Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction
Age Range: 6th Grade and Up
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to...
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.
The second book in this series reads and feels very similar to the first. Thomas and the other Gladers soon discover that getting out of the Maze was only the first step in survival. WICKED, the shadowy organization that set up the trials, is not done with them yet. And if the first book was violent, the second takes that violence up a notch. Violent lightning storms literally blow people's limbs off, deranged sufferers of the Flare sound a lot like the walkers from The Walking Dead, and we once again have hideous monsters created by WICKED to force the young people to fight or die. While it all seems very sinister, there are constant reminders throughout the book that the trials are supposed to be a good thing; that they are weeding out the weakest to find the future leaders to save the planet. But no pressure or anything...
As an adult reader I found the increase in tension and intensity in the plot enjoyable, but it may be too much for readers on the bottom end of the readability band for this book. However, it does bring up all od the same rich topics for discussion as most other high-quality dystopian fiction. Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? What responsibility does each of us carry for our fellow humanity? Is it acceptable to subject people to violence-physical or psychological-in the service of the greater good? I think this series would make a good choice for a book club discussions in a school or library setting, especially in middle school or early in high school.