Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.
When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.
When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living. Quoted from Goodreads
Honestly, I loved the writing and world building in this. The writer doesn't assume the audience is stupid, and she reveals the story bit by bit. Yes, there is a smidge of info dumping, but it's pretty much all show, not tell. Even though we see the whole story from Ruby's POV, we don't even find out what happened to her parents until halfway through the book. Plus, there's a tangibility to the writing that makes the world easy to picture in all it's harsh detail.
Ruby basically starts in a concentration camp, and the guards are horrible. I realize this isn't a new thing, but it's hard to believe so many evil people could exist who hate kids that much. Later you realize why they are so afraid of the kids, what some of the kids have done back that makes them so unfeeling and cruel, so it isn't just mindless, sadistic, power mongering designed to make you feel sorry for the main character. It does, of course, but there's a reason given, so instead of being cardboard-cutout jerks, they become human--mostly.
Ruby, herself, is timid but loyal and empathetic, which is basically the only thing that has kept her alive. The characters are similarly well thought out. They are all flawed and very distinct, but never over the top. You never wonder if it was Liam or Chubb talking to Ruby. I love little Zu, who doesn't say a word, yet has her own brand of unique in what she wants and how she interacts. Even the car, Black Betty, had personality. Then there's Ruby's relationship with Liam. It's kind of slow at first and doesn't really make an appearance until the second half of the book, letting it evolve naturally and keeping the whole scenario grounded in reality.
The book starts off with a bang and the hits (secrets, car chases, child snatchers, villains, powers, etc.) just keep coming till it's over. The ending killed me. It is everything I love in an ending of the first book. I love nobility and sacrifice, and the last five pages had that in spades. It was perfectly set up so Ruby had to face what she feared most in the book, which broke me heart a little but left me feeling proud of her at the same time. I also really liked the references to Watership Down. I realize it's a book about rabbits, but I loved it as a kid and thought it was used beautifully here.
So if this book is that amazing, why only 4 stars? First, the lack of hope and direction. While I think everything they went through was action packed and realistic, I, as a reader, don't have a clue how this world will ever get any better. Granted, that's what the second and third book are for, so I'm content to wait and see what happens. Second, I don't see why all the Greens were locked up. They are smarter than normal, so what? I get how the oranges, reds, yellows, and even blues could terrify adults, but just having an extra smart kid? After all the deaths and the fear of the population dying out, I would think they'd be thrilled to have some survivors who are really smart.
Anyway, besides those two little problems, this book is 4 stars excellent. If you want a bleak dystoia, full of challenges and trials but mixed with great relationships, wonderful characters, and lots of action, this is it. Now I can't wait for the next book to find out what Alexandra Bracken does with poor Ruby.