SYNOPSIS: After escaping from the Maze, the Gladers are rescued from WICKED by a group of rebels and taken to a “safe” facility. When they wake up however, they realize that their safety was just an illusion when it is revealed that WICKED is not yet done with their experiments. This time, each Glader wakes up marked with cryptic tattoos that supposedly label their roles in the group for their new task. Teresa is taken from their ranks and is replaced by a boy named Aris, who is supposedly part of Group B, who escaped from a maze identical to that of the Gladers with a reverse ratio of boys to girls. Aris shares the same telephatic ability as Thomas and is Group B’s version of Teresa. Now, the Gladers are told that they are infected with a fatal disease called The Flare, which causes madness and death to its victims, and their only hope is reaching a place called safe haven in two week’s time. With meager supplies and dangers straight in their paths, the boys are in a race for survival, unsure of whom to trust, their mettle tested by the most brutal of circumstances.
The Scorch Trials is far different in tone than its predecessor The Maze Runner. Whereas in MR, the Gladers only had to deal with one major problem (escaping the maze and consequently battling the Grievers) in a controlled environment, the second test is far more challenging and dangerous as they set out on a world destroyed by sun flares and ravaged by disease. In the Scorch Trials, WICKED has basically laid out the task in front of the boys and told them that there would be no mercy for them in embarking on their journey as only the strongest will be rewarded with the cure. The Gladers are picked off one by one, by the barren wastelands that has become of Earth, the crazed Cranks (those who have been infected by the Flare) who are no strangers to murder and even cannibalism. Technology is used mercilessly by WICKED against the remaining Gladers resulting in a much brutal slaying of the weakest of the bunch. Not to mention Group B, whose sole mission is to kill Thomas. In short, there were more Variables in play which makes it harder for the boys to accomplish their task.
More questions also arise as Thomas begins to remember snippets of his life before the Glade and his involvement in developing the Trials, but just enough to get readers curious and form their own theories. This is a stroke of genius on the part of author James Dashner because the mystery that surrounds Thomas continues to grow, and at the same time, his feelings for Teresa also begins to evolve. It becomes more complicated as they begin to see the Trials in different ways — Teresa seemingly resigned and unshaken by their role with WICKED, and Thomas beginning to question his actions before the Glade. I like that the book did not dwell too much on the romantic connection between Thomas and Teresa but rather focused on the bigger picture, continuing to build towards the climax that is expected in the final book in the trilogy — The Death Cure. Well, I’m hoping this is what Dashner is going for anyway.
As for the characters, Dashner continues to bank on the strength of the characters he developed in the first book. Newt takes a slight backseat to Minho in this installment but nonetheless showed the same characteristics that made him so likeable in the beginning like his intelligence, practicality and calm demeanor. Minho, who was assigned as leader of the Gladers was a great choice to lead the boys, showing bravery, sense of humor, sometimes hotheadedness, and quick thinking for decisions that need to be made (mostly involving life and death) which is characteristic of his role as Keeper of the Runners. His bromance with Thomas continues in this book and their relationship is one of the strong points of The Scorch Trials because of his fierce loyalty to his friend. As a new character, Aris didn’t pop out as much as he should even given his role in the twist, but there is potential for him in the sequel given his special abilities. Same with Brenda, although she seemed a bit too clingy for my tastes.
All in all, The Scorch Trials was a well written young adult post apocalyptic adventure piece, that for me, felt more like a teaser of the things to come in the trilogy’s concluding chapter. It was a bit darker and more graphic but it definitely leveled up on all aspects of the first book. I would have liked for Group B to have more participation to play up the competition between the sexes (especially since it was mentioned several times that they got out of the Maze three days earlier than the boys and lost less people) but with the combined group of survivors and the upcoming revelation of mysteries behind WICKED, I have high hopes for Dashner’s next book. That and the fact that I want to know if my hypotheses are correct. And this is why I am happy that I waited for all books to come out before I started reading it.