was done.  It didn’t, but it felt really, really close.

Personal Thoughts


Overall, I really did like this book.  There were a couple things that made me mad, but the story as a whole was well-done and interesting, with characters that I became invested in.  The book ended with several questions that I want answered – such as Did that character live?  Did that other one reach his/her destination?  WTF is Ruby’s plan? and so forth.  I’ll be picking up the sequel at some point for sure.



Well done, with characters I cared about.  Didn’t love the narrator, or the villains.  Ended with questions!


I purchased this audiobook from Audible almost exactly a year ago – April 3, 2016.

First Sentence

“When the white noise went off, we were in the garden, pulling weeds.”

Some of My Favorite Quotes

“The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces.”

“He’s so busy looking inside people to find the good that he misses the knife they’re holding in their hand.”

When a girl cries, few things are more worthless than a boy.

“Maybe nothing will ever change for us,” he said. “But don’t you want to be around just in case it does?”

Available At

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound / Audible /


15 Minute Ficlets is a weekly challenge based on the original 15 Minute Ficlets LiveJournal Community.  Since this community has been defunct since 2013, I’ve decided to resurrect the challenge on my blog as a weekly Sunday writing challenge.  If there’s interest, I’ll turn this into a meme (link up in the comments if you try it!).  In the meanwhile, the rules:

Based on a single word, write a story in fifteen minutes.  The word count is irrelevant.  Just write your heart out for 15 minutes and be inspired by the word.  You never know what you’ll end up with!

This week’s word: star

You have 15 minutes.  Go!

Alexandra Mission leaned back against the rocky outcropping, heavy manacles digging into her wrists, and stared up a the sky.  Despite the dry, hot wind and the sharp, low voices of her captors nearby, she could not help but to be amazed by this place and time. She understood little of what was going on, and her light blazer stuck uncomfortably to her skin, but the red rolling hills and golden sands that blended with the sunset that evening somehow made it manageable.

Now, above her, she saw something she never though she would be able to see.

The sky – streaming in shades of dark navy, and violet, and deep endless black, lit up with stars and a moon so succulent she wanted to pluck it from the sky and swallow it like a plump blueberry.  In Washington, the moon had only been visible at its fullest, and only on nights when the sky patrols were clear and the clouds of smog scarce.  It was a rare event, occurring only once or twice a year.  Much of the rest of the world was the same in the twenty-fifth century, she knew, but this was not the twenty-fifth century.  This was sometime far in the past, before city blocks swallowed every inch of above-water land.  This was a place with stars.

Of course, Alexandra had read about stars.  They were the shining metaphoric things in romance novels, and a sub-chapter in history classes that discussed the Space Race of the turn-of-the-century.  They were descriptors in a greater story of the evolution of the human race.  When she looked at the old, faded photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope, she never dreamed stars could take her breath away.

And yet, they did.

Patrick groaned and rolled over in his sleep beside her.  Like her, his wrists were chained, but he did not seem uncomfortable or taken aback by this.  The moonlight cast down on his unconcerned, sleeping face, stretching shadows in the stubble and around his cheek bones.  Rage flared through her again at his bringing her here, through inter-dimensional space and time, and at his insistence they enter the nomadic camp and attempt to make a deal with the sand people for clothing of the time.  Of course they could not – these people saw two strange beings appear out of nowhere in the middle of their land.  She would have acted the same way they had – with suspicion and mild hostility.  All night, Alex had been waiting for one of the savages to come and try to rape her, but no such thing had happened.  Other than chaining their hands in heavy bone manacles and keeping a watch on them, nobody had laid a finger on the two.  Nobody had offered them food or water, either, but for now they were alright.

The breeze picked up again and Alexandra closed her eyes, particles of sand scraping lazily against her cheeks.  When it passed, she looked back to the stars again.  The warm, awestruck feeling immediately settled into her heart again and blossomed into silent joy. How had the world come so far that sights such as this were unappreciated?  That they could toss away the sky as though it was an expendable loss in the race to become stronger, smarter, bigger?  If she could turn back time, she would be willing to surrender some of her luxurious conveniences just for the opportunity to gape up at the endless sky and it sparkling stars.

Alex is the protagonist in a science-fiction story called Paradox that I haven’t written yet, but have plotted so extensively sometimes I feel I know the characters better than myself.  She becomes a hitchhiker on a chase through time and space with a scientist’s nephew from the distant future who is trying to stop his mad uncle from changing the timelines and the future of the world.

If you give it a go anytime this week, link up in the comments and I’ll add you in the post!


“Star” – Michelle @ Faerie Fits