The Death Cure – James Dashner

the death cureReading level: 5
Series: The Maze Runner Book 3
Genre: Dystopian
ELL-Friendly: Yes (mostly)
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

Thomas knows that Wicked can’t be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they’ve collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It’s up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn’t know is that something’s happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can’t believe a word of what Wicked says.

Well this series was basically a bust for me. The Maze Runner was pretty good, but it all went downhill from there. I’m not even sure why I’m making a blog post because I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been mentioned in any of the other posts regarding the series.

I will, however, complain a little bit. I said in my post about The Scorch Trials that the only reason I read the final book in the trilogy was because I wanted answers. Those answers didn’t come. For example, I still know very little about WICKED, Thomas’ past, and how the rest of the humans were coping with the state of the world. Bah.

At the end, the chancellor of WICKED says “WICKED is good.” And obviously it ISN’T if it’s basically torturing people WHEN THERE WAS A FAIL-SAFE ALTERNATIVE THE WHOLE TIME.

I kept waiting for Brenda to have a purpose. Aaaand she didn’t.

But, the one part that did get me right in the feels was the death of Newt. I had come to rather like this character (which is difficult seeing as most characters were so flat), but I admit that a great deal of my interest in this character came from his accent, which the narrator of the audiobook really performed well.

I’m glad it’s over. Thoughts?

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.

The Kill Order – James Dashner

Kill OrderReading level: 5
Series: Maze Runner series book 0.5
Genre: Dystopian
ELL-Friendly: Yes
Library recommendation: Middle or high school

The Kill Order is the prequel to the Maze Runner series, of which I have read the first book:  The Maze Runner. I would have liked for The Kill Order to be more about the lives of the boys (and Theresa) that we meet in The Maze Runner, but this book is instead solely about a whole new set of characters who are running around in their adventures 20 years before the kiddos are sent to The Maze as we meet them in book 1. In that way, I didn’t feel like this book added much to the series as far as characters.

It was interesting to hear more about the sun flairs and what the rest of the world is facing while our characters from The Maze Runner are in the Glade. After the initial interest about oh sun flairs, oh tsunamis, oh a virus, I got rather bored. It’s all death and destruction.

I didn’t like a lot of things about this book. It was very action-y, but it lacked characterization. I’m sure this book could be incredibly engaging to many young readers, but I didn’t enjoy it very much. And so much violence. The TITLE probably should have prepared me, but sheesh. Fighting (and killing) scenes everywhere. I got really sick of them after a while. I mean, it’s a survival story, but our characters survive not by being smart or clever but by beating and shooting the daylights out of everybody everywhere.

I wanted to like the main character Mark. I know that he loves Trina, feels bad about killing people, wants to live, and misses his family, but that’s about it. Who is this kid? I wouldn’t really have minded if he had died because I wasn’t attached to him. I wasn’t attached to any of the characters, actually. With Thomas in The Maze Runner, I knew everything Thomas knew about himself. We pieced together his mystery of a life together. Not so here.

I didn’t even hate the “bad guys.” There weren’t any twists and turns or interesting plot points. It was just…meh. What kept my interest was hoping Mark and Alec could find their friends so something interesting would happen, such as saving humanity. That didn’t happen.

But the beginning was interesting! Who are the bad guys? We must find them! Solve the puzzle! Okay, puzzle mostly solved. Time to go kill everyone.

And actually, this turned into a sort of zombie movie. Stay away from the diseased people who will kill you in weird ways. If they get you, you’ll become a zombie get “sick” too. And I’m not a fan of zombie stories.

Okay, let’s stop ranting. The book is ELL-friendly, is action-packed, and appropriately bloody. I don’t think it’s too graphic to make parents mad. It’s also pretty realistic. In a few hundred years, the sun might flair and cause all sorts of destruction on Earth. The people might react by going nuts as resources are destroyed. It could happen.

The Maze Runner – James Dashner

the maze runner

Reading level: 5

Series: Book 1 of Maze Runner series

Genre: Dystopian

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: Middle or high school

I made the mistake of reading this book and not realizing it was part of a trilogy. Now I have to read all of them… I’m dying to know, is WICKED good?

Mr. Dashner has written a very clever novel. It reminds me of the Hunger Games series, although The Maze Runner came first. They’re similar in that kids (well, teenagers) are forced to fight for their lives while being trapped in a man-made “prison” while at the will of adults. The Maze Runner is filled with mystery and action that keeps you turning the pages, and just when you think you’re figuring it out…you don’t. Gah, cliffhanger endings.

What I didn’t like is the lack of female characters. There is one girl throughout the whole novel (until the very end). There may be a plot-related reason for this that will be revealed in later books, so we shall see.

This book highlights the strength that young people can have if left alone without adults and how they take care of one another. Power to the kids! They even come up with their own vocabulary which could very well lead to a lesson or discussion about how words evolve.