Title: Never Fade
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Synopsis: 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 only saved in one place: a flashdrive 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?
Huge thank you to Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for giving me the opportunity to review this book. The expressed are purely my own.
Never Fade, the sequel to last year’s YA dystopia hit The Darkest Minds is a book that has a lot of flaws, but suffers from the dreaded middle book syndrome. I feel like I should have loved this book more than the first one, but I found myself struggling to care about the events of the narrative because it didn’t give me the push and pull I needed to feel a part of this world. I think I will be in the minority on this one, but while I think this is the more technically sound of the two books in The Darkest Minds trilogy, I had a heck of a time trying to get through it. Part of my issue with this series is its roller coaster-style pacing — much like the first book Never Fade suffers from a huge case of up, down, lull, stall, up, down, and probably does it worse than its predecessor. Bracken does a great job picking up where we left off in the previous book and having Ruby rollin’ in the deep by surrounding her with a great cast of secondary characters. When the action is on the book is a non-stop ride, but the moment it stops, the pacing lulls into a screeching halt.
For me pacing is important and a novel needs to be consistent in its pacing for me to have a sense of enjoyment. If the book is slow, make it slow, if it’s fast, keep it fast. This issue really kills Never Fade for me because the consistency is so all over the place that sometimes its hard to keep up with the fun bits because they are overshadowed by the infodumping and frustration that is Ruby’s indecisiveness. I feel like Ruby is a much stronger character in this book, but she suffers from being a bit too hard-headed at times. I suppose this may be on purpose in terms of her character development, but I guess I wanted to like her more as a character than I did. I’m glad the book wasn’t all about the romance between her and Liam because truthfully, I didn’t buy into it in the first book. What I appreciated here was that yes, there is some pining, but its not excessive — Ruby is still her own person and she isn’t entirely defined by her feelings for Liam. If anything, I think Ruby feels more guilt having wiped his memories clean. I found myself more okay with the romance in this book, but it still felt a bit too forced for my tastes.
I think I was more happy to see Chubbs make his grand reappearance and I think he is such a well-rounded character, but seeing him in the novel made me miss Zu so much. I thought the new characters Jude and Vida were pretty solid for the most part, Jude in particular winning me over with calling Ruby “Roo” all the time. I think the political aspects of the book are intriguing, but parts of it felt too heavy-handed or vague, and again the consistency felt too all over the place for me. I loved the idea that the Children’s League attempts to use Ruby as a weapon because she’s the best of the best, but their motives feel so cartoony that I struggle to really comprehend why I should care about this dark world. I will admit though, the reappearance of a certain character from the previous book really made me smile (that sick little monkey), and his particular motives weirdly worked for me.
Overall I would say Never Fade is a solid sequel, but one I struggled with for reason mentioned above. I definitely want to see how Ruby’s adventure is going to end in the last book because as much as I very critical of The Darkest Mind series, they are such fun reads and when the books are on, they are a fun ride. I feel like Bracken’s writing has improved and is much stronger, so I do look forward to seeing where the adventure is going to take me, how Ruby and friends will survive their dark dank world, and what will happen next. There is a solid dystopia here and the super power elements are very fun and engaging, I just wish the pacing and consistency was better. Do not read this book if you haven’t read The Darkest Minds yet as Never Fade builds directly off of it. That being said, there is fun here and if you can get over the issue I mentioned or they don’t bother you at all it’s a solid read.