The Scorch Trials by James Dashner Review 3/5

Overall Impression: A book with a promising start that loses itself along the way.The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

(To read my review of the previous book from The Maze Runner Trilogy, click here.)

Feeling amped up from the fast paced, thrilling dystopian read that was The Maze Runner, I bought and picked up its sequel The Scorch Trials almost immediately, desperate to solve my unanswered questions and tag along with more of Thomas’s life threatening adventures. So, did The Scorch Trials live up to my expectations? Well, no. Not really. Having said that, the first book was a tough act to follow!
I read this quite a while ago so some of the details are a bit fuzzy, but I will do my best to explain why I’m raining drizzling on this dystopian parade!

Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous book The Maze Runner, this review will contain spoilers about plots and characters from the first book in the blurb and first paragraph only. However, this review will not contain any spoilers for The Scorch Trials.

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escaping meant he would get his life back. But no one knew what sort of life they were going back to…
Burned and baked, the earth is a wasteland, its people driven mad by an infection known as the Flare.
Instead of freedom, Thomas must face another trial. He must cross the Scorch to once again save himself and his friends…

Thomas has been through a lot. After being flung into a mysterious prison like maze and fighting his way out losing friends along the way, all he wants is for things to go back to normal. But just when Thomas,Teresa and the other Gladers think they’ve found a safe haven where they can rest, they are ambushed in the middle of the night, their rescuers are murdered and Teresa is ripped from Thomas’s grasp, stolen away by who knows what. But it gets worse. It turns out the Gladers are being used as part of a sick experiment, they are being tested for patterns that can be used to create a cure for a deadly disease that has swept the world sending people to crazy town – zombie style. The maze was just the warm up, now Thomas and his friends must cross a harsh and cruel desert in search of a cure.

I have very similar thoughts about Dashner’s writing in this book as I did with the last. To put it plainly, his style is pretty basic. You can tell that he has an awesome story to tell but some of the effectiveness is lost in the way he tells it. His writing can be repetitive in places with a lot of telling rather than showing. Yet, at the same he has a flair for creating a spooky atmosphere that raises the hairs on my arms and has me cautiously looking around as if there is some kind of impending danger. One scene near the start of this book in particular freaked me the heck out. Dasher’s ideas are also inventive, for instance, he comes up with the most bizarre yet inventive ways of killing people, so props for that! Unfortunately in The Scorch Trials I felt that the bad writing slightly overshadowed the good which was a shame.

The plot for The Scorch Trials was really promising at first, it jumped right in where the first book left off with the Gladers reeling and confused after exiting the Maze and feeling relieved at their temporary haven. This was soon followed by a quick succession of action filled, adrenaline pumped and terrifying scenes that left me reeling. Dasher unveiled several WHAT THE and MIND BLOWN worthy pieces of information that had me hooked. Reading the first few chapters I was sure I would be awarding this book five stars, but after the initial burst the story seemed to stall as the characters attempted to cross the desert to complete their second trial. The novel became less gripping as it went on to the point where I even found myself bored! The flow was weird and disjointed in places and several plot points just didn’t work for me and felt jumbled, poorly handled and quite confused as well (e.g. the messy inclusion of new characters met along the way and the reunion with Teresa). A further problem was that I became increasingly impatient to discover more information about Thomas’s past and his role in the bigger picture (like what the heck the patterns were and how putting teens through trauma was supposed to help) but instead I found myself facing padding and a lot of frustrating WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN conversations without any conclusion.

The character development in this book was also a bit of a let down. It was Dashner’s weakest link in The Maze Runner too but if anything I was even more underwhelmed with it in The Scorch Trials. Thomas seemed to regress rather than progress, becoming increasingly moody, pessimistic and unlikeable. Granted, he like all the other Gladers had suffered through horrible situations so it’s hardly surprising that he wasn’t skipping along singing a merry tune, but I felt that he became quite selfish in this novel, often seeing himself as more hard done by than his fellow Gladers who had endured more hardship than him. This as a story arc alone would be fine, but it was done in a way that made me care less about Thomas’s character, which is never good! I was also disappointed by the lack of Newt and Minho, they were my two favourite side characters from the first book but received minimal development and page time. The two new additional characters Jorge and Brenda didn’t do much for me either. Jorge while somewhat intriguing was two-dimensional and seemed to be there mostly as a plot device, and I was never really sure how to feel about Brenda. I didn’t warm to her and it seemed like she was there just to give Dashner something to pad out the book with – a weak-willed pointless love triangle. Hopefully her role will become more obvious/relevant in the final novel!

Overall thoughts? The Scorch Trials had a promising start that steadily declined into a puddle of mediocre, much to my dismay. It’s pretty obvious that a story about overwhelming heat, and extreme weather isn’t going to be quite as exciting as characters running around a mysterious maze which creates far more of an enigma. Ultimately, I enjoyed reading this novel but it was let down by the muddled and padded plot, and although the characters went on another whole books worth of journey they didn’t really change or evolve making this installment feel unnecessary. Hopefully Dashner can redeem himself with a kick butt finale in the final book. Recommended to dystopian YA fans who want a little more action, gore and horror and a little less romance! 14+ 🙂

Writing Style: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Entertainment: 3/5
Character Development: 2/5
Would I recommend this book? Meh.

Overall: 3/5

Image Sources:
Book Cover.

20 thoughts on “The Scorch Trials by James Dashner Review 3/5

  1. I agree with your analysis. I actually stopped several times while reading this book to read another book. That’s how unpleasant the writing was sometimes. I do wish Dashner had done more personal development for the characters. Especially for the Gladers. It seems he placed more emphasis on the bizarre deaths and the plot as opposed to looking at how the characters grew. Still I did enjoy reading it, which I guess is why I wanted more of some of the things I/you’ve mentioned. I hope you won’t be disappointed with the last book (which I have read).

    • Thanks Dreamer’s Spirit, glad I’m not totally off base! It’s a relief to know I wasn’t the only one who found my attention drifting in this installment. The writing did leave a bit to be desired which is a shame because in some sections it was SO on point, but it didn’t stay that way.
      I completely agree with you, I did enjoy the book and I like the world Dashner has created and I think that’s why I wanted more character development wise! it just could have been so much more.

      Thanks, I hope so too. 🙂

  2. Wow your review sounds almost identical to mine, just slightly longer 😉 So I do, of course, agree with you on everything you said, and I believe that I felt the same way about book 3, only slightly different in the details, I do hope that the prequel will be more like The Maze Runner. Excellent review!

    • Hahaa! My reviews always end up on the long side, I’m a rambler. 😛
      Glad to have found another person that agrees with me, I was so disappointed with this book because I really wanted it to be as good as the first one! Ohh no, I hope I don’t feel the same way about book 3 as well. Like you, I also have the prequel so I was hoping it would pick up again!

      Awwh thank you. 🙂

      • I know the feeling! I think my sister has all together quit reading The Scorch Trails she is so board with it…and I nearly quit reading The Death Cure just as a warning. I haven’t started The Kill Order yet but hope to soon, although I am kinda nervous that it won’t be as good as The Maze Runner….
        No problem!

      • Ohh wow really? Well if you didn’t enjoy the third one, maybe she made the right decision! I think it’s always difficult with dystopian because the first book is usually always compelling and fast paced because of the intriguing world setup but the real test comes with whether they can sustain that impact for the rest of the series. I’ve come across a few now where the second book has completely deflated my interest!
        Yikes, good to know.
        I wish you better luck with The Kill Order Rayleigh. 🙂

    • Haha, maybe not!

      There’s a character called Newt in Aliens? Huh, I don’t remember that. I’ll take your word for it though!

      Can’t say I have. We have done quite a lot on classical conditioning over the years though. Sounds like a mixture of selective attention and desensitization (or lack of), interesting! I did watch the first season of Prison Break but then lost the thread of it!

  3. I found The Scorch Trials a law of diminishing returns – it really didn’t get any better than the first book and only got worse. I did stick with the series until they were finished though…but I won’t be looking out for anything else by Dashner.

    • Unfortunately I agree with you. It started off well and then steadily declined right until the end. I don’t know when I’ll pick up the final installment – I have the prequel as well but right now I’m not feeling the need to find out what happens next. Says a lot! Like you, I will complete it eventually though. 🙂

  4. “Drizzling on this dystopian parade” – very good!
    I had to skim this review since I planning on reading the first book. If I get to The Scorch Trials, I’ll come back here.

  5. Oh my gosh we have the same opinions on a book wtffffff.
    Also the third book is pretty much the same – has potential at the start, gets v boring and stilted in the middle and then when I’d finished it I was glad to know what had happened to all of them rather than to actually have read it, if that makes sense.
    But I’m of the “have to keep reading a book series until the bitter, bitter end” type.

    • WHAAAAAAATTTTT. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE WORLD. Next thing you know they’ll be flying kittens. This is quite unsettling.

      Flying kitten though.

      Ahh man, your not the first to tell me that either. I guess at least I will be going in prepared for mediocre rather than getting my hopes up *sigh*. I hope I get the same ‘glad to find the resolution feeling’ like you did.

      Haha, me too. I definitely relate. 🙂

  6. I’ve kept thinking that I would start these books but meh, my enthusiasm is waning. I’m just waiting for a new, kick-ass YA series to come and fill the void that HP/Hunger Games has left.

    • Judging by what I’ve read so far, I wouldn’t recommend these books as an absolute must read, but the first one at least was a LOT of fun! I think with this series the verdict will all hang on the final book for how willing I am to recommend it. The thing with these dystopian books is that they can be quite formulaic, so I think it’s quite important to pick and choose!

      Yes, amen to that. 🙂

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