Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Random House - Delacorte Books for Young Readers) isn't something that I read for the Cybils, but something I've been meaning to read for some time. It wasn't very long, so I grabbed it off the shelf to read before I read the sequel, which is a Cybils nominee.

Thomas knows his name. That he’s a boy. That he’s maybe in his teens. And that’s about all he knows when he steps out of a creepy one-way elevator into the Glade, a small, safe, farm-like space at the center of the Maze, where other amnesiac boys have founded a small but surviving society. They tend the animals, they grow crops, they cook--and some of the boys are Runners, whose job it is to run out into the Maze and map it, every day, without dying. Monsters live out there, and there’s an endless abyss. Of course, Thomas is drawn to being a Runner the most.

Just when Thomas is beginning to feel adjusted, something happens that has never happened before: The elevator brings a girl into their midst. Something else new happens--the protective doors to the Glade stop working, so the monsters can come at any time. And then, worst of all, the extra supplies that the elevator brings disappear, and the sun goes out. They have to find a way out of the Maze, and they have to find it fast. They’ll need to work together and trust Thomas’s scattered memories if they want to live.

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 2)
Anything I could say in follow up would be a spoiler, but I’ll try to reveal as little as possible about The Scorch Trials. Thomas and his friends are faced with a new trial, and they can rely less and less on reality to be as it appears. Their minds and bodies can be manipulated, and even the trial itself is rigged in favor of some and against others.

Reading the two books back to back was slightly frustrating in that, after two books with similar structures, only hints have been revealed about who, where, why, or how the scenario came to be. I love it when I have to figure things out, and I have never minded starting with “okay, the world is like this now,” but given the similarity in structure between The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, knowing the answer--or just more about--any one of the open questions would have raised the stakes significantly. That said, both are exciting books that pit teenagers against unknown and powerful forces within a prescribed structure, and I’d recommend them for someone who wants more like The Hunger Games.

I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.

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