The Darkest Minds, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Darkest Minds, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Psychic teens escape concentration camps in taut thriller.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 35 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Raises questions about refugees, authoritarianism, and children separated from their parents.

Positive Messages

Messing with people's memories is dangerous. True friends will stick together in times of trouble. People need to keep hope alive,

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ruby wants to learn to control her mysterious abilities, partly for her own interests, partly to protect others. She's a loyal friend to Zu, Liam, and Chubs. She's brave, resilient, and compassionate and is described as "overly empathetic."


Incarcerated kids are treated harshly at the Thurmond camp: beaten, killed and subjected to painful sonic blasts. On the road, they're pursued by government agents and soldiers. A major character is nearly beaten to death. An antagonist is mentally pressured to shoot herself, another to wander through a forest forever. One of the main characters may have been sexually assaulted while under mind control. A major character is shot and gravely wounded.


Ruby and Liam are attracted to each other, but their romance remains fairly chaste. They flirt, cuddle, and kiss but don't take things farther, partly due to Ruby's hidden abilities.


A scattering of "hell," "a--hole," "goddamn," and "damn"; one or two uses of "s--t" and "f--k."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Darkest Minds is the first volume of a psychic thriller series by Alexandra Bracken (Passenger). It's set after most of the world's children have died and the survivors have developed psychic powers, leading to mass incarceration and executions. The lead characters develop a romance, but there's little physical contact between them. Violent scenes include a vicious beating, crowd control with painful sonic blasts, retaliation by kids with mutant powers, and the shooting of a main character. One of the main characters may have been sexually assaulted while under mind control. Characters swear occasionally: "damn," "hell," "ass," "goddamn," with a few uses of "s--t" and "f--k."  The novel has been adapted into a movie.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8-year-old Written byHollie A. August 1, 2018

Fast Paced & Different

If you loved Hunger Games and the Divergent series, clear your schedule and read this book. Great book, good story line with lots of places for the plot to go... Continue reading
Adult Written byHannah Jones February 21, 2020

The darkest minds

I don't recommend this book to anyone, I think it has to much cussing.
Teen, 15 years old Written byVanillaNubCakes April 29, 2019

Blew My Mind!

This book was amazing. The characters were very full of details and the storyline has you at the edge of your seat. I read a review saying something along the l... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 8, 2020
I loved this book so much! it is also a film and i loved the film too but the book was better. i liked the book because it had a few genres built into one book... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THE DARKEST MINDS opens, 16-year-old Ruby is an inmate at Thurmond, a government rehabilitation camp for children with mysterious powers. In danger of being killed, Ruby has been hiding the true nature of her powers for years. When given the chance to escape, she takes it, only to discover she's a pawn in a more complicated game. She eventually meets up with three other travelers searching for a rumored safe haven, but even her best friends won't be able to protect her when she's forced to make a terrible choice.

Is it any good?

Plenty of books feature kids with superpowers, but this one has an intensity that raises it above many others. The Darkest Minds is set in a near-future dystopia that feels fresh and interesting. The characters are multidimensional, especially Ruby, Liam, and Chubs. Author Alexandra Bracken generally keeps the level of suspense high and makes her readers feel the jeopardy in her characters' situations. The climax of the book is harrowing, and readers will want to continue with the next installment immediately.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Darkest Minds shows children being forcibly taken from their parents. What current examples of that are there? What excuses do government officials give in those situations? 

  • The Darkest Minds is set in a dystopia where most children have died and many survivors have superpowers. Why are grim visions of the future popular now?

  • Why are memories so important to people? Would it be wrong to forcibly change someone's memories?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dystopian novels and thrillers

Themes & Topics

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