Review: In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

in the afterlight alexandra bracken
in the afterlight alexandra bracken

Title: In The Afterlight  
Author: Alexandra Bracken  
Series: The Darkest Minds #3 
Genre: Fantasy, YA  
Publication date: October 28, 2014 
Rating: ★★★★★ 

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.

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

It was always my intention to write a review for this book, but somehow years passed and I never got around to it. Until I got to the point where I didn’t even remember enough to write an honest and coherent recap of the story. But this year I’m taking the time to revisit old favorites and The Darkest Minds is definitely that. A favorite. So here I am.

This book is long and intense. The pacing is slower than we’re used to from Alexandra Bracken but while in some moments it may feel as if nothing much is happening, there are actually a whole lot of wheels spinning in the background. A huge chunk of this book focuses on the relationships between all our favorite characters. And to say those are strained would be an understatement.

Ruby is struggling with her position as a leader of their new-formed side branch of the Children’s League. She learns that it is impossible to keep everyone happy and has to deal with the pressure of being relied upon. There is not much room for failure but she’s constantly doubting herself, feeling like she’s not strong enough to live up to everyone’s expectations. And then of course there is the tormenting guilt over losing Jude, bringing Liam back into the League and every other harmful consequence she is responsible for. These insecurities along with her search for justice, drive her towards the one person who seems to understand what she’s going through. And that person is no longer Liam. It’s his brother Cole who knows what it’s like to step up and take control, who knows what is at stake and is willing to do what it takes to break into the camps and save the children Ruby so desperately wants to free. Spending so much time with Cole inevitably puts a strain on her relationship with Liam. Cole and Liam can barely stay in the same room together, let alone ever see eye to eye. It puts her in the middle, constantly threading a careful path between the two brothers, trying to keep the both of them (along with everybody else) happy, while trying to set her own agenda in motion.

Black is the color that is no color at all. Black is the color of a child's still, empty bedroom. The heaviest hour of night-the one that traps you in your bunk, suffocating in another nightmare. It is a uniform stretched over the broad shoulders of an angry young man. Black is the mud, the lidless eye watching your every breath, the low vibrations of the fence that stretches up to tear at the sky. It is a road. A forgotten night sky broken up by faded stars. It is the barrel of a new gun, leveled at your heart.The color of Chubs's hair, Liam's bruises, Zu's eyes.  
Black is a promise of tomorrow, bled dry from lies and hate. Betrayal. I see it in the face of a broken compass, feel it in the numbing grip of grief. 
I run, but it is my shadow. Chasing, devouring, polluting. It is the button that should never have been pushed, the door that shouldn't have opened, the dried blood that couldn't be washed away. It is the charred remains of buildings. The car hidden in the forest, waiting.
It is the smoke. It is the fire. The spark.  
Black is the color of memory. It is our color. The only one they'll use to tell our story.

They say no one is perfect but here that’s about two hundred percent true. As they all had to live in close quarters, tension rose and all of them made bad decisions. I love Ruby. I love Cole. I love Liam. I even like Clancy in some twisted way. Yet they all did and said things that made them seem like jerks. Ruby kept too much information hidden from Liam. Cole should have given his brother an honest chance. Liam shouldn’t have been so resentful. Except this is exactly what made these characters so very human. Put a group of people together in this particular set of circumstances and of course there are going to be disagreement, distrust and infighting. It’s a natural course of events. So I’m here for it. If anything, it made me so much more invested. This book has some seriously great character development.

And man, I love Cole. Love, love, love Cole. From the moment I met him I was trash. I’m not even sure I can pinpoint when exactly it happened, but there’s no denying my attraction. While I have always loved Liam, it’s Cole that holds my heart hostage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily shipping him with Ruby (I think she and Liam are adorable together), but he’s just such a great character. And damn did he deserve better. All this pain and anger bottled up in him, only to finally find release, to finally find acceptance and then… I won’t spoil, I promise I won’t but dammit.

They don't burn, do they? Not like us.

In The Afterlight is worthy of its high rating. Despite the rather slow start there is a great deal of action and a lot of beautiful scenes between the characters we’ve all grown to love. Zu, Chubs, Vida, Nico… Even Clancy had his moments. But be warned, it fucks with your feelings. Big time. There is some serious heartache, so much pain. I cried so hard, you should have seen me, even if the ending is sort of perfect. Even if it all plays out in the only way it could. Alexandra Bracken is cruel, which we leaned in the previous books, but she’s a wonderful story crafter and after rereading the entire series, I’m still convinced of its greatness. 

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