(Mostly spoiler free for those who haven’t read book 1. Click for review of THE DARKEST MINDS.)
PVJ Quickie: With THE DARKEST MINDS skating in as one possibly my favorite dystopian novel, it’s kind of expected that NEVER FADE couldn’t quick hit that high standard as a sequel. Still, this series is far from disappointing. Despite the disjointed start (for me), by the end I was in complete awe of how gritty this universe continues to be. Boy, things do escalate quickly sometimes.
Review: Considering that THE DARKEST MINDS is one of my favorite reads (even after a re-read), I had sky-high expectations for NEVER FADE. I think that my problem with the sequel is that Ruby was so detached mentally at the start of this novel that I had a difficult time connecting with the new characters or setting. There’s a distinct lack of chemistry.
I think that Alexandra Braken is too accurate with writing Ruby’s POV. It’s not until the characters from the first book are reintroduced that I felt the both world coming alive and Ruby, herself. Ruby’s narration is mechanical/numb (I think this is on purpose). She hates what she’s become, yet she continues to do it for the sake of the one she loves. The beginning of this book is more X-men than dystopian.
My favorite character from the first book makes a reappearance later in the book. He’s a complete POS, but steals the show in every scene he is in. I really love learning about his history and motivation for the things he does. I won’t name him, since I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read either book.
Some of what made the first book a page turner was the shock value in what horrible things the people do to kids like Ruby. In this book, Ruby becomes an active participant. In fact, many of the characters lose their innocence doing some terribly gritty things with their powers. It was difficult for me to adjust my view of that little girl from the final chapters of the last book to what happens in the early chapters of NEVER FADE, despite my appreciation for the face-pace thrill that NEVER FADE starts with.
Ruby’s decisions are more offensive than defensive, a complete opposite from the last book. Some of the things she does don’t make much sense while they’re happening, as she continues to be an unreliable narrator in NEVER FADE. It’s not until she reflects on the events or explains them to another character that the pieces snap together for the reader. It’s frustrating at first, but as the novel progressed, I got used to it.
Overall, I don’t think that Ruby has the charismatic POV to make a seamless transition between the dystopian and superhero sub-fantasy genres. When the focus shifts away from Ruby and the story becomes more about “the cure” and the war then this book excels. This book ends on a very high note and I do recommend that all dystopian fans check out this series.