Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

The Death Cure – James Dashner

“It’s a very old axiom, but do you believe the end can justify the means? When there’s no choice left?”

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Blurb: “WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.”

Brief Note: I am aware of certain allegations and I addressed these in a blog post. That is the last I will say on it

The Death Cure is, admittedly, a book that I’ve abandoned in the past. So when I came to the decision to revisit this series, I knew that the best way to go about it was to read all of the books back to back (hence why you’re receiving an onslaught of Maze Runner content, sorry).

For the past two books, the questions and tension have continued to grow to an unbearable level and, in this final part, finally explode with epic action and many instances that may cause readers to throw the book across the room in fear. There are a lot of moments where finally getting those well-needed answers left me just wishing I’d never found out the truth.

The question of Wicked being good once again comes to the forefront as the characters continue to learn more about the world and how much power this corporation actually holds. It creates an interesting grey area as more facts about the epidemic begin to emerge and I just love complex aspects that can be unpacked; I guess it’s one of the reasons that I find Teresa interesting and irritating in equal measure.

I found it fascinating seeing more of the world just outside Wicked’s front door and how the group seem to turn a blind eye to all the people needing their help and how the city tossed the infected out to a place full of cranks known as “the crank palace.” (Which is definitely a place I would do my best to avoid!)

I adore the focus on friendships in this series and how close the characters become despite the horrible situation they’ve been forced into. My personal favourites are Minho and Thomas – how they work together to lead the others but never fight to be the one leading – and Thomas and Newt – where you get the real sense of “I would do anything for this person.”

Thomas is unlike most protagonists I’ve come across in YA dystopian because he is flawed: the first time he kills someone really stays with him and every person he loses because of his bad decision continues to weigh him down. He is very much aware that his friends are blindly following him unaware that he has no real plan or idea where he’s taking them. His narrative is heart-breaking to read at times when he reminisces on his choices and looks at what his possible future might be. The reader is really able to feel-and connect to the pain- in a lot of ways that other books in this genre seem to miss the mark with.

Overall, I think I actually prefer the films to the books (I know that I sacrilege as a book blogger). I just feel that the ideas outweigh the execution and that the adaptations – while going very much off course of the source material – take the story in a much better direction.

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Posted in Dystopian, Rereads, review, young adult

Reread | The Scorch Trials

“The flare always wins in the end. You lose any chance of being rational, having common sense, having compassion. You lose your humanity.”

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Blurb: “Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.”

Brief Note: I am very much aware of certain allegations and I addressed these in in my blog post that is all I’m going to say on it.

When I initially started reading this series, on a film adaptation fuelled hype, this was my favourite book of the first two. In fact, it was one of the first reviews I actually did here on Charlottereadsthings and I was interested to revisit it and see what I thought of it this time around.

As to be expected with a series, The Scorch Trials is very much a “transition book.” Thomas and his fellow gladers barely make it through the Maze Trials only to be thrown into a world devastated by a disease called The Flare. They’re no closer to being free and the questions from the previous book only continue to grow in number of the course of this addition to the timeline.

I love this book because the reader starts to see Thomas make that shift from a scared, clueless boy into a sort of leader for the remaining group of boys. I adore watching him team up and work together with Minho and how they bounce off each other while focusing on keeping everyone safe. The introduction of a girl called Brenda in the scorched world really hit me a lot more this time because I was able to see the parallels between her and Thomas: Brenda is a survivor in her own way; forced to live in the “real” world seeing the true effects of the flare at work.

My issue with my reread for The Maze Runner was the attempts at dialogue and, thankfully, they are fare and few between in this book. They flow into the dialogue a lot more and I feel that the shift has a lot to do with the new characters coming in that haven’t been exposed to words like “shank.”

As I mentioned earlier, this is the second book in the series and, almost unsurprisingly, it lags quite a bit in places while the characters explore this new world. While the previous book felt claustrophobic, this one almost feels like there’s too much space. It did reach points when I felt I was forcing myself through long boring segments in the hopes it would pick up.

I like the concept of everyone having a purpose within this world. As the characters learn more about themselves, and try to piece together their lives before the maze with limited memories, they discover that regardless of whether their role is to be the leader, the glue, or the betrayer, they all have a role. And I think that is something we can all apply to real life.

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Posted in Dystopian, Rereads, review, young adult

Reread | The Maze Runner

“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.”

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Blurb: “Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Everything is going to change. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.”

Brief Note: I am very much aware of certain allegations and I addressed these in my blog post and that is all I’m going to say on it.

I first read The Maze Runner when the dystopian genre was at the peak of popularity and, as you’ve probably guessed, I picked it up because of the film adaptation creeping around the corner. Dystopian was always heavily sci-fi based which often put me off – though now the genre has been left for dust I do miss it terribly. Yet, as I delved into this story, I was hooked on every single word.

This post is the start of a few weeks of posts on this series as I reread them after seeing the final film.

The story follows a boy called Thomas who finds himself trapped in a maze with no memories. The only thing he can remember is his name. Some of the people he finds himself coexisting with have been stuck in this place called The Glade for three years and are still yet to find the way out.

What I love about this story is how claustrophobic it feels: the towering walls, the limits of the place they inhabit and the dawning sense that something is definitely not right. Thomas asks question after question, which gets increasingly annoying, only to be met with half-statements from the group. As the plot thickens, it really feels like the reader is confined to this place with the character. The questions continue to build with little in the way of answers and that’s what drives Thomas forward. The amount of questions reach an incredibly annoying level, but I imagine that if I woke up in a place like this, I’d be exactly the same. It’s fascinating how the group of boys have made a civilisation and all have jobs such as farming or being doctors to keep everything running since they resided themselves to never leaving the maze.

The cast of characters is surprisingly diverse from the American protagonist, a British boy named Newt to the POC characters such as Alby – leader of the Glade –  and Frypan -the cook – and an Asian boy called Minho who is in charge of running the maze in order to map it and find a way out.

While I appreciate the attempts at dialect in The Glade, the consistent use of “shuck”, “klunk” and “just slim it” really do make the conversation clunky, especially when there’s no glossary provided to explain the meanings so the reader is forced to try and work out whether the words have positive or negative connotations.

The last time I read this book I was infuriated by some of the gladers actions towards Thomas and how they won’t listen to him and constantly shut him out. Especially the character of Gally who seems to have a personal vendetta against the protagonist. But this time around I understood him: he is partly in charge of this group of boys, he’s helped build this new home for them and suddenly a new boy comes along with a lot of questions and bad things start happening. I know for sure who I’d blame there!

The Maze Runner builds and builds until the reader feels like the tension might finally end only for it to keep dragging them along, scared and helpless to the dramatic conclusion.

Wicked is good… or are they?

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Losing Characters To Adaptations

I have always been the person to read the book before seeing the film. Regardless of whether it’s something I’ve heard of before like Harry Potter or something entirely new like Divergent,I always have to pay a visit to the original material. I love comparing the two as my Book-To-movie segment on this blog will verify. While hard to stomach at times, everyone has different interpretations when they read the same story. As we seem to have entered a new phase of book adaptations called -only by me- the “YA Contemporary era” with Everything, Everything and  Love, Simon on the big screen, and The Hate U Give and To All The Boys I’ve loved Before soon to follow suit, it’s left me thinking once again about the power of adaptations.

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More recently, I saw the adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s best selling novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda. Despite having read it back in 2015, I revisited it so that I could do a book-to-movie talk. When talking to a friend after seeing it, I mentioned that when Nick Robinson was cast in the staring role, I was a bit put out as, after all, he didn’t LOOK like Simon to me. My friend said that she didn’t think Logan Miller was the right person to play Martin. However, to me I thought it was a perfect casting.

Reader, it was like I had  a sudden epiphany. I realized that the reason I always feel I have to read the book first is that an adaptation is someone else’s interpretation of the source material. Stories are streamlined, events are changed because films have a much tighter time constraint than its paper counterpart. As for characters, reading that book before seeing the film, if it’s one you truly love is the last time to see those characters in your own way before the film essentially taints your own perspective.

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I remember when I started reading the Harry Potter books and I cried when I saw Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. (Yes my mum had a lot to deal with and admittedly I was eight at the time) Now whenever I re-read the books, I always picture him as Harry. The film actors now occupy the pages. Peter Pan has me imagining Jeremy Sumpter as the boy who will never grow up and captain hook as an amalgamation of Jason Isaacs and the Disney cartoon.

The only exceptions tend to be when I’ve seen the trailer so already picture the actors as the characters. Examples for this include The Maze Runner, Divergent and City of Bones. When I joined the fandom for the latter I was instantly asked what I thought of Jamie Bower as Jace and was met with screeches when I said that he was “Jace to me.” Apparently it was a sore subject for a lot of book fans.

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Looking back, I can’t help but feel like I had a little bit of magic stolen from me. But then again,without some of those films, I may not have discovered characters.
and worlds I loved so deeply.

But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to picture them my way… one last time… right?

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Posted in adaptations, discussion, review, young adult

Book To Movie Talk | The Scorch Trials

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*Warning: This post is not spoiler free*

When I see a trailer for a film and learn that it’s based off a book, if I’m interested in the premise, I read the book before seeing it. This was the case with The Maze Runner. However, this series is out of character for me in some elements: I read primarily YA, I love dystopian, but if it’s heavily sci-fi orientated, I tend to be put off by it. But there was something that compelled me to read The Maze Runner. I did and loved it. I watched the film and loved it just as much. But I wasn’t overly interested in reading the next book in the series The Scorch Trials until I discovered that it was being made into a movie. I did a review of the book which can be found here and based off the two, I much preferred The Scorch Trials.

The Scorch Trials movie was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I went to see the movie and I am so horrifically disappointed.

While the film primarily follows the surviving “gladers”, we have some new additions:

Aris played by Jacob Lofland 

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Brenda played by Rosa Salazar

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Jorge played by Giancarlo Esposito

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Jansen played by Aidan Gillen

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I’ve seen a lot of reviews from fans of the book that seemed to really enjoy the film. This has left me feeling like I went to see a completely different film.

Brief overview of the book plot: The book opens after the gladers have been rescued from the Maze. Thomas wakes to find the facility being attacked by cranks (victims of the flare) and they escape to a common room area where they discover their rescuers are death. Along the way they discover a boy named Aris and learn that they weren’t the only Maze and that he is part of Group B, the gladers all have tattooes on their necks which read “Group A” and then a role. Thomas’ reads “Group A – to be killed by group B” They return to the common area to find the bodies of their rescuers are gone and in their place is one of the scientists from WICKED (Jansen) who tells them they have been infected with the Flare and have two weeks to get to the scorch (the outside world), and find a safe haven to get the cure. If they refuse, they will be shot.

The plot for the movie however, is completely different. It opens where The Maze Runner left off, with the gladers being rescued. They are taken to a facility where they are introduced to Jansen who tells them they’ve been rescued from WICKED. He shows them around the facility and they learn they weren’t the only maze.  Aris meets Thomas after climbing into his dormitory via the vents and tells him he has something to show Thomas. They learn that something is definitely not right and begin investigations through which they learn that Jansen is actually part of WICKED and working for Ava Page. Safe to say, this sends Thomas into panic mode and he hurries back to the dormitory to tell the other gladers.  A big action scene ensues where they try to escape as WICKED chase them until they willingly run out into the scorch.

Now, I’ve seen enough book-to-movie adaptations over the years to know that sometimes things get cut because they can slow down the pace of the film etc. but to completely change the entire plot arc and character motivations? What on earth were the people making this film thinking? Also, James Dashner was very involved with this movie as the Director kept him up to date on changes and asked his thoughts, so I have no idea how he agreed to these changes.

This alone ruined the film for me. The start in the book is gradual. You slowly uncover things and then BAM action. The film’s start was really rushed and it seems like they tried to include action but sacrificed the story in the process.
Winston’s death for example, in the book happens when they try to get through a storm. In the movie, he dies when he shoots himself after getting bitten by a crank (thus getting the flare) – note how this is completely irrelevant in the original plot as they have already been infected with the flare – The group is also considerably smaller: The leftover gladers, and Aris are the driving force for this movie. Along with Brenda.

Speaking of which, Brenda and Jorge want nothing to do with the gladers in the book when they know they’re from WICKED, Thomas convinces them to help by offering them some of the cure when they get to the safe haven. In the film, when Jorge learns they’re from WICKED he plans to use them to get into the “right arm” – the rebel army.

Personally, I just couldn’t get past the plot. The important explanations are missing and this film as a whole just makes the events of The Maze Runner completely irrelevant.

The only things I can say I enjoyed were the scene where they hung upside down which took a whole two days to film because they didn’t have stunt doubles and you can only last 3-4 minutes upside down before the blood rushes to your head. The other was Aidan Gillen. He was perfect in the role of Jansen and had fabulous screen presence and pretty much the only thing that stopped me walking out of the cinema.

I haven’t been this annoyed and disappointed at a film in so long that it actually doesn’t make me want to continue the series, and quite frankly I’m just going to pretend they made The Maze Runner and that was it.
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Posted in Dystopian, review, young adult

The Scorch Trials – James Dashner

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** This post is not spoiler free**

Blurb: “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…”
So let’s start with a quick recap.
The Maze Runner ended with the surviving gladers getting rescued by rebels and brought to a safe haven after being told that the world has been devastated by an illness called “the flare.” The epilogue revealed that the rebel group may just be another variable in this “experiment” created by WICKED.

If you thought The Maze Runner was intense then buckle up my dear readers, because this one is a rollercoaster. Pretty much every chapter ends with some kind of cliff-hanger which makes you just have to read one… okay maybe six more chapters.

In The Scorch Trials, the gladers discover that they are not the only group WICKED have been experimenting on – there was another maze. They meet the other group (Group B) and quickly realise from tattoos that appear on their necks that they are facing another test. This is confirmed when a WICKED individual tells them they are entering phase two. The Scorch.  Basically the gladers have to go outside, into the scorch and find the safe haven in a certain amount of time. Sounds simple right? But why on earth would they willingly take part?

They don’t. If they stay they die… If they go… they need motivation. And boy does WICKED give it to them. They have been infected with the flare. The safe haven contains the only known cure.

Good things about this book: the second phase taking place outside the maze means that we get to see what little is left of the world. (yay for world building)

Not so good things: everything else.  A lot of serious shit goes down in this book. You thought the grievers were bad? JUST YOU WAIT!

The character that really stood out of me in this book is Minho. He really took on the role of leader and handled the situations better than I would have; I really liked seeing the growth of him and Thomas working together after the events of The Maze Runner. They made a really great team and it was interesting watching that grow throughout this book.

I didn’t expect this book to be as intense as it was but I was hooked.

The movie is out 18th September 2015 in the UK and I don’t know how they filmed this but it will be really interesting to see.

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