Ruby awakens on her 10th birthday to an entirely different life. Her parents are so scared of her that they lock her in the garage and then allow the government to send her to a “rehabilitation camp.” The root of her problem is a horrible disease that is killing most of America’s children, and those who survive, like Ruby, are doomed to live their lives tormented by horrific and dangerous abilities.

While many of the children in the camp are exterminated if their powers are deemed too strong, Ruby manages to hide the fact that she has one of the highest levels of ability: She can alter people’s thoughts simply by touching them. She survives to the age of 16, and she is then “rescued” by a rebel group that wants to use her powers against the government. She flees from her rescuers, joins another group of escapees and sets out to find East River, a place where kids like her are rumored to find refuge.

In the midst of this superb dystopian tale, Alexandra Bracken manages to create a fantastic male love interest for her strong-willed and independent female protagonist. Ruby connects with Liam, the leader of the escapees, who falls deeply in love with her. He is flawed but sweet—and completely convincing as Ruby’s perfect match. Readers will root for him as he is enveloped with affection for the very focused and brave Ruby.

Dystopia, romance, a fast-paced story and scenes that will invoke absolute fear in pretty much anyone will keep readers turning the pages of Bracken’s second novel. Two more installments are to follow, and the ending of The Darkest Minds will leave readers dumbstruck and salivating for more.

Emily Booth Masters reviews from Nashville, Tennessee.

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