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Bookends: Teenage dystopias rule the book racks these days October 16, 2014

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Bookends: Teenage dystopias rule the book racks these days

By Dan Davidson

February 11, 2014

– 852 words –

 

It seems the current trend in young adult literature involves two things. First, the story will be some form of dystopia, as in The Hunger Games or The Mortal Instruments. Second, the story will be at least a trilogy, if not longer. We’ll have to see how this works out, the fear being that this might lead to a bit of padding and a whole lot of middle books that just pass the time between the beginning of the story and the end. Here are a couple of items that follow this pattern.

 

The AwakeningThe Awakening

By Kelly Armstrong

Doubleday Canada

368 pages

$12.95

In volume one of the Darkest Powers Trilogy Armstrong introduced us to Chloe Saunders, a budding necromancer (she talks to and raises ghosts). Sent to Lyle House for treatment after her awakening powers made her think she is going crazy, Chloe learned that every other resident of this private school has some ability, from sorcerer to werewolf, and that they are being experimented on by the faculty. She escaped, with several friends, only to be recaptured and apparently betrayed by her Aunt Lauren, who turned out to be part of the sinister Edison Group.

Volume two is largely about escaping again and being on the run, but there’s a bit more character development in this part of the story. Brothers Simon (sorcerer) and Derek (werewolf) are fleshed out quite a bit and even the annoying Victoria (a witch) becomes less of a cipher.

We learn that it appears most of their parents have at one time been part of Edison, and that some have turned against the group. Edison has been experimenting on kids to increase their powers, but the side effects have not been positive and any failed experiments have been terminated.

After several harrowing escapes the kids link up with Andrew Carson, a former friend of Simon and Derek’s father, and they are taken to a supernatural safe house, from which, I am sure, the final installment of the trilogy will launch them.

Well, the book wasn’t just passing time. We did learn a few things, and I still want to know how it turns out so, as middle books go, this one succeeds.

Kelly Armstrong is the writer whose werewolf novel, Bitten, is currently playing out as a television series on the Space Channel.

 

The Maze RunnerMaze Runner

By James Dashner

Delacorte Press

400 pages;

$10.99

 

Thomas arrives in the Glade in a mysterious elevator. He doesn’t know how he got there and while he has all kinds of general knowledge and skills he can’t remember anything specific about people and events in his past. In that way he is no different than the forty or so other boys who have been accumulating in the Glade over the last several years, at a rate of one greenie a month.

The boys are provided with food and sufficient supplies to maintain themselves if they work at it, and have decided that their task is to find a way out of there. The living area of the Glade is surrounded by a regularly shifting maze which some of the boys, designated Runners, explore and map during the day. By night it is automatically closed off by massive metal doors, and patrolled by bio-mechanical beasts called Grievers, whose stings bring on illness, the return of some past memories and distinct personality changes if the victim survives.

Shortly after Tommy arrives the elevator spits out a girl, Theresa, the first female ever. She arrives unconscious, bearing a note that says things are about to change. Sure enough, they do. The regular supply shipments stop arriving. The gates stop closing at night and the Grievers are able to access the Glade.

By that time, Tommy has already proven himself to be resourceful, adaptable and just about fearless in his approach to the group’s goal of escape. Teresa’s arrival is a shock to him as he is certain he knows her; he just doesn’t know how or when. This adds to the mystery of why every survivor of a Griever sting claims to have seen Tom in their vague memories of what it was like before they came here. Even more of a shock is the realization that Tom and Theresa can communicate telepathically.

Well before we reach the end of the story we know that these young people have been taken from their old world, had their memories altered, and have been sent to the Glade as part of some sort of test having to do with the situation (referred to as the Flare) back in the real world that sent them to this artificial place. It seems that by solving the puzzles and challenges presented here, they will be enabled to work on larger problems in the real world.

They do escape the Glade, but an epilogue makes it clear that this is all part of the testing and there is more to come.

This book was optioned for filming and the movie is due out this fall.

 

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