The Scorch Trials--James Dashner

The Scorch Trials is a young adult novel, follow-up to The Maze Runner.  While the puzzle and quest are neither as intricate nor as interesting as in the first book, the systematic and unremitting cruelty of WICKED continues.

The teens from The Maze Runner are forced out into the Scorch to cross one hundred miles of desert in two weeks.  The stretch leads past a city of abandoned people--quarantined victims of The Flare, called Cranks, in various states of psychological and physical collapse.  And of course, if that were not enough, other elements are stacked up against the success of the trial. The story is high energy and charges along at a good pace, though there are elements about it that would cause me not to recommend it for most young people.  They'll find it themselves, surely, and they don't need my advice about what is good for them.  However, as an adult gift-giver, these would not be in my long list of literature for young adults--this set in particular because I'm not struck by the quality of writing, nor am I particularly partial to the notion that expletive dotted language (no matter how the expletives are disguised) is particularly the mode of conversation you want to encourage in those whose ethos and approach to life is still forming.  Words have power and when you attenuate that power with words designed for a meaningless emphasis, you are draining the language for its richness.  I know too many whose language reflects this etiolation.

There is something deeply disturbing about the present trend in YA fiction toward these very dark and exceedingly distrustful books about relationships between the generations.  The distrust and anxiety are already prevalent, and perhaps these books, along with those by Suzanne Collins, Scott Westerfeld and others merely play on this riff--but if so, it is a very long riff with little about it that suggests reconciliation.  Perhaps that is okay.  Perhaps the message is that the way you feel is common, everyone feels that one sometimes.  Perhaps not.

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