Book Review: In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken


inn the afterlightTitle: In The Afterlight

Series: The Darkest Minds, #3

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Summary: 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. -Goodreads

Review:

*Non-Spoilery Section

In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken is the last book in The Darkest Minds series, which is one of the most amazing series I’ve ever read. I started it on April 4th, 2014 and ended it on November 11th, 2014… it has been quite the ride.

I feel like In The Afterlight is one of the few series finales I’ve been impressed with and truly satisfied with. It was so incredibly satisfying, and I’m happy to say that Alexandra Bracken is officially one of my favorite authors. This is one of the best series I’ve read this year and it’s definitely on my favorites list.

The plot in this book is so intricate and well written. I really need to take a moment to applaud Bracken, because I could easily envision this world and the characters. And don’t even get me started on the characters! The characters are quite the bunch, especially the main characters. They’re all so different and come from totally different backgrounds, but it works. The characters are really deep as well, and Bracken did a wonderful job depicting their raw emotions, the high tensions, and the depth of this book.

One of the reasons I’m so impressed with this book is because of how well the characters are written. Ruby, especially, is a character who has had so much visual growth, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it in any other book. We almost literally got to watch her character development from page one of the series, and that, I thought, was incredible.

We also got to see Ruby’s flaws. She was and wasn’t your typical heroine at the same time, and I’m not saying that in a bad way. She is such a flawed character, and Bracken doesn’t mask it. Ruby just blossomed in these books, even if the journey getting there wasn’t easy.

In The Afterlight was definitely heavier than the other books, and there was a lot going down. Some of the characters just put you on edge so badly. It was insane.

Of course, Alexandra Bracken wrapped up this series beautifully, which made me so happy. I was a little scared, considering that a few of the series finales I’ve read this year have been a bit lackluster (definitely reconsidering my City of Heavenly Fire review). I know it’s really hard to wrap up a series, and it must be a stressful process, trying to please everyone, but I just thought this was fantastic. Fan. Tastic.

I really hope you all enjoyed it, and if you have yet to start this series, then you’re in luck! The first book, The Darkest Minds, is on the Apple store and the Kindle store for free for a week! This might just be the push you needed… ;D

Anyway, that’s all for the non-spoilery section. If you haven’t read the book, I strongly suggest you stop here, because I will spoil the plot. If you have read the book, then I urge you to go on so we can discuss!

Thank you, Alexandra Bracken, for this amazing reading experience. Your books will definitely stick with me forever.

*Warning: Spoilery Section

“…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.” In The Afterlight, prologue; p. 1-2

~

When I read the prologue of In The Afterlight, I thought it was just breathtaking. Now you know me, always making musical references, but definitely check out the song “In The End” by Black Veil Brides, because I feel like that song is too perfect for the prologue, and even the whole book.  I was also reminded of “O Children” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.

Let’s talk about the characters, now. Once again, I’d like to say that I am so impressed with how Bracken wrote her characters. Gah!

POVs: I was really happy that we stuck to the basics, reading only from Ruby’s POV. I feel like a lot of authors are going all crazy with their series finale POVs, so I’m happy that Bracken kept it nice and simple (though Ruby is anything but a simple character).

Ruby: Ruby is one of the main characters, and she developed so much throughout these books. I mean, remember that scared little girl from The Darkest Minds? I think on the inside, she’ll always be a bit scared, but now she can defend herself. She can fight. She is a fighter. She went from being this innocent character to being tough as nails. But as her character developed, Bracken made sure to put Ruby’s flaws on display for us all to see. She is also one of the few main characters I like, despite her sometimes annoying traits. (Spoilers for Allegiant: Because I was so partial to Ruby, I was quite scared for her life. Someone pointed out that the whole thing with Ruby insisting on going back to Thurmond herself was very Tris-esque, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that was way too accurate. I mean, Ruby was even going back into Thurmond in place of Nico, the traitor… sound familiar? Tris and freaking Caleb. But luckily, Bracken didn’t take that path, which I was very happy about. Also, Ruby reminded me of Tris a little more when she was holding Liam at arm’s length (which I’ll talk about in the next paragraph). Didn’t Tris do that to Four a lot? End of Allegiant Spoilers.)

I noticed that in this book, there seemed to be a lack of communication between Ruby and Liam. I wished she’d stop pushing him away! One moment they were all lovey-dovey, the next they weren’t speaking.

I really liked the relationship between Ruby and Cole, Liam’s brother, but I was worried that a love triangle would form… something I didn’t want to occur. At this moment, I kind of have mixed feelings about a love triangle (if it had been something that happened in the book), because I really liked Cole. I also loved that Ruby had stuck up for Cole when Liam and Alice had kind of formed an “army” against Cole and Ruby. I feel like Cole was being a jerk to protect himself, and the others, and he really was making progress. I hated to see everyone immediately turn to Liam for assistance, but I still love Liam. Liam is life, guys.

When Ruby found the note Liam wrote to himself… UGH, it broke my fangirl heart. I also noticed that Ruby always needed to be in control, but not necessarily in a bad way. If she wasn’t, she’d drive herself crazy wondering if her friends were alright. The Ruby/Liam fight was too much to bear. That was heartbreaking. So upsetting, and I was really beginning to wonder if that was the end of Riam D: Luckily, though, they made up and EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT, GUYS.

I feel like Ruby is a really strong character, but she was easily overwhelmed, and when things got to be too much for her, she’d shut down, and it seemed like she was very… claustrophobic.

Let’s talk about that whole Clancy/Ruby thing. Okay, so apparently he was SNEAKING INTO HER MIND WHILE SHE SLEPT AND… god, I can’t even. I cannot even. He snuck into her mind while she slept and made her send those tips to the camp that Cole and Liam were invading and… good lord. Oh my god… We’ll talk about that later.

I’m so happy about the reunions Ruby had with her friends from Thurmond and her family. Kinda something lacking in other recent releases *cough, cough* The reunion with Ruby and her grandmother was so amazing, but I was kind of “eh” on the reunion with her parents. I mean, I know they couldn’t remember her, but still… eh.

I was slightly confused about what went down at the end between Ruby and Clancy, but I guess she took all of his memories and left him with one to give him a fresh start… that was very good of her. I’m surprised. I know, of course, that Ruby is a good person, but after everything that went down toward the end, I was surprised that Ruby gave him mercy.

(I also wanted to point out that I thought it was so adorable that both Stewart brothers had nicknames for Ruby. Liam called her “darlin’.” Cole called her “Gem.”)

Liam: First things first… Liam is my book boyfriend for life. HE IS SUCH A SWEETIE, LIKE, WHAT. I WANT A LIAM. In the beginning I melted every time he was in a scene and gahh, fangirl feels. He was really loyal, even when Ruby did something wrong, but there were quite a few times when he and Ruby were at odds, and Liam soon took matters into his own hands. I guess his plans proved to be successful, but still. He was quite careless at times, which made me groan. Like, why, Liam? Why?

Like when Liam contacted Amplify? That’s when I got scared about the love triangle thing, because Ruby was just as pissed about that as Cole was.

Learning about Liam’s family history was really upsetting. And the memory Ruby saw of how Liam had gotten the scar on his lip… ack. Ugh. Feels. Cole had actually told Liam that he’d gotten it when he pushed Liam off his bed, but Ruby knew the truth.

Cole lying to Liam about how he obtained the scar is just another clue that made me feel like he was really trying to protect his brother and that he loved him. I wish that they’d talked more. If there’s one thing I wish was included in this book, it’s that I wanted Cole and Liam to have a heart-to-heart and try to understand each other.

Liam was getting frustrated with Ruby when he figured out that she was keeping secrets… and Ruby was very surprised when she found out that he too was keeping secrets. Sometimes I feel like Ruby kind of took him for granted, but I know she loves him.

Vida: Vida was awesome. Just plain awesome. I loved her sense of humor, and she lightened the mood at times. I totally shipped Chida, and it was SO ADORABLE when she got Chubs his new glasses 😀

I was really sad when Vida thought Ruby never cared about her and Jude, but I’m glad they talked it out, and Vida just kind of broke down, but Ruby protected her and shielded Vida from anyone seeing. I love how Vida and Ruby’s friendship grew, because in the beginning, they weren’t friends at all.

I also loved Vida and Zu’s relationship. After they got over their rocky beginnings, Vida was so supportive of Zu. And I loved that scene with Vida and Zu and she was dying her hair and put a streak of color in Zu’s hair ^-^

I’d really wanted to see Vida and Chubs’ first kiss, so it was a bit disappointing when we didn’t. But I’m still really happy that they got together in the end. They’re so different, but like I said, the contrast between these characters just works perfectly.

Chubs: I loved Chubs. I actually wasn’t scared that he was going to die, but now that I think of it, I TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE BEEN SCARED. He made every scene perfection.

When Chubsie got into all the politics and stuff… That was awesome. I’m glad that he protested when they were told that people who didn’t agree to have the cure had to live in special communities.

Zu: I’m so incredibly happy that Zu came back into the series. I was really worried about her, and her reunion with the gang was pure awesomeness. WHEN SHE SPOKE, THOUGH. WHAAAT? Dude, I was flipping out! Ruby and Liam and Chubs were flipping out. And Vida was being all supportive and Chubsie cried and it was so sweet 😀

Jude: Although Jude died in Never Fade, he was mentioned quite a lot, which I was so happy about. I’m glad he wasn’t just shoved to the side after his death. People were so torn up about him. Jude was… Jude. He was such a good person and, why do the good people always have bad things happen to them?! I’m happy they held onto his memory. (I’m getting all emotional here… just wait till you read the next paragraph!)

Nico: I really liked Nico, and I was glad that he and Ruby were friends in the end.  I have to admit, though… this Nico was very similar to the PJO Nico.  It actually didn’t bother me, though.  I’m also incredibly happy that he didn’t die, and I’m glad that he proved himself.

Cole: Something about Cole made me suspicious in the beginning, like he had ulterior motives or something. But in the end… no. No, it was nothing like that.

Cole really grew on me in this book. I really loved his character, and I loved how he and Ruby just clicked so easily. They understood each other. They knew what it was like to be the dangerous ones. She was an Orange. But Cole was a Red. And the reds got a lot of heat (no pun intended).

I was really scared when Cole was starting to bring Clancy his meals personally, and I was like, “Oh my god, he’s totally going to take over Cole’s mind and make him do something to Ruby or Liam.” But in the end, the only friggin mind Clancy entered was the ONE PERSON WE ALL THOUGHT COULD WARD HIM OFF.

Yeah. Ruby. Granted, it wasn’t her fault, since she couldn’t sense him while asleep, but while Cole brought Clancy his food, they were getting all buddy buddy and strategizing… and Clancy sneakily put the idea in Cole’s mind that there were more Reds like him.

And when Cole has his mind set on something, you know he won’t turn back. God, stupid Clancy. Stupid, stupid everyone, for trusting Cole. In the end he did no good! He wasn’t at all helpful!

Basically, with that idea in Cole’s head… Clancy pretty much sent Cole to his death without lifting a finger. All he had to do was get Ruby to send those god-awful messages to warn the camp to be on the lookout.

Cole and Liam weren’t supposed to go inside… but they did because of stupid Clancy. And when they went inside…

…Cole died. Liam survived. And they were at each other’s throats for the entire time. That’s what kills me. That made his death even more upsetting. I honestly couldn’t sleep for hours after reading that (true fangirl, here XD). He died fighting. I’m glad that Ruby held onto him at the end, that she insisted on walking out of Thurmond.

After Cole, though, I wasn’t sure if a romantic relationship between him and Ruby was being implied. I’m a bit curious. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it, though.

Cole’s death was a hard blow, and Bracken definitely hasn’t played it safe with playing with these characters’ lives in these books. Part of me is happy that she’s so daring and risky, but the other part is like, “…that’s okay… I mean, it’s not like I needed my heart or anything…”

The Final Battle: I was really happy with how the “final battle” happened, even though it felt like we didn’t exactly witness much of it. The buildup was great, and I loved how all of the freed children were reunited with their parents. I liked how the army stepped down. Everything was brilliant.

General Thoughts: Alexandra Bracken has a way with words. The way she describes things is so perfect. I’d give an example (I think I have in a previous review), but unfortunately I didn’t write down any. I felt like I was standing right there, though.

One complaint, and this is a pretty minor one: I seemed to have trouble understanding a few descriptions of what was happening. The way Bracken words the occurrences was magnificent, but sometimes I felt a bit lost, and I think this happened occasionally throughout the series. It’s all good, though.

Of course, the book was very actiony and heart wrenching, and it pretty much killed me.

The End: I felt so happy that the books started with Ruby at Thurmond, and they ended with Ruby at Thurmond. I liked that she saw Jude’s version of their future. Hit me in the feels. The end of this book was extremely satisfying. I just wish Cole had been there to see the progress their country was making, but I’m glad he was part of the battle.


Recap: I said in a previous book review that the last book in a series will always be hit or miss. And this was definitely hit. It punched me in the feels so many times, and I don’t know when I’ll recover. Alexandra Bracken is so talented, and she made this series such a satisfying experience. I loved these books so much, and I need to buy a copy of Never Fade pronto. I’m so sad to see this series end, and I was a bit late on the bandwagon (as usual), but it was so worth it.

This book is 5/5 stars, just like its predecessors, and this series as a whole deserves a 5/5 stars. These were such amazing books. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t read them before I did.

Thank you, Alexandra Bracken, for this emotional, thrilling, amazing journey you’ve sent us on. Thank you for sharing your characters and stories with us. I’m so excited to see what else you have planned, and until then, I’m going to have to read the novellas!

“The Darkest Minds Never Fade In The Afterlight.”

“I have fought
And with flesh and blood, I commanded an army
Through it all
I have given my heart for a moment of glory.”
-Black Veil Brides, “In The End”

“Hey, little train, wait for me!
I was held in chains, but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination.”
-Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, “O Children”

“They’d never fade, not even in the afterlight of all of this.” -p. 199

 “I hope that when you have the chance to crack your world open wide with new possibilities, to meet new people, and to take a turn down an unexpected, new road, you do just one thing: carpe the hell out of that diem.” -Alexandra Bracken, In The Afterlight, Acknowledgements

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