Through the Dark - Alexandra Bracken

For the dreamers, believers, fighters, and readers who have been part of this journey from the beginning, with all my love

I HAD JUST FINISHED A first draft of Never Fade, book two in the Darkest Minds series, and was settling in for a bit of a writing break when my editor, Emily, e-mailed to ask if I’d have any interest in working on a novella for the series. Truthfully, I was a little daunted by the idea of stepping outside of Ruby’s point of view; after all, so much of my understanding of her world was tied up in her and how she saw it. But I quickly realized that this was an incredible opportunity for me to really explore what was happening in this world, and to do so outside of the filter of her fears and limited knowledge. Even better, I finally had a way to show readers what was happening in the United States outside of the main story line, and give insight into the struggles others—not just the kids—were facing. And so, the idea for In Time, the story of a young man fighting to start off as a skip tracer, was born. This was followed a year later by Sparks Rise, meant to give readers a glimpse of what life at Thurmond was like after Ruby escaped, and now, exclusive to this bind-up, Beyond the Night, the story of the chaos and confusion in the weeks after the original trilogy ends.

For best reading, I recommend this order: The Darkest Minds, In Time, Never Fade, Sparks Rise, In the Afterlight, Beyond the Night. Or you could simply read all of the novellas after you’ve finished the novels—these side stories have never been required reading to understand what’s happening in the novels, but they do weave themselves into the main story lines in unexpected, and, I hope, exciting ways.

After years of being asked by readers for a bind-up of the novellas, I’m so pleased that Through the Dark is finally here. To me, the title perfectly encapsulates the message of these novellas, and I think the series overall: that no matter how terrifying or dangerous the world may seem, there is still a place for hope in it, and the way through it is by protecting and loving one another.

SOMETIMES, EVEN WHEN THE ROADS are quiet and the others are asleep, she lets herself worry she made the wrong choice.

It’s not that she doesn’t like the group—she does. Really. They stick together and they play it smart, driving on side streets as much as they can instead of the highways, with the open, endless fear those offer. They’re never mean unless they’ve gone without food or sleep or both for too long, or when they’re scared. When they camp for the night, they sleep in a great big circle, and the girls like telling stories about the kids they knew in Virginia, at East River. They all laugh, but she has trouble putting the faces to the names. She can’t remember where the lake was in relation to the fire pit, and she wasn’t there that one time they all put on a play for one another. She wasn’t there because she was with her friends. She was in a different car, a better one, a happier one. Because when the girls stop telling these stories, the same ones over and over again, there’s only silence. And she misses the warmth of her friends’ voices, even if they were just whispering, lying and saying it would all be okay.

Maybe it’s bad—she doesn’t know—but secretly she’s glad no one expects her to tell stories of her own. That way she gets to keep them to herself, tucked tight against her heart. She presses her hand there when she’s scared, when she wants to pretend it’s them teasing and laughing and shouting around her, and not the others. When she wants to feel safe.

She keeps her hand there all the time. Now.

The mountains around her are flying by and the girls are screaming that they need to go faster, faster, faster. She sees the car through the back windshield of the SUV. The man hanging out the passenger-side window looks like he is aiming the gun directly at her. The driver has a face like he’d be willing to drive through a firestorm to get to them, and she hates him for it.

She wants her voice to join with the others’ screaming and crying. The words are lodged in her