This week I was talking to my students about apocalyptic literature in our zombie class (yes, I'm teaching a class about zombies - more on that later). We were making a list of all the books about apocalypses and dystopian societies that they knew, including The Giver and its two companion novels and The Hunger Games trilogy. One student brought up The Maze Runner. I was surprised that she didn't really like it. A couple of the kids had read it and agreed with her. One boy liked it but not the sequel, The Scorch Trials. Granted this series isn't exactly like The Hunger Games, but who wants an exact copy of another story?
The Scorch Trials starts out right where The Maze Runner left off. Beware, spoilers ahead! Thomas, Teresa and the Gladers who survived the last book are sleeping in a dormitory. Thomas and Teresa (who is in a different room) have a telepathic conversation that cuts off suddenly when something happens to Teresa. The boys all wake up in their dorm to find that they are alone. There are Cranks, men and women gone insane from a disease called the Flare, trying to get in through the windows, plus bodies hanging from the ceiling in the main room and Teresa is gone, replaced by a new boy named Aris. And all the boys now have tattoos on their backs with some sort of designation, like Leader or Glue. Thomas' says that he is destined to be killed by Group B.
After a few days of starvation, a man appears from WICKED, the group that put them through the maze trial. He explains that they have all been infected by the Flare disease and now much undergo one more trial: they have two weeks to make it one hundred miles to a safe hven where they will be given the cure.
Since they seem to have little choice in the matter, Minho, Newt and Thomas lead their group through underground tunnels (where horrible metal balls decapitate a couple kids) and into the scorching hot desert around where Mexico used to be. Along the way, the Gladers face more awful tests (Teresa's betrayal, a city full of Cranks, lightening that destroys some kids and of course, the mysterious Group B) and James Dashner never shies away from the violence, which is pretty intense, like The Hunger Games. Group B is a group of girls who also went through the maze trials. More of them survived and they figured out the maze earlier than the boys (there's some girl power for you).
During all of this, Thomas keeps having dreams, which are clearly memories of his past. He meets two new people: Jorge and Brenda, who help the Gladers survive to the safe have, more or less in one piece. But the stakes are high. The very existence of humanity is at stake, and of course Thomas has no idea who he can really trust.
I liked the sequel. I finished reading it on the subway and immediately bought the third book while walking home. I'm about 40% into it so I should finish soon. While I don't love these the same way that I did The Hunger Games, it's still an exciting series and I can't wait to see how it ends (and starts - the prequel is out in August!)