SPOILERS FOR THE “DARKEST MINDS” SERIES BEYOND THIS POINT
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.
Oh my god. The withdrawal for this series is going to hit like a truck. Seriously. There are no words for how attached I am to the characters and the story of this series, and now that I’ve finished the final book I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with my life.
It always takes me a while to get through the last book in a series, especially if it’s a series that I really got myself invested in. Third books in trilogies have this tendency to be giant heaping piles of sad, and seeing how this is a pretty darn dark series, I was pretty apprehensive. Plus I was still extremely torn up over THAT ONE THING that happened at the end of “Never Fade”, so much that I needed to take a day before I could physically start to read the next book without getting completely over emotional. But oh god, once I started I could not stop reading. The characters all developed so much, and pretty much everything was resolved, and the conclusion was actually really good, I’d even say better than some similar series, even if it did CONSISTENTLY RIP MY HEART OUT through the whole book.
SPOILERS FOR “IN THE AFTERLIGHT” AND THE “DARKEST MINDS” SERIES BEYOND THIS POINT
Now I do have to say, this book, like “Never Fade”, was a lot darker that the first book. This is one of those series that gets darker as it goes along, and there was a lot less of the fun banter and sarcasm from the first two books as the storyline got more serious. Also, is it just me, or is there a thing with the third book in trilogies where half the book can be summarized as “let’s make plans in the secret compound”? A good portion of the book was spent in The Ranch while they planned freeing the camps and debated what to do next, and to be honest, it did get a little slow staying in the same space for so long. Even within the story there was an air of tension from not taking action for a while.
But then, it completely made up for it with amazing development in pretty much all of the characters. Seriously, you could retitle this thing “Meaningful Character Development: The Book”, and you’d have an entirely accurate title.
So first let’s talk about Zu. Oh my god, in the moment when they were driving to the Ranch and actually found Zu and her group from East River, I was literally screaming in happiness. The Black Betty Crew was finally back together, and their reactions to finding Zu were just so sweet and excited, and it was this great hope spot before such a dark book.
And then later, when they were doing the interviews, and she started talking, oh god, it was the best thing. One of my favorite things about the series was the Ruby, Chubs, and Liam’s respect for Zu’s choice to stay mute and how they never questioned her pushed her to speak before she was ready, so we know that talking is her own decision, and that she’s become stronger and less afraid of the world and her abilities, and I honestly have almost never felt so proud and happy for a fictional character. And then there were everyone’s reactions. I mean, we had Vida, who’s normally kind of closed off acting so happy and excited for her, and Chubs being close to tears, and you could see so much how all these characters have become each other’s family and they care so much for each other, and I’m sorry, I cannot hear you over the sheer amount of love and attachment I feel for this group of superpowered teenagers.
Then we have Vida. Vida is just one of those characters who tries to come off as really unemotional, but really cares so much about everyone, and that really shows in this book. Kind of like in “Never Fade” she takes a while to grow on you, like at first she’s really cold towards Zu, and starts to kind of isolate herself from everyone, and at first you’re kind of wondering what her problem was, but then Ruby goes to confront her, and it turns out she was thinking that Ruby had replaced Jude with Zu after his death, and there’s this scene that is simultaneously amazing and entirely heartbreaking where Ruby and Vida talk about Jude and how he didn’t deserve what happened to him and they both feel partially responsible for his death, and it was just such a good depiction of two characters who work so well off of each other addressing and moving through their grief, and it’s so well written, but at the same time, it’s just a constant reminder about all the horrible stuff that these characters have to go through, and a constant reminder that a character I was extremely attached to is DEAD.
Going off subject for a second, I just have to say that every time they brought up Jude, MY HEART WAS DYING. I’m really glad that they didn’t do that thing where a character dies and is never mentioned again, but it was honestly so freaking sad. You can tell that his death just effected everyone so badly, like Ruby was blaming herself, and Vida was closing herself off and lashing out at people, and Nico (who I really started feeling bad for in this book) was just completely broken and trying to throw himself into danger, and oh god, I’m really glad we got that scene between Ruby and Vida, but I AM NEVER GOING TO BE OVER THIS. JUDE DID NOTHING WRONG, AND I AM STILL NOT OKAY.
Anyway, another thing I absolutely love was the relationship that developed between Vida and Zu. There was this scene where Vida was dying her hair, and Ruby hears her encouraging Zu to stand up for herself and she dyes a strip of color in Zu’s hair, and oh my god, I could just see them having this great older/younger sister relationship, and I think it was probably a major influence in Zu deciding to talk in the interview, and I’m just so glad their relationship was included.
On another note…VIDA AND CHUBS. YES. OMG YES I CALLED IT AND I SHIP IT SO HARD. I am such absolute trash for those relationships that go from not being able to stand each other to being friends to falling in love, and these two are such a perfect example. I really wish we could have seen what happened with them when they went to find Lillian Gray, because it must have been insanely beautiful. I can see that making a great novella or even a fanfic or something, just Chubs and Vida on the road together with all their teasing back and forth and suddenly realizing that they have feelings for each other. In all seriousness, I may have to add these two to my increasingly long list of OTP’s.
While we’re on the subject of relationships… RUBY AND LIAM. I love these two together so much, but in a good portion of this book they just had so much angst. There was the whole thing with Ruby finding the note, and I get that emotions were running high and everything, but I really wish she could have asked him about it from the start. Like these are both mature characters, a lot of these issues could have been avoided if they just communicated. But of course, they had to be a typical YA couple and have their third book misunderstanding. But then, when everything was resolved IT WAS BEAUTIFUL. There was the part with “building shelves”, and the way they balance each other out and are just so in love. It’s hard for me to explain why, but I am so entirely in love with this ship.
We also got a lot of interaction between Ruby and Cole, and they actually had a really interesting dynamic. As and Orange and a Red, they both think of themselves as dangerous, and it was nice to see them have someone who understands how out of control they feel about their abilities, and we learned a lot about Liam and Cole’s backstories. At the same time though, you could tell that as Ruby and Cole started spending more time together, Liam was really kind of being excluded, and that could be really painful for him. Liam is definitely the kind of person who always needs to feel like he’s contributing and making a difference, so you could literally feel how hard it was for him to be uninvolved in making a lot of the plans and being told not to participate.
It also led to a lot of angst between the Stewart brothers, especially when it came to Liam going out to find more Psi kids or taking matters into his own hands without permission. It was like Cole just wanted to protect Liam and keep him from doing anything impulsive, but Liam wanted to fight and make an actual impact, and it led to them clashing a lot. To the point where a good portion of their interactions could be summarized along the lines of:
Cole: Liam, don’t do the thing.
Liam: *Does the thing *
Cole: LIAM NO.
And it got to the point where you really just want to see them reconcile and work together and stop keeping secrets, and we finally get to a point where Cole tells Liam he’s a Red and they go out on an Op together, and you think everything is going to be okay.
But then Vida comes in and tells Ruby that one of the Stewarts is dead.
And my immediate thought is WHICH ONE. But then I was just like HOLY CRAP, EITHER WAY I AM GOING TO BE EMOTIONALLY DESTROYED. NO THIS IS NOT OKAY. THEY JUST WORKED THINGS OUT WITH EACH OTHER AND THEY’RE BOTH SO IMPORTANT TO RUBY AND OH GOD, THIS SERIES NEEDS TO STOP HURTING EVERYONE I LOVE.
And then they see the video, and the PSFs had killed Cole and were recording footage of his body as a message, and it was so freaking messed up and horrible, and we don’t even know for sure how he died or if Liam is okay, but then Liam calls on the payphone, and at first there’s this moment of relief since he got away and he’s alive, but then you realize he’s just so utterly destroyed over Cole’s death, and he’s out there alone and oh god, This whole book is just 10,000 ways to traumatize Liam Stewart, and I am in no way whatsoever emotionally stable.
Changing the subject before everything gets too freaking sad, let’s talk about our favorite actual piece of crap Clancy Gray. Like usual, NOTHING CLANCY DID WAS OKAY. At first I thought that they had the upper hand over him for once, but then it turned out that he was using his abilities to control Ruby and make her do things for him when she thought she was sleepwalking, and that was so bleeping messed up, and I know he was a really interesting character, but I really wanted to see him taken down soon.
On that note, I guess then what happened really was the worst thing you could possibly do to him. All of Clancy’s power came from his abilities, so after his mother put him through the procedure to remove them he was left completely powerless, and for a character who’s obsessed with having total control, that’s probably even worse than dying. It’s almost enough to make you feel bad for him. Almost.
So let’s talk about everything leading up to the ending. Oh god, when Ruby was taken back to Thurmond, I could just feel this horrible, heart wrenching fear for her. I mean, I know she had control with her abilities for the most part, but I did not want to see this poor girl who’s gone through so much back in the place she’s been trying so hard to escape. And the way she was treated by the PSF’s was so darn infuriating… Let’s just say I could not wait for Ruby to kick some PSF butt.
On the same token though. It was really satisfying to see her use her abilities on the PSF’s. The one part where she made the PSF pee himself was the greatest thing, it’s just like you have this character who’s been made to feel so powerless finally being able to have control, and all around it was just completely amazing. And then, when she entered the flash drive and it worked and shut down the camp I was literally whispering the word “YES!” over and over in my room at two in the morning. It was just this absolutely amazing, triumphant moment, and it was so ridiculously good to see these characters actually win for once.
BUT THEN we had to watch Ruby being tortured with the white noise and that guy freaking broke her leg and oh god, she was in so much pain and close to dying, and for a second I was so worried that it was going to end like A CERTAIN OTHER SERIES THAT SHALL NOT BE NAMED and kill the main character, and I was freaking out SO BAD. But then she started fighting them off with her abilities, and literal angel Liam got there with his stepdad, and they got her out, and Liam even wrapped his coat around her since he’s such a good boyfriend, and oh god I was so relieved.
So now let’s talk about everything that happened in the ending. For a minute it almost cleaned up too nicely, but you know what, I didn’t care. These characters have been through so much crap, and they deserved to have the best resolution and the happiest ending. And for the most part, that’s actually what happened. Seeing Ruby reunited her grandmother was honestly all I could hope for. I was just so happy for her, and her grandmother was such a cool person, and then she was able to restore her parent’s memory, and we saw that everyone else survived and they were going to start freeing the camps and oh my god everything was perfect.
But then there was the press conference where they wanted to put people with Psi abilities in communities, and for a second it looked like everything was going to go downhill again, and I was freaking out because, holy crap, this sounds like the start to another entire dystopia series, and THESE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS DESERVE TO BE HAPPY DARN IT. But even that seemed to work out in the end.
And then there were the last few pages. This book honestly had one of the best endings I have ever read. Like we just see Liam pulling Ruby out of the press conference and Vida, Chubs, and Zu are waiting in the elevator, and they sneak into a car and just start driving, and the series ends with all these characters I’ve grown to love so much driving off together with actual hope that things are going to get better- it’s almost cinematic, like you could hear the music and see them driving off into the distance. You know, it was so nice to see a dark series like this have a mostly happy ending, because usually this kind of series is just so dark. Like even if it is a happy ending, there’s usually some tragic plot twist or death, and the main character is left permanently scarred and jaded, and everything is just really sad and depressing. But here the surviving main characters were all together, and their situation was looking positive, and oh god, it was just such an amazing ending.
So yeah, I don’t think it’s any secret that I absolutely adored this series. The premise was really unique, it kept you addicted the whole time, and I will never be over how much I loved these characters. And like I said, the book withdraw has hit like a freight train full of feels. I’m definitely going to have to add this one to my list of all-time favorite series.
Well that wraps up my thoughts on “The Darkest Minds” series. Thanks for reading and see you next time!