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BOOK REVIEW: In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) by Alexandra Bracken

BOOK REVIEW: In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) by Alexandra BrackenIn the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3)
by Alexandra Bracken
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

“Are you sure this isn’t a nightmare?” he asked quietly. “And that we won’t just wake up?” I stared ahead at the road, the way the dust blowing in from the desert covered it with a faint golden sheen even as gray clouds began to gather over us.
“Yes,” I said after some time. “Because dreamers always wake up and leave their monsters behind.”

Do you guys ever just start reading a book and get so swept up that it consumes you until you’ve gobbled up every last word? Well that’s what happened to me these past few days as I’ve reread Never Fade and In the Afterlight. There’s something about certain YA books that really affects me. It’s not that I haven’t found other books that I’ve loved or have made me feel things, it’s just that none of them have reached in and grabbed my very heart and soul like those special YA ones I’ve found. This series and these characters will always be a prime example of this.

I read these for the first time a while ago, probably shortly after they came out, and the first time around I really wasn’t sure how to feel about this book. I mean, the ending was intense but when I started it this time, my expectations were a little lower because I remembered the problems that I had with it earlier. I don’t know what it was about this time around but it had me clinging to every word like I depended upon them to breathe fully. Like I started even looking forward to when I would have to feed my daughter in the middle of the night because it meant that since I was already awake, I might as well get some reading in.

This whole time, from the moment we met, he’d been waiting for me to realize he’d known me all along, and he had never once wanted me to change.

Mind you, I still recognized those same problems I had the first time around—not much at all happened for the first, oh 75% of the book, Ruby was being a pain in the ass, Liam was being a pain the in ass, COLE was being a pain in the ass…that list kind of goes on and on, lol. I can see how some people didn’t like this because of those reasons…but. But. The ending. The ending that had my heart pounding and had me crying—again—even though this time around I knew exactly what was going to happen.

It might be because this, to me, is a dystopian plot that is the most realistic of any that I have read. I mean come on..it starts out with the threat of chemical warfare and spirals when our government tries combating that by adding a substance to the water that ended up causing a mutation in kids. And to top it off, the very government that made the decision to put said substance in the water without telling ANYONE is the same one that builds the camps, keeps the kids there for “rehabilitation,” say that the outside world hasn’t send aid because they gave up on the people of the United States (even though they have sent rations, medicine, etc.), and whatever other shitty thing they did to cause the wreck the country became. Like that just doesn’t even seen close to out of the realm of possibility.

Another reason these books are so addicting is that the characters are so real. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it for about a day now and I think that Ruby might seriously be my favorite female (or at least top five) character of all time. Her character arc in this series is INCREDIBLE. She starts off as a meek, timid girl and winds up being the person responsible for shutting the camps down. Yes she had help but let’s face it, it wouldn’t have happened without her. She makes mistakes and I got so pissed at her time and time again in this book for thinking she wasn’t good enough or not confiding in Liam because she thought he couldn’t handle it but…that’s so human. She’s SEVENTEEN and has never actually been able to be a teen but she is still allowed to act like one from time to time.

I could go on and one for several more pages about everyone else but I’ll just say that Liam is a sweet cinnamon roll who is literally too good for this earth (he’s also hands down in my top five BBFs), I was heartbroken over (view spoiler), elated at Zu’s first words, and cracking up over Vida and Chubs’ banter/relationship, and felt so wildly giddy when Ruby was reunited with Sam and got the hell out of that camp. It honestly gave me the goosebumps when she was begging Liam, Harry, and Vida to help her walk out because after all she’d been through, she needed to walk out on her own two legs. And she did.

It rained the day they brought us to Thurmond.
And it rained the day I walked out.

BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) by Alexandra Bracken

BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1) by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds #1)
by Alexandra Bracken
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

It rained the day they brought us to Thurmond, and it went on to rain straight through the week, and the week after that.

A few weeks ago I picked up the fourth book in this series, The Darkest Legacy. After reading it and remembering how good Bracken’s writing was, I decided I needed to reread the original trilogy. I had missed a world with Ruby, Liam, Chubs, Vida, and Zu.

That girl was gone forever, and all that was left was a product of the place that had taught her to fear the bright things inside of her heart.

The thing that I love about this series so much is how unique of a premise it is. In an America that we are familiar with geographically and historically, a new virus spreads. It affects younger kids; leaving them dead or with certain powers. Once the government realizes how dangerous the ones who have been left alive could be, they build camps. Horrible, horrible camps for these children to live in. The general public think that their children are being “reformed”—that they will someday comeback to them normal. If only they knew. Because such a huge chunk of the population was affected by this virus, the country is essentially in chaos and on the brink of collapsing entirely.

“Time to carpe the hell out of this diem.” 

Ruby is the first main character that the reader is acquainted with. We are with her as she is taken to the camp, broken out of the camp, and as she meets up with Liam, Zu, and Chubs. While I have seen a lot of people on this site who dislike Ruby, I couldn’t disagree more. She starts out as a weak character, yes, but she grows. I think part of the reason that I love her so much is that I can relate to her. Growing up, I was always a follower—not a leader. I had a strong willed best friend that I kind of hid behind, just as Ruby had Sam in the camp. I kept my head down and let her do all the talking. However, once Ruby got out of the camp and came to be with the Black Betty gang, she gained a purpose and started to become brave. Now I am a wimp…for the most part. If you stuck me in a dystopian world, I would most likely die pretty quickly. However, me being the eldest in my family, if I was in said dystopian world with my siblings, I would leave the follower attitude behind and do whatever the fuck I needed to to keep my family alive. And I think this is Ruby. This is how she operates and it is why I understand her and empathize with her character.

“Did you know…you make me so happy that sometimes I actually forget to breathe? I’ll be looking at your, and my chest will get so tight…and it’s like the only thought in my head is how much I want to reach over and kiss you.” 

Besides Ruby, I think that her supporting cast is just as amazing. Zu is adorable and I was so glad that I finally got to read her novella. Finding out what happened while she left End River was…hard. Chubs of course Chubs. He’s an old soul who is pretty cranky all of the time but will protect those he loves ferociously. I just felt so bad, knowing the kind of potential he had but the fact that he couldn’t go to school. I just feel for all of them. Completely robbed of their childhoods…This would be a horrifying world to behold.

“Cause, frankly, the way I see it, you and me? Inevitable.” 

Oh. Liam. Don’t worry, I could never forget about sweet Liam. He’s probably in my top five of BBFs EVER. He’s the only boy whose Southern accent I find charming, let me tell you. I think the romance he had with Ruby was perfect. It may have come on faster than what could be realistic, but in a world like that…I’ll let it slide. And anyway, the romance itself was such a sweet one. Liam helps Ruby feel wanted…feel grounded…feel like she has a home. It’s never overdone, never too much. He’s not a bad boy, there isn’t some sort of horrible misunderstanding between them. He is genuinely good and I found that, in this book and with Ruby, to be perfect.♥

Be cunning and full of tricks, and your people shall never be destroyed. 

Overall, this will always be one of my favorite series. From the plot, to the writing, to the characters, this book has always managed to sink its claws into me. Recommended to anyone who loves Sci-fi, dystopian esque YA.

BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Legacy (The Darkest Minds #4) by Alexandra Bracken

BOOK REVIEW: The Darkest Legacy (The Darkest Minds #4) by Alexandra BrackenThe Darkest Legacy (The Darkest Minds #4)
by Alexandra Bracken
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Five years after the destruction of the so-called rehabilitation camps that imprisoned her and countless other Psi kids, seventeen-year-old Suzume "Zu" Kimura has assumed the role of spokesperson for the interim government, fighting for the rights of Psi kids against a growing tide of misinformation and prejudice. But when she is accused of committing a horrifying act, she is forced to go on the run once more in order to stay alive.

Determined to clear her name, Zu finds herself in an uncomfortable alliance with Roman and Priyanka, two mysterious Psi who could either help her prove her innocence or betray her before she gets the chance. But as they travel in search of safety and answers, and Zu grows closer to the people she knows she shouldn't trust, they uncover even darker things roiling beneath the veneer of the country's recovery. With her future-and the future of all Psi-on the line, Zu must use her powerful voice to fight back against forces that seek to drive the Psi into the shadows and save the friends who were once her protectors.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a harrowing story of resilience, resistance, and reckoning that will thrill loyal fans and new readers alike.

You can get up.
You have to get back up.

I could get back up. I could do it myself. Again, and again, and again. As long as there was breath in my body, I could get back up.

WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT?!?!?!?!? Alright, people. It had been a LONG time since a book has made me ~feel~ this way so you better believe this review is going to be a jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings. First off, this was obviously SO GOOD. Like, a billion stars to Alexandra Bracken for this entire series. I’m angry with myself, though, because I was reading this on an app that didn’t allow highlights and I was only smart enough to actually write one measly quote down so I’ll have to add more the next time around—just know there were so many great ones. SO MANY. (This review might also be half in caps too, we’ll see, I’m just really pumped up about how good it was.)

I started reading this a few days but didn’t actually get into it until I had some time to myself yesterday morning. Once I started, I was COMPLETELY hooked. See, that’s the thing about these books and Bracken’s writing. I become so immersed that I have to drag my eyes away from the writing and when I do, it takes me a few seconds to come back to the real world. That’s when you know you’re reading something amazing. This book gave me the butterflies, it made me shake with rage, and it made me buzz with anticipation. It left me out of breath and has me hoping that even though it wasn’t ended on a cliffhanger, that we will get more from this world—especially Zu’s perspective.

She was always a character that I loved in The Darkest Minds series but getting this entire book from her perspective was amazing. We may not have actually heard her speak until Into the Afterlight but you can tell that once she started, there was no going back. I LOVED when she was in Moore’s facility and was basically having PTSD flashbacks to her time in Caledonia that she finally came to the conclusion that she was not alright and that that was okay. She wasn’t alright because horrible things had been done to her, and were still being done but she could do whatever it took to help turn things around for the Psi kids. She has grown SO much since we were first introduced to her that it gives me the shivers thinking about it. I am so proud of her.

In this book we are introduced to a few new characters, mainly Roman and Priyanka. I LOVED THEM SO MUCHHHH. They became so much more than what I first thought they would when I started the book. Roman is so serious and so caring—he would literally take a bullet for you. Priya was hilarious. She has so much sass and so many good one liners she reminded me a lot of Vida but without the potty mouth lol. Speaking of Vida though—I was so glad that we still were able to see all of our old favorites. Ugh I love them all so much I think I need to drop the other books that I’m reading and go re-read all of those books next.

I don’t really feel like getting into the plot much because I fully enjoyed going into the book and not quite knowing what to expect. All you really need to know is that things are not all fine and dandy in America. Yes the camps had been shut down and Cruz had been trying to get more rights for the Psi kids, but that doesn’t mean that things turned into rainbows and puppies overnight. Not in the slightest. In fact, some parts were still so horrible that it made me sick to my stomach, thinking as if those things were happening in real life (and in some aspects of this world and this government I think that they are). This is why I need more out of this story. I need to know what happens with Zu and the gang. I need to know how she continues to fight for their rights. And most importantly, I need to know what happens with the stupid, slimy, manipulative prick that is Clancy Grey…

BOOK REVIEW: In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) by Alexandra Bracken

BOOK REVIEW: In the Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3) by Alexandra BrackenIn The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3)
by Alexandra Bracken
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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.

Review:
“Are you sure this isn’t a nightmare?” he asked quietly. “And that we won’t just wake up?”
I stared ahead at the road, the way the dust blowing in from the desert covered it with a faint golden sheen even as gray clouds began to gather over us.
“Yes,” I said after some time. Because dreamers always wake up and leave their monsters behind.

The final book, in The Darkest Minds series, was an explosion of emotions and events that I loved. They swept me away into another world and only my fear and hope could keep me momentarily grounded. Fear that someone I cherished would die. Hope that they would all get their happily ever after. The conclusion that entailed solidified that Alexandra Bracken is an author who has been added to my I-will-read-whatever-she-writes-list!

What started as a billowing thundercloud of unease was becoming sharper, taking on more distinct edges. I was afraid it wouldn’t fully take shape until it was already raining down over us like knives.

President Gray struck against the Children’s League and the Federal Coalition. L.A. has crumbled to the ground, and they have been surrounded. They need to escape L.A. and head north to the Ranch where they can regroup and make plans to free the thousands of children in the camps. But with holding Clancy hostage, the President’s son, and discovering that some of the agents want to turn in the children for reward money, they are fighting an uphill battle. Ruby is still struggling to keep a handle on her grief and she is about to come face to face with the consequences of taking away Liam’s memory. Will she be able to survive?

This was the danger of him. In an instant, he could lift everything off my shoulders and set it aside. He became the answer to every doubt and lingering question. My world refocused, settling on him – beautiful, perfect him. I didn’t have to think about what I’d done, what would happen to us even five minutes from now.

I think one of my favorite things about this series are the characters. They are ones you want to be friends with, the ones that would make going through hell that much more bearable. You will always be able to rely on them because they will always have your back. Their nuances and disturbed or silly humor will put a smile on your face. They are your family. Each character in this book felt so real, so unique and always stood out. Whether it was Cole’s dedication, Vida’s tough front, Chubb’s mother hen tendencies, Ruby’s need to try harder or Liam’s good, sweet, lovable self, I couldn’t help but care for each and every one of them. Although there was a lot of darkness, there were moments that ensured my laughter and smile wouldn’t disappear. Chubbs and Vida’s constant ridiculous bickering made me laugh so hard. And with Ruby and Liam, I was guaranteed moments of swooning and smiling. Just the use of one word, one freaking word, I would melt. Liam could say darlin a million times and it would be just as powerful and beautiful as the first time. I kept hoping that Ruby and Liam’s connection would be able to transcend horror and tragedy. But it seemed as though each time they would have a moment of happiness, then they’d be transported into something more terrifying than the last.

I closed my eyes tightening my fists against a second wave of nausea.
I want to live.
I want to live.
I have to live.

The whole time I read this book, I was terrified and glued to the pages. Terrified during the peril scenes and terrified during the peaceful scenes, because we all know that it won’t stay that way forever. I desperately wanted to reach that final page with everyone I loved and cared for alive. But I had to keep reminding myself that dystopian books usually don’t work out that way. While it was an emotional ride, and I ached with the direction that some scenes went, I loved The Darkest Minds. This is a series that I will be able to recommend again and again!

PS Keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel to Sparks Rise will be released someday. Because I have to know the end to their heart-aching story too!

PPS The reason I couldn’t give a full 5 is because at the end of the book, I still have unanswered questions that will always drive me bonkers. I don’t want everything wrapped up in a pretty little bow, but there are some things that I feel as though I have to know to move on. Maybe they will be answered in the sequel to Sparks Rise? I can hope! View Spoiler »

Reading Order & Links:
Amazon (click on covers), iBooks (click on titles) & Book Depository (click on book #)
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds #1
Reviews:

Jen
Chelsea
Laura
The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Never Fade #2
Reviews:
Jen
Chelsea
The Darkest Minds Never Fade:  In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
In the Afterlight #3
Reviews:

Jen
Chelsea
through the dark darkest minds alexandra bracken
Through the Dark #1.5, 2.5 & 3.5
Reviews:

Jen (Sparks Rise #2.5)

BOOK REVIEW: Sparks Rise (The Darkest Minds #2.5) by Alexandra Bracken

BOOK REVIEW: Sparks Rise (The Darkest Minds #2.5) by Alexandra BrackenSparks Rise (The Darkest Minds #2.5)
by Alexandra Bracken
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Sam didn't think things could get worse at Thurmond rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam's dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret--he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk his everything to save her.

Review:

Sparks Rise was an emotionally gripping story that kept me on the edge of my seat. I love Sam and Lucas’ story. It gave me hope and then in the next instant it was ripped to shreds. This vicious cycle continued throughout their story and I ached for the book to end on a positive note. When their story stopped, I was floored how a book that with a little over 100 pages could evoke SO much emotion in me. I felt everything, right along with them and I’ve come to care about these two almost as much as Ruby and Liam!

There’s no mercy, not in life, not even in death.

Sam was Ruby’s bunk mate who was the brave girl that stood up against the soldiers to protect her. Later, Ruby made a mistake and accidentally erased herself from Sam’s mind. Now we get to travel back to Thurmond and witness the horrors that are still their lives. Sam is just struggling to survive, to not draw any attention to herself and is going through the same horrifying monotony day in and day out. That is, until the Reds arrive. The ones everyone thought were murdered. But something isn’t right with them. They act like machines that have no ability to think or function for themselves. And if that isn’t horrifying enough, Sam knows one of them! Lucas was her childhood best friend. He was her happiness, he created beautiful imaginary worlds for them to play in, and he was her first kiss. Now he is there to guard and to frighten her just like the PSF’s do everyday. Or is he?

Sam is meek and timid. But a living, breathing rebellious streak burns bright inside of her. She just has it locked away from all of the fear that suffocates her all the time. But her fear is about to escalate once Lucas arrives at Thurmond. I loved Sam. She was practical, relatable and someone you would want on your side. And Lucas, oh goodness. He was strong, brave, sweet and entirely captivating. Alexandra Bracken has this innate ability to write the sweetest males that you just can’t help to swoon all over. The battles and agony that Lucas suffers, in the name of helping Sam, sparked a hope in their dim world. Nothing can kill a love that is pure and true. Or so they hope.

I lean over to kiss her cheek. A part of me feels like it’ll be the greatest act of rebellion I ever do. Because I let myself feel how soft her skin is, I imagine taking her face between my hands, and it feels like I’ve set off a firework inside of my chest. No wonder they turn us hollow. I’ve always thought the danger in experiencing these emotions lay solely in being caught but living them make me danger itself.

Their fight against the system they are stuck in was truly fascinating, terrifying and addicting. Honestly, I feel just as invested in their story as I do Ruby and Liam’s. I HAVE to know what will happen to them. This book is a must-read for everyone who is in love with The Darkest Minds series!

Reading Order & Links:
Amazon (click on covers), iBooks (click on titles) & Book Depository (click on book #)
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds #1
Reviews:

Jen
Chelsea
Laura
The Darkest Minds: Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
Never Fade #2
Reviews:
Jen
Chelsea
The Darkest Minds Never Fade:  In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
In the Afterlight #3
Reviews:

Jen
Chelsea
through the dark darkest minds alexandra bracken
Through the Dark #1.5, 2.5 & 3.5
Reviews:

Jen (Sparks Rise #2.5)

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