In The Afterlight: Solid Finish, But Predictable

Note: Possible changes are coming! Don’t be surprised if the entire look of the blog changes.

In The Afterlight is written by Alexandra Bracken. It was published in 2014 by Hyperion. It is the final book in the Darkest Minds trilogy. Also check out my reviews of the first book, The Darkest Minds, and the second, Never Fade.

Spoilers for the series.

Summary/Blurb:

“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. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there’s no guarantee you’re fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children’s League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam’s brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government “rehabilitation camps” all over the country. Freeing them—revealing the government’s unspeakable abuses in the process—is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IAAN, the disease that killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.”

Thoughts:

Bracken’s trilogy as a whole is fairly formulaic, but enjoyable nonetheless, and In The Afterlight, while pretty predictable, is a solid end to the series. Snarky Chubs is my favorite and Cole continues to be an intriguing character, although what I thought was going to happen with him didn’t actually happen. And Bracken never explained why he was the way he was.

I do wish that the romance had been a little more original. There was the usual “fall in love with guy, break up with him for reasons, get back together but have trouble trusting/agreeing/etc.” with the inclusion of “guy and girl sleep together and all their problems are solved.” Yeah…there’s nothing wrong with that portrayal of sex at all…

Books like these are best read close together, but it’s been a while since I’ve read Never Fade and as a result I think my connection to the characters faded a little bit. Ruby and Co. seemed to be really connected to characters like Zu, a connection that I just didn’t feel. Also, Vida’s connection to Cate didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps I would feel the connection more if I had a fresher memory of the events of The Darkest Minds.

The one glaring mar of this book was the ending. Everything was wrapped up a little too neatly, I thought, and Chub’s speech at the end almost completely ruined the book for me. You shouldn’t need one of your characters to give a speech talking about what your book is really about, because 1.) what happens in the book should have conveyed that already and 2.) it makes the message seem really shallow. I also had a really hard time buying what Chubs was saying because it made absolutely no sense. It was so unsubtle and out of place that it was really jarring, and it made the message lose a lot of depth.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Violence, graphic imagery, death, swearing, kissing and non-graphic descriptions of sex.

Genre: Dystopian, Supernatural, Young Adult, Realistic

Passages/Quotes:

My hands shook like crazy as I tried to work the handle on the front door, the enormous metal indentation popping and protesting. There was so much adrenaline running through me, it was amazing I didn’t rip the whole thing off its hinges. “Liam? Liam, can you hear me?”

He turned toward me slowly, coming out of his stupor. “I told him it would roll.”

I almost sobbed in relief as I reached through the window and kissed him. “You did.”

“I told him.”

“You did, I know you did,” I said, low and soothing as I reached in to unbuckle his seatbelt.

Overall Review:

In The Afterlight is a solid finish to a formulaic and slightly predictable, yet fun trilogy. I didn’t buy some of the connections the characters had, but I am putting that down to the length of time that passed between my reading of each book rather than to any fault of Bracken’s. I absolutely hated the ending, however, since I thought it cheapened the book’s message and made Bracken sound like a cheerleader.

You can buy this here: In the Afterlight

Never Fade: The Trilogy Format Strikes Again

Never Fade is written by Alexandra Bracken. It was published in 2013 by Hyperion. It is the sequel to The Darkest Minds. The last book of the trilogy is due out in October. Bracken’s website can be found here.

General spoilers for The Darkest Minds and Never Fade

Summary/Blurb:

“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 saved in only one place: a flash drive 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?”

What I Liked:

I’ve been waiting to read this book for so long, ever since I read The Darkest Minds and absolutely loved it. And this book is a worthy successor: it has plot twists/reveals spread all throughout the book, it has enough revelatory information that it doesn’t seem like all just set-up for the last Bam, Plot! book (coughAllegiantcough), and Ruby, while still struggling with her powers, seems to be heading in a direction that won’t lead her to self-angst anymore.

I was totally expecting Ruby to completely destroy Clancy at the end, as a sort of turning point for her character, but upon reflection, her turning point really came with Rob in the truck. It made her longing for a cure that much more powerful at the end.

Interesting development with Cole. I wonder if we’ll see more people like him in the next book…?

I don’t particularly like self-empowerment plots; the last sentencing of the summary makes me cringe: “But what if winning the war means losing herself?” Yeah, okay, because “losing yourself,” whatever that means, is so much more detrimental than a destructive war that is killing people. But before you start wondering why this is in “Like” rather than “Dislike,” I found that this plot is actually pretty bearable and more interesting than most. Or perhaps I’m too invested in the characters and the situation to care too much. We’ll see what happens in the last book.

What I Didn’t Like:

CLIFFHANGER NOOOOO! Dislike for two reasons: one, because it means I have to wait probably a year or so before I get to read the next book, and two, because I am so sick of the FSASCH (for the unaware: First Stands Alone, Second Cliff Hangs) formula. A good book shouldn’t need a cliffhanger to want people to read the next one; and doubly so because this is the second book. If people were likely to stop reading, they would do so after the first one. If they read the second book, they’re probably in for the long haul (not always, of course. It was the second book of the volcano eruption survival book, Ashen Winter, which made me stop).

I don’t like when authors establish character purely through language use. Vida’s vocabulary was almost entirely swear words, and to me it just seemed like Bracken was using profanity as a crutch; i.e. as an excuse not to show Vida’s character in other ways. I’ve always felt that the use of profanity in books is a crutch or an excuse, but it really stood out here with Vida. You shouldn’t have to depend on profanity to establish character.

I’m kind of annoyed that Liam’s mind wasn’t completely wiped and that he remembered Ruby in the space of about five seconds (hyperbolically). I think there would have been more potential character development in Liam’s “amnesia” then in the fact that he remembers and is mad at her for it.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Warnings: Swearing, violence, kissing, graphic imagery, death.

Genre: Dystopian, Supernatural, Young Adult

An appropriate description of both books (and I just couldn’t resist)

Passages/Quotes:

My brain was firing at a rapid pace, drumming up one horribly possibility after another. “So the intel on that flash drive—it was research that you stole?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Something like that?” I repeated in disbelief. “I don’t even get to know what’s on the stupid thing?”

He hesitated long enough that I was sure he wouldn’t actually tell me. “Think about it—what’s the one thing every parent of a dead kid wants to know? The one thing scientists have been after for years?”

The cause of the Psi disease.

~Bracken 82

Knox had made sure to warp him up real pretty in a series of robes and chains. There was a bandanna over his mouth, clenched between yellow teeth, and all I could think was, I wish they had covered his eyes instead.

Rimmed with crust and lined with bruises, his eyes pierced through the shadows between us, black and bottomless. He was looking at us, straight through us, into us.

I knew what Olivia had been calling out to me now. I could hear her voice ringing high and clear in my mind.

Red, Ruby, Red.

Overall Review:

Never Fade continues the high-paced action, the reveals, and the cool powers of the previous book. However, I had more problems with this book, such as the getting-old-fast cliffhanger ending and Liam’s convenient “my mind isn’t wiped after all” situation. I still can’t wait for the last book, though.

You can buy this here: Never Fade (A Darkest Minds Novel)

The Darkest Minds: I Have No Words To Describe How Much I Love This Book

The Darkest Minds is written by Alexandra Bracken. It was published in 2012 by Hyperion. It is the first in a trilogy (what else is new?). Random tidbit: it was originally called Black is the Color. Bracken’s website can be found here.

Genre: Dystopian, Supernatural, Young Adult, Realistic

Summary/Blurb:

“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.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

I’m not one of them. Please, please, please…

I fell, dropping to my knees, bracing my hands against the tile, trying to keep from being sick all over myself and the floor. The white coat’s hand still gripped the back of my neck. “I’m Green,” I sobbed, the words half lost to the machine’s buzzing. The light had been bright before, but now it only amplified the pounding behind my eyes. I stared into his blank eyes, willing him to believe me. “I’m Green…please, please…”

But I saw my mother’s face, the smile the boy with the broken mouth had given me, like he had recognized something of himself in me. I knew what I was.

“Green…”

I looked up at the sound of the voice that floated down to me. I stared, and he stared right back, his eyes unfocused. He was mumbling something now, his mouth full of mush, like he was chewing on the words.

“I’m—”

“Green,” he said, shaking his head.

~Bracken 23

Chubs slapped the side of the minivan. “Don’t tell me you believe that, Lee. We knew everyone by the time we broke out.”

Broke out. They actually escaped. Shock left me speechless for several moments until I asked, finally, “Really? All three thousand of them?”

The boys took a step back at the same time.

“You had three thousand kids at your camp?” Liam asked.

“Why?” I looked between them, unnerved. “How many were in your camp?”

“Three hundred at most,” Liam said. “Are you sure?” Three thousand?”

~Bracken 128-129

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, violence

Recommended Age Range: 16+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

Oh, man, this book. THIS BOOK.

Ok, so first of all, Alexandra Bracken is, like, 23 years old. She wrote her first book, Brightly Woven (which is also amazing, and something that I will review in the future), when she was about 17. She revised it for a few years, but still. The point is, she’s a young’un. And this book is fantastic. It’s really, really good.

Ruby’s development is great. She sees herself as a monster because that’s all she’s been taught for almost half of her life (this book is a great example of brainwashing). She struggles with herself as an Orange because she sees how people view Oranges, and she sees how Oranges act. As in, all the ones she interacts with are power hungry and want to control people (this book is also a great example of how power corrupts). She doesn’t want to accept her abilities or use them because she’s afraid she will end up like them. The end of the book, and the summary for the next, promises more inner conflict and development with Ruby and her powers and her acceptance of her powers.

That’s a cool bag.

The twists and turns in the storyline were great. Some were unexpected, some inevitable, but still good, the ending in particular. It leaves you with a “Hmm…how is she going to get out of this one?” type of feel. It’s not really a cliffhanger, but it still will want you wanting more.

I actually wasn’t quite sure how to label this one, genre-wise. The Library of Congress calls it “science fiction,” but it’s really not. It’s more Dystopian than anything, but I also labeled it as Supernatural because of the psychic powers the kids have. And obviously it’s Realistic because it takes place in the realistic/natural world.

Anyway, if you couldn’t tell, I really, really enjoyed this book. I think Bracken has a great career in front of her if she can keep writing books like this one and Brightly Woven.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing!

Overall Review:

The Darkest Minds is a fantastic book. Ruby has some great potential character development ready to happen, and the things that happened in this book will just leave you wanting to know more about this world and what happens to the people. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes dystopian thrillers. The hardest part will be waiting six months for the next book to come out.

Coming Up Next: The Exceptionals by Erin Cashman