The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (Maze Runner, Book 2)

March is Recommended
This month I'm catching up on books people have recommended to me. I hear more advice about good books than I can possibly read, but here are a few at least! Some were suggested by my teens, some by coworkers, some by friends. I hope they recommend themselves to you (oh so cheesy...) ;)

*SPOILER ALERT: This is the second book in a series!*

Thomas and his friends, the ones who are left, have finally made it out of the Maze. If he never sees another shuck Griever, it will be too soon. Everyone is anxious to find out who WICKED is, and the purpose of the Maze. Theresa reminds Thomas that WICKED is good. After everything they have been through, that is really hard to believe.

So, they are told they are safe, and the trial is over. They enjoy a shower, some pizza, and a good long sleep...until the Cranks arrive.

Thomas awakes to find the room they occupy surrounded by people infected with the Flare: a deadly disease that is infecting the planet, and has no cure. They are called Cranks. The illness slowly takes over the mind, until bloodlust and insanity are all that remain. Not exactly a good way to go...the boys have to come up with a strategy and quick. They break down the now locked door to the room where they ate the night before, and come upon a gruesome sight. It seems their initial feelings of relief may have been premature.

They can't seem to get out of the complex, and Theresa is missing - replaced by Aris, a boy from Group B. There was another group that ran the maze simultaneously, as we discovered in the last book, but they have all disappeared as well. They play a waiting game until the Rat Man appears, telling them that their troubles are not over. WICKED has plans for them, and it seems they are destined to complete another round of trials. Shortly after he leaves, the Gladers notice tattoos on their necks. Minho's says "The Leader," Newt's says "The Glue," and Thomas' says "To be killed by Group B." It reminds Thomas of the sign outside Theresa's door the night before, the one that called her "The Betrayer." More mind games...

They have been tasked with trekking across the Scorch, a barren wasteland created by the sun flares that have caused so much damage, and led to the release of the Flare virus. The Rat Man also told them that they are all infected with the Flare, and only completing the next trial can guarantee them a cure. The boys set off through a transport, and arrive in an entirely dark tunnel. Slowly but surely, they walk until they arrive in the blinding sun of the Scorch.

Struggling across, they come to a settlement of Cranks. They form an unlikely alliance with some of them who aren't past the Gone, but there are other Cranks with other ideas. Thomas is separated from the group, and he and Brenda continue on, having faith in the others to find their own way. In the town itself, they find monuments declaring "Thomas, you're the true leader." This just adds to the confusion even more, because all the Cranks in the town have seen it too.

Can Thomas and Brenda make it to the rendezvous point in time? Will the rest of their group be there waiting? Does WICKED really have the cure for the Flare? So much happens in this book, I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended for middle school and up.
“I was just kidding, shuck-face," Minho said. "Let's all go over there. She could have an army of psycho girl ninjas hiding in that shack of hers."

"Psycho girl ninjas?" Newt repeated, his voice showing he was surprised, if not annoyed, by Minho's attitude,” (Dashner, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Death Cure by James Dashner (Maze Runner, Book 2)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Matched by Ally Condie
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Dashner, J. (2010). The Scorch trials. New York: Delacorte Press.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

Tennyson can hardly believe that his twin sister Brontë is going out with the Bruiser. I mean, seriously. This guy got voted most like to get the death penalty. One look at him is all you need to see that he's no good.

Brontë can't believe how pig-headed Tennyson is being. Does he really believe all those horrible rumors about Brewster? If you actually talk to him, there's more, much more. She can hardly believe the things that are happening.

Brewster (aka Bruiser) isn't like most kids. His empathy goes beyond the norm, and into "freak show" territory. First off, his parents are dead or gone. He and his little brother live with their abusive, alcoholic uncle. His possessiveness of Brewster tips Tennyson off to something deeper going on, something he doesn't understand.

Accidentally, Tennyson sees Brewster without a shirt on...and his back is a battlefield of bruises and lacerations. The scars extend all across his back. Who could have done something like that to him? When he asks, Brewster straight up denies that his uncle had anything to do with it. There is something he isn't telling, but Tennyson can only guess at what that could be...and the thought scares him a little.

It's cemented when a cut on Tennyson's hand magically appears on Brewster's (and disappears from Tennyson's). Is this even possible? Can Brewster take away someone else's pain?

This adds a whole new dimension to the image that Brewster has fostered, intentionally avoiding people and minding his own business. When he gets close to someone, he starts to care...and if he cares, he can't help but take on their injuries. He doesn't understand it himself, he only knows that it happens.

Can Bronte and Tennyson help Brewster? Will they find a way to mend their broken family? This touching story is written from multiple perspectives, including Brewster's voice in verse style poetry. It adds a depth that is quintessential of Shusterman's characters, and makes for a very memorable story. Highly recommended. 
“I'll never understand how a man can live his life With his finger on the self-destruct button, Holding it there day after day, Blinded by an obsession to press it But lacking the conviction to do even that," (Shusterman, 2011).
*Library Link* 
If you liked this, check out:
The Schwa Was Here
by Neal Shusterman

by Swati Avasthi

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Shusterman, Neal. (2010). Bruiser. New York: HarperTeen.

Pink Smog by Francesca Lia Block (Dangerous Angels prequel)

Weezie (don't call her Louise) is on a rough streak. Her dad and mom have fought for years, but this time it seems like he's really gone. She saw the fight they had, she feels it too. Brandy-Lynn (her mom) has sunk herself into the bottle, and whatever's on the TV.

School isn't any better. Weetzie has always been different. She stands out with her eclectic style, and her unwillingness to go along with the crowd. She becomes the target of bullies, along with her new friends: Bobby and Lily. She prefers to think about the fact that she finally has friends.

A new family has moved into their apartment complex. The boy is the most beautiful person she's ever seen. His name is Winter, and his eyes are blue "like a stone in water -- rings and rings," (Block pg. 17, 2012). He's her guardian angel. It was Winter that saved her mom that horrible night when she fell in the pool. It was he that stood up to those snobby girls at school and offered to give her a ride home. Winter says he knows Charlie (her dad), but how can that be?

Someone is leaving notes for Weetzie, with clues as to where to go next. It's some crazy kind of scavenger hunt, and she doesn't know who's leading her around. She misses Charlie, and she's so mad that he hasn't called. To cheer herself up, she dyes her hair a signature Marylin blonde, and takes herself out on a date.

Despite her best efforts, there are still days when everything falls apart. She finds a picture of her father with Winter's mother...but this photograph is from his movie making days. Is there something more sinister about Winter and his family after all?

As a die-hard Weetzie fan, I waited on pins and needles for this one, and Block doesn't disappoint. She mixes her characteristic whimsy with a realistic storyline. It stays grounded, but has moments of transcendence that make you wonder if something supernatural really is going on. Highly recommended for high school, or mature middle school.
"I had been here before, with Charlie and my mom, but I hadn't thought about it in years. Now everything in the building seemed to come alive. I could hear the whispers of the stars and smell their perfume. Satin and lamé swished and shimmered. Lights and gold dust twinkled in my brain.
I didn't know why I had been sent here but I felt better for having come. I felt hopeful like I'd just woken up from a beautiful dream I didn't quite understand," (Block pg. 67, 2012).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

Block, Francesca Lia (2012). Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie Bat. New York: HarperTeen.

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto (Halo, Book 1)

Bethany is on Earth! She, Gabriel, and Ivy have been sent from Heaven to help save us from the forces of darkness that grow stronger every day. Their role is to nurture the people of Venus Cove, a sleepy little beach side town. Starting at the high school, Bethany relishes the opportunity to live like a human. She realizes that Xavier Woods, one of the hottest guys in school, is hitting on her. This is wrong, isn't it? Humans and angels are not meant to be together. But whenever she is with him, she feels whole.

Before anything goes too far, she must tell him the truth about who she is: namely, that she's a celestial being with a mission from God...literally. It takes a minute, but Xavier is as good as his word, and sticks by her. Their love seems to be a bright reality against the ever darkening backdrop of the town. For years, the town has been plagued by a series of unfortunate events, seemingly at random. But Bethany and her siblings know the truth: there are darker forces at work.

A new student shows up named Jake. He is attractive and has that "bad boy charm," but Bethany senses something darker in his nature. When more and more of the student body start to go over to his side, Gabriel and Ivy know they must act carefully. Rashness can only end in even more problems, so they counsel patience.

Bethany doesn't want to be patient, she doesn't want to make sure they know what they're doing. She wants to protect her new friends from this incoming darkness. More so than the others, Bethany has abandoned her angel nature to become more and more human. It isn't surprising then, when she ends up in trouble because she doesn't wait for help. Can the three of them save the town from the negativity that threatens to consume it? What will they do if the forces of darkness really let loose?

The love story is very high school, it's a little sappy for me (ok, more than a little), but it's bound to be popular with Twilight fans. Recommended for fans of romance and "fallen angel" books.
“'Did I mention I've finally decided on a nickname for you?'
'I didn't know you were looking.'
'Well, I've given the matter some serious thought.'
'And what have you come up with?'
'Cookie,' I announced proudly.
Xavier scrunched up his face. 'No way.'
'You don't like it? What about Bumblebee?'
'Do you have any cyanide?'
'Well, some of us are just a bit hard to please,'” (Adornetto, 2010).

If you liked this, check out:

Adornetto, Alexandra. (2010). Halo. New York: Feiwel and Friends.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (Iron Fey, Book 1)

Meghan has always been practically invisible. Since her dad disappeared, and her mom remarried, it seems like everyone's focus is on her little half-brother Ethan. But tomorrow is her sixteenth birthday, and she has a study session with the hottest guy in school. She's determined to make the most of it, so when her day starts with a card from her little brother...she's confident that things are off on the right foot.

Wrong. First, her regular social life is murdered, then her brother is stolen away and replaced with a changeling. As if that wasn't enough, her best friend reveals himself to be Robin Goodfellow AKA Puck (yeah, from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream). Puck lets her in on a secret: her brother's been taken to Faery: the only way he's coming back is if they go find him. So much for Sweet Sixteen!

Suddenly she's walking through her brother's closet, and ending up in Faerie...which is beyond bizarre. As a servant of King Oberon, Puck isn't exactly following orders by leading her around. When he disappears mysteriously, Grimalkin shows up. (He's very Cheshire Cat). He agrees to lead her to Puck for a favor. Meghan is brought to Court...where she learns that Oberon is her dad?! The fact that Puck is always calling her princess suddenly makes more sense. The Winter Court of Queen Mab is scheduled to visit the Summer Court of Oberon and Titania soon. Meghan is expected to take part in the festivities, and there she meets Ash (again). He's the one who tried to kill her in the forest! He is the son of Queen Mab, Prince Ash.

The four of them strike a deal: Puck, Ash, and Grimalkin will help Meghan find her brother. Grim is doing it for his own reasons, Ash agrees only if she will come to the Winter Court afterwards, and Puck is there as her ever--present protector and friend. Along the way they encounter many hardships, both in Faerie and in the real world. Will they ever figure out who has her brother? What are these strange fey that seem to be neither wild, Winter, nor Summer? The Iron Fey make their appearance, and it's not pretty.

Meghan must find the power within herself to continue on her quest. Her heart beats faster whenever Ash gets close. Could something be blossoming between Winter and Summer? This quick read is great for faerie fans. The romance isn't overbearing, and the plot incorporates old mythology and stories. I enjoyed it!
"'Picture the glamour in your mind.' The cat half slitted its eyes again. 'Imagine it is a cloak that covers you completely. You can shape the glamour to resemble anything you wish, including an empty space in the air, a spot where no one is standing. As you drape the glamour over yourself, you must believe that no one can see you. Just, so.'
The eyes vanished, along with the rest of the cat. Even knowing Grimalkin was capable of it, it was still eerie seeing him fade from sight right before my eyes," (Kagawa pg. 190-191, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa (Iron Fey, Book 2)
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (Paranormalcy, Book 1)
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely, Book 1)

Kagawa, Julie. (2010). The Iron King. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin Teen.