The first part of this post will be a detailed summary of the entire novel so that when the third book is published readers will be able to refer back to this post and pick up the story where it left off. A short review will follow. Those who do not wish to read the detailed synopsis can skip down to the end of the spoiler section.
The second installment in the Darkest Minds trilogy picks up where the first novel left off. Ruby has been taken by Cate Conner to the headquarters of the outlaw Children's League headed by John Alban. Alban was part of President Gray's cabinet as an adviser. His own daughter, Alyssa, had died from IAAN. When Alban saw what Gray was doing with the country he left the government and went underground. The first group of children who were found to have special abilities were rounded up and placed in camps because IAAN was thought to be infectious. However as more and more children died, those who survived were tracked down and sent to the camps where their parents were promised they would be cared for and treated. Instead, research and testing was done by Leda Corporation. Gray ordered mandatory conscription for everyone under the age of forty, some serving as security at the camps.
The League was founded to expose the truth about the children's camps - that many children were being murdered and that they were being used in research by Leda. The League also is determined to disband the camps. A secretive organization, the League takes no walk-ins. Everyone is vetted and you must be asked to join. Headquarters is buried two stories beneath a working plastic bottle factory in Los Angeles. The League has more than 300 agents, some are ex-military, some are civilians. There are six special Ops teams consisting of four kids, headed by an agent or "Minder". Cate tells Ruby that she will be team leader to the only group with kids of mixed colors; Vida who is Blue, Jude who is Yellow and Nico who is Green.
Never Fade opens with Ruby, Vida, Nico and Jude on a special Op led by "Minder" Rob Meadows to free a top League agent being held in a bunker. These bunkers were built by President Gray after what he claimed was the destruction of Washington, DC by a group of warped PSI kids. The special Op almost goes bad when a concussion grenade goes off near Vida and Ruby. They are not hurt and in a twist that angers Rob, they manage to rescue Prisoner 27" who turns out to be Cole Stewart, Liam's brother.
Alban wants to see Ruby's ability to read minds and has her go into the mind of a captured woman. Later on Alban also asks her to read the memories of Cole Stewart, who is a deep-cover agent for the League and who looks very much like his brother, Liam. When Ruby enters Cole's memories, she makes a disturbing discovery about Liam. She learns that Cole had a brief encounter with Liam. Cole was embedded in Leda Corp. and was able to steal the results of the research on the PSI children, placing the information on a USB drive. He sewed the drive into his jacket which Liam grabbed by mistake. However, in order to protect Liam from the League, Ruby does not pass this information on to Alban. Instead, she makes up a fictitious informant. Later, in a secret meeting between the two, Cole tells Ruby that he wants her to find Liam and the drive so they can show Alban the research and refocus the Children's League back to its original mandate of exposing the children's camps for what they truly are.
Jude and Ruby are sent to Boston as part of a special Op along with Rob Meadows and Beta Team to retrieve a professor who runs a lab at Harvard and disable his lab. But their real mission to to abandon the special Op and strike out on their own to locate Liam Stewart and more importantly find his jacket and the flash drive that contains the results of Leda Corp's research on the PSI children.
Ruby does not like or trust Rob whom she knows has killed children he was sent to rescue from the camps. Ruby has learned from Cole that Rob wants to use the Green kids as suicide bombers to unleash a terror attack on the children's camps to make Gray give up the conscription. Ruby has no plans to finish this special Op though. Instead, she and Jude escape during the Op so that they can make their way to Liam and Cole's family home in North Carolina where they suspect Liam would have returned. Using Ruby's ability to mind control, they force a woman to drive them to a train station and purchase tickets to Fayette, North Carolina. Beta Team tracks them along with Vida who manages to corner Ruby. Jude and Ruby escape and are driven to Wilmington by a sympathetic bus driver who lost his grandson to the camps.
When they arrive at Liam's home they are shocked to run into Chubs, who is now disguised as a skip-tracer and Vida who has followed them to Wilmington. They learn that Vida was sent by Cole to help Ruby find Liam and the missing flash drive and that Beta Team has been recalled. The four travel in Chubs' Ford Explorer to a camp ground near Ashville, North Carolina.
During the night Ruby, who doesn't trust Vida, discovers that she has a Chatter device and is in contact with Cate. Vida tells Ruby and Chubs that Cate and Cole chose Ruby to try to locate the missing flash drive. They are aware of Rob and Jarvin's intent to use the Children's League for an attack on the camps. Cate has been guiding Vida but cannot provide the locations for sightings of Liam who has a $200,000 bounty for his capture. However Chubs can with his tablet and connection to the skip-tracer network.
From Chubs tablet they learn that Liam was recently sighted outside Nashville, near a hostile Blue tribe. In Chubs truck, Chubs, Vida, Ruby and Jude travel to Nashville, a city that has been closed for some time. Outside of Nashville, the four are captured by the Blue tribe run by a cruel boy named Knox. Knox is posing as Slip Kid, claiming his camp is the fabled East River. However, Chubs, Vida and Ruby know that this is not the case. Conditions in the camp are brutal with many of the kids suffering from exposure and hunger. Knox has an iron grip, ruling by terror. Most of the kids at the camp did not join voluntarily and cannot escape.
At Knox's camp they meet Olivia from the real Slip Kid's East River camp. Olivia has been badly scarred and they notice that many of the other kids also have burn scars. From Olivia they learn that Knox has been trading PSI kids for supplies and food. Olivia tells her that many kids who are sick are being kept in the White Tent. When Ruby goes to the White Tent she makes the shocking discovery of an emaciated, very ill Liam.
In an attempt to get Liam help, Ruby tries to bargain with Knox. This mostly fails and he forces Vida and Ruby to fight a Red named Twitch, who had been captured in Nashville. This fight is brutal and in a desperate attempt to save Vida's life, Ruby makes the discovery that she does not have to be in physical contact with a person to get into their mind. Reading Red's mind allows her to see him as he once was, a young boy, named Mason, who had a mother and loved to ride his bike. When Knox realizes what she is doing he kills Red. But Ruby also manages to attack Knox's mind and makes him walk out of the camp, his memory wiped. This action frees the kids in the Blue camp, although Knox's second, Michael is infuriated. Before they leave the the Blue tribe, Jude is able to locate Liam's jacket and the missing flash drive.
After defeating Knox, Ruby organizes a raid on a nearby warehouse to obtain supplies, especially medicine and food. However, they are attacked by Michael who turns Ruby over to a skip-tracer and ultimately to Rob Meadows who is intent upon bringing her back to the camp in West Virginia. Muzzled and restrained Ruby again uses her ability to get into Rob's head, causing him to crash his vehicle. She is rescued by Vida and Chubs, although she has been badly wounded.
They get the medicine back to the Blue tribe and Liam gradually recuperates. But as he heals, he becomes increasingly confused about who Ruby is and why he has such strong feelings for her. It is gradually revealed that Ruby's wiping of his memory was not what she thought.
Ruby tells Liam that she is part of the Children's League which angers him. The group now begins to head back to Los Angeles. On the way Liam and Ruby find time alone to discuss the confusion Liam feels over her. Liam tells her that he knows something about her and tells Ruby that he loves her. "I love you every second of every day, and I don't understand why, or how to make it stop --" Liam begins to realize what Ruby did to him that day in the safe house and he's angry because she did not give him a choice. She tries to explain that she did not want to see him suffer and to lose himself.
Meanwhile, Vida has been trying to get a message through to Cate and eventually she does. Strangely, she is told that they are to meet Cate in Pueblo, Colorado. Ruby and Vida are worried but decide that something must have happened to make it unsafe to enter California.
When they arrive in Pueblo, it is not Cate waiting for them, but Clancy Gray. Clancy has underestimated Ruby's abilities and he can no longer control her mind. He is overpowered by Ruby and they ask him what is going on. Clancy tells them that he has been answering as Cate with the help of Nico and that the rogue agents in the League are going ahead with using the Green kids to make a terror strike. Clancy also reveals that Alban was murdered two days ago and that several rogue agents have now taken control of the Children's League. The plan is to move the Green kids out of Los Angeles by 6 am Christmas morning - tomorrow.
The group uses the charter jet that Clancy took to Colorado, to fly back to Los Angeles to try to stop the agents going through with their attack. The sneak into the League headquarters through a tunnel and find twenty children hidden and waiting in one of the sleeping rooms. Nico tells them that they were not supposed to come until tomorrow.
Quizzing Nico, Ruby learns that Clancy was after information about an agent called Professor who was doing research at the Georgia base. Ruby begins to realize that Clancy used her to get him into the League headquarters. She tracks Clancy down to Alban's office where she finds him destroying a file. Clancy tries to flee and Ruby tries to take him down, but before she can she is incapacitated by Jarvin, who realizes that something is now going down.
Ruby is saved by Cole who reveals himself as a Red. He places her back in Alban's office to recover and it is there that she reads the files and pieces together Clancy's involvement and purpose. Clancy's mother, Lillian Gray was a Harvard educated neurologist. When she realized her son's ability to manipulate people's minds, she fled to the Children's League base in Georgia to work on a cure. She wanted to fix her son first, as proof of a cure. But she knew he would never give up his powers.
When the fighting is over, Ruby meets up with Cate and Cole. Cole wants to leave and reorganize the League near Sacramento. However, when a PSI kid attempts to kill President Gray at the Unity Summit talks between the Government and the Federal Coalition based in California, new events are unleashed - the bombing of Los Angeles by the American Government. The Children's League headquarters is destroyed and Ruby, Cole, Vida, and Liam along with others barely make it out alive. Eventually Clancy Gray also emerges from the rubble and reveals that his mother found a cure for the IAAN. Alban knew of the cure but was waiting to present it to Gray. Clancy found his mother and erased her memory of the research and then he was able to get into Alban's office and destroy the only other evidence of the cure - the files in the office. Or did he?
**end of novel summary**
Never Fade is much darker and more brutal than the first novel in the series, with many violent bloody scenes of mayhem and destruction. Bracken weaves a complicated storyline effectively, creating tension between characters, adding witty dialogue, maintaining suspense with endless plot twists and reviving an old romance. Told from Ruby's perspective, we see that she spends some time in this novel coming to terms with her developing PSI abilities and how they are to be used.
There are plenty of villains to hate in Never Fade, among them the murderous agent Rob Meadows, the cruel Wes Truman known as Knox, and of course, the silky smooth Clancy Gray who will do anything to protect the ability that allows him to control those around him.
Despite all the heart-pounding action in this novel, some of the best and most enjoyable part of the novel are the dialogue sequences between Vida and many of the other characters, especially between her, Chubs and Ruby. All three characters grow substantially in this novel; Chubs has matured and found his place in this brave new world, Ruby is beginning to develop her abilities more fully but is still trying to come to terms with the consequences of that development, and Vida is beginning to be a team player. Bracken makes her characters realistic, each with their own unique dialogue (Vida is a perfect example with her sarcasm and f-bombs), behaviours and issues.
Bracken introduces a new character, Jude, a fourteen year old Yellow whose naivety concerns Ruby so much that she decides to take him out of the League for fear that he will be murdered by Rob Meadows. What follows is a older sister-younger brother type of relationship between the two that is endearing and much different from all the other relationships in the novel. He affectionately refers to her as "Roo" and is constantly seeking her reassurance and affirmation. Ruby gradually becomes a mentor and is very protective towards him.
The novel's title is a reference to the memories Ruby tried to remove from Liam's mind. Those memories of what he felt for Ruby never fade. At 507 pages, this novel is a hefty read but most won't mind because Bracken keeps her readers fully engaged. Never Fade is a thrilling, gripping, very strong second installment in what has proven to be a surprisingly good dystopian series.
Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken
New York: Disney Hyperion 2013