The Scorch Trials by James Dashner is the second book in the Maze Runner series. I read The Maze Runner (first book) several years ago, so I wasn’t sure how much would come back to me when I began this second book. I’m still missing some pieces, but the broad strokes of the story line came back. I remember being engaged in the first book, but also being disgusted by all the bad things that continued to happen. These boys (main characters were a group a boys) just couldn’t catch a break. At the end of the first book there was a sneak peek of Scorch Trials and I remember reading it and being so upset that I refused to read the next one right away. It reminded me of a zombie movie. They escape onto a boat and make it to a secluded island only to discover…more zombies! It never ends!
However, it was an exciting read, and has an intriguing, if involved, premise. I hate to write spoilers, especially for this book since the movie version of The Maze Runner is slated to be released this September. So, I will speak in general terms about this book and the series. This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction series. The world was drastically changed by some pretty massive solar flares. Our climate was completely turned upside down and most of the world’s population is wiped out. Those who survived fled to the northern hemisphere, think Canada, since the effects of the flares were not as bad there. The climate is wonky and some kind of illness has infected many people. It is degenerative and ends up making people go insane. As a result the remaining governments have consolidated resources and created an entity called WICKED (yes, really, I know) to combat this illness and find a cure. It is highly contagious and is decimating what is left of the human population. Everything that our main characters, Thomas and the Gladers, go through and endure is because of WICKED and their search for a cure. However, it is all very vague, and there are mysteries, betrayals, and weird monsters everywhere. Some answers are given at the end of The Maze Runner, and more is revealed about WICKED and the purpose to all this desolation during the scorch trials.
For myself, this is merely an entertaining read. It isn’t mind-blowing or wholly engaging. I do see how it would be totally engaging for adolescent readers though. I bet if I was still teaching eighth grade, my students would be flying through these books, especially the boys. It does seemed geared more towards a male adolescent audience, however there is one primary female character in the first book and the second one introduces a few more. I would have loved this as a junior high student, so I am sure there are some other girls who would be into it. It has everything they look for. Young people who are fighting against circumstances beyond their control to survive. Adults keep pitting them against deadly mazes and strange monsters for unknown reasons, probably just for fun. Let’s be honest, what junior high student can’t connect with that?
The reading level for this is 5th grade up, however the content may not be great for 5th and 6th grade. I see it more as a junior high early high school book. Feel free to disagree though. There will no doubt be a few 5th/6th graders who could handle the content. There’s a bit of violence and there is death.
There are two more books after this one, and I will probably try and read all of them now that I’ve started. Since I do think it is one that will appeal to junior high, I want to make sure and read them all because I’m a teacher. That’s my job. All in all, a great book for young teenagers. As an adult, you may want to read it if your kids are into it, or you are giving it as a gift. It could create some great discussion with your adolescent. However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to an adult to read just for fun. It’s just not one of those. Check out The Hunger Games for that.