Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Darkest Minds Audio

The Darkest Minds Audio

Alexandra Bracken
For ages 13 and up
Unabridged audiobook (MP3 CD)
Performed/read by: Amy McFadden
Brilliance Audio, 2013   ISBN: 978-1469291536

Ruby is a much loved only child, and her parents tend to be a little over protective of her. For this reason Ruby really has no clear idea that something is horribly wrong in her world until the nationwide health disaster touches someone in Ruby’s fourth grade class. Grace Sommerfield dies in the lunchroom. Without warning she keels over and just like that she is dead. Grace is just one of the many victims of Everhart’s disease, an illness that has already killed thousands of children, and that will go on to kill hundreds of thousands more. For some reason that no one can explain, Ruby is one of the children who is spared death, but she is not altogether spared. Somehow the disease changes her and what she becomes scares people so much that when she is ten her parents hand Ruby over to the authorities.

The government is so afraid of the changed children, the Psi kids, that they round them up, categorize them according to their “freakish” abilities, and then lock them up in what, to all intents and purposes, is a concentration camp. Ruby is taken to Thurmond, one of the worst of these camps, and for six years her life is a living hell. She lives those years in fear because she has managed to fool the system. The authorities think that she is a Green, a kind of Psi that is not too dangerous. In actual fact, she is an Orange, the most dangerous Psi type there is. Ruby can manipulate people’s minds and see their thoughts. All the other Oranges, along with the Reds and Yellows, have been taken away. Ruby is pretty sure that all of them have been killed.

The people at Thurmond use a high pitched sound to control the children in the camp, to keep them obedient and compliant. The sound, White Noise, is excruciating for the kids. Then, when Ruby is fifteen or sixteen (she is not sure which) they use a new form of White Noise which is even worse. Ruby collapses and starts to bleed from her nose and eyes. When she comes to she is in the infirmary. The doctor, Cate, gives Ruby a packet of pills and a note. In the note she explains that the new noise was developed to identify undetected Yellows, Oranges and Reds. Cate can get Ruby out of the camp. All Ruby has to do is to take the pills before she goes to bed. Though Ruby does not know if she can trust Cate, she takes the pills. She gets horribly ill and then Cate smuggles her, and one other Orange, out of the camp.

Apparently Cate is a member of the Children’s League, an organization that does not support the government’s cruel response to the Everhart’s disease crisis, a crises which has helped bring about the almost total collapse of the U.S. economy. Cate tells Ruby that she is going to take her and the other Orange to a safe place and Ruby can choose if she wants to join the cause and use her abilities to help the League.

When Ruby meets Cate’s boyfriend, her abilities to see what a person has done in the past shows her that he is a killer and is not to be trusted. Ruby decides to run away and ends up joining forces with three other runaways who have escaped from another camp. They are looking for a group of free children and teens who, they hope, will be able to help them return to their homes without being discovered.

Unfortunately for Ruby and her new allies, bounty hunters, people from the camps, and the Children’s League recruiters are all chasing after them. They are almost caught several times and staying at least one step ahead of their enemies is almost impossible to do. Ruby does not know who to trust, and she does not tell her new friends that she is an Orange. Surely they, just like everybody else, will be repulsed by her. Then the three escapees protect and look after Ruby; they save her life without expecting “a single thing in return.” The least she can do is to do the same for them. And so she does.

In this sometimes painfully grueling story we enter a world where law and order, and common decency and compassion, have all but disappeared. Ruby is a part of a group of people who are feared by many, and used by others. As she comes to understand her enemies, Ruby has to decide what kind of person she is going to be, and if she is going to give in, give up, or fight.