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The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials - James Dashner The current trend of dystopian YA fiction is a little problematic to me. I've enjoyed much of what I've read from the genre (which really just includes The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, unless you count me having seen the movie version of Divergent), but the stories need to have a convincing reason behind putting kids in danger like they do. The Hunger Games managed to do it well, and Divergent kinda-sorta did (the idea of the peril being part of training made a certain sort of sense), but with The Maze Runner, I'm not convinced that the justification is there. The author certainly gives us one, but it wasn't enough for me.

To be fair, I still don't know the whole story behind what's driving WICKED. The Scorch Trials doesn't give us all the answers, so by the time I finish The Death Cure, maybe it will all come together for me. Right now, though, two books into the series, it's not enough, and I feel like I shouldn't have this many questions this far along.

On that note, though, The Scorch Trials was frustrating because we were led to believe that we were going to get the answers. The segue from the end of The Maze Runner to the start of The Scorch Trials was a bit of a cheat, since it effectively did away with the rescue at the end of the first book, but we were promised answers in return for that cheat. I have to give Dashner credit for creating that feeling of frustration in his readers that his characters were feeling, but it felt too manipulative to say, "Oh, we're sending you out on another life-threatening journey because we need more patterns," without really explaining the why of it all.

Also, the storytelling has a knack for being as subtle as a brick to the head. Early in the story, we're introduced to the Cranks -- half-dead survivors of some apocalypse that resemble zombies -- and we know they're Cranks because one of them sticks his face up to a window and yells "I'm a Crank! I'm a bloody Crank!" Keep in mind that no one asks him what he is, nor does anyone seem all that inclined to be up close and personal with him. He just steps up and shouts it to the world. That's what passes for exposition at the start of the story.

The story was compelling, even if it wasn't that deep, but I also grew frustrated with the back-and-forth nature of the relationship between Thomas and Teresa. It wasn't even the relationship that was frustrating, but the way that Thomas couldn't seem to make up his mind about how he felt about her. First he was in love with her, then he felt betrayed, and then he told himself he was done with her, but then he couldn't resist her, etc., etc., etc. Thomas can't seem to make a decision and stick with it, and he's supposed to be the leader of the group he's leading through the wastelands. Is it supposed to be some thematic element about the fickleness of teenage relationships? And is it fair to compare Dashner with Suzanne Collins, who did a much better job at portraying relationships than he does?

I went into The Maze Runner not knowing much about it, and enjoyed myself despite some issues with the book. With The Scorch Trials, I was expecting the same experience, but the issues become more apparent, making the story a little less interesting. It's still a compelling read, and it's a book I would recommend to anyone who liked the first book, but understand that it's still going to be a bit frustrating. At the very least, it will get readers of the series a bit closer to finding out what purpose was behind all the deaths, injuries, and psychological scarring.