Then Ruby is sent to a "rehabilitation camp," which reeks of all the ugliest parts of human history. Ruby spends her adolescence in constant fear and misery. She has a power she doesn't understand and doesn't want, one which has stolen all the most important parts of her life. She's learned to hide it, more through instinct than through knowledge, but eventually, it comes out. And Ruby escapes, but her problems are far from over. It seems everyone she encounters either wants to use her or kill her, until she chances upon a group of renegade kids who are also on the run.
The kids she encounters -- Chubs, Liam, and Zu -- are all amazing characters. They're different and well-developed, and I loved the different ways they approach their relationship with Ruby. Zu, in particular, impressed me, because Alex Bracken managed to make her this amazingly sympathetic and beautiful character, without a word of dialogue. Then there's Chubs, who's suspicious and harsh, because of his fierce loyalty to his friends. And Liam, who is trusting and gentle and wants nothing more than for his friends to be safe. My heart broke for Liam again and again, because while he was trying so hard to lead their little ragtag group, there were moments where I remembered, he's just a kid. He's not cut out for this, but he's trying his best.
Ruby herself is both strong and fragile, broken but determined. She wants to believe the best of others but the worst of herself, and sometimes makes poor decisions because of this. I like that she was a very flawed and damaged character, and that one of her main struggles wasn't external, but internal. Watching Ruby learn to -- maybe not embrace, but accept her powers was wonderful. I did have one small complaint with Ruby, and that is for a kid who went to the camps at ten and lost all contact with the outside world, she seems to know quite a bit about pop culture and classic rock. I mean, she can recognize the synthesizers and vocalist of Pink Floyd, even though she doesn't know the song? Maybe I'm out of touch with the ten-year-olds of today, but that seemed like a bit of a stretch for me. However, that's a tiny complaint. Just something that took me out of the story now and then.
As for the pacing, this book is kind of a slow burn. There's a lot of tension, but not a lot of action for long stretches of time. I personally was a big fan of this, as I thought it added to the story's atmosphere, but if you're looking for a book brimming with action and adventure and superpower battles, this isn't it. Those things are certainly present, but they're not the main drive or focus of the story. But I was never bored. The dialogue is fabulous, and as I said before, the characters are wonderful.
I don't want to say much more about it, because there are some fabulous plot developments that, while I saw some of them coming, were just so perfect for the story and Ruby's growth as a character. And the ending is heartbreaking, but perfect, and left me itching for the sequel.
Overall, I thought this was an excellent book with strong characters, a fascinating and terrifying world, and a tense plot that kept me rapidly turning pages until the end. If you haven't checked it out yet, you should.