The Scorch Trials – James Dashner

scorch trialsReading level: 5
Series: The Maze Runner Book 2
Genre: Dystopian
ELL-Friendly: Yes (mostly)
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.

The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

I wasn’t too terribly impressed by the first book of the series: The Maze Runner. The premise is very interesting, but I remember it being sort of slow. It has all the makings of being a suspenseful novel, but I feel like the excitement was squashed by dragging the story out too much (which is precisely what happened in The Scorch Trials). However, I then read the prequil, The Kill Order (which I thought was pretty lousy), and am on to reading the third book of the series after having finished The Scorch Trials. What keeps me going? I want answers. Plain and simple. I want to know what the heck is up with WICKED, how these “trials” will do anything to help the human race, and what the plan was all along.

After reading through some goodreads comments, I am better able to pinpoint something I really didn’t like about the first two books – Thomas. He’s just a blah character. Sorry, buddy, but I just don’t care about you. 😦

I have no idea what point Brenda’s character had. The whole romantic thing she had with Thomas seemed not only creepy and out of nowhere but just unnecessary to the plot line. I think Dashner was trying to create a love triangle, maybe? Anyway, it didn’t work. Too bad his female characters (all two of them) are either betrayers or crazy lovers.

There are creatively-used vocabulary (crank, shuck), which may be difficult for ELLs, but if they’ve gotten through The Maze Runner, then this book will be easier.

While I do recommend this book primarily for middle school, it’s also okay for high school, except the reading level is fairly low. I also think this series has the potential to really grip young readers, especially boys. Not being a middle school boy myself, I’m unable to confirm this statement.

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