A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this final book in The Maze Runner Trilogy is just as dark as the other two. Adult "scientists" are still manipulating and killing teens and a whole city succumbs to a disease that causes madness, mass violence, and eventually cannibalism. The publisher still has this series marked for ages 12 and up, but it's more in line with other dystopian novels marketed to 14 and up. Fans of the series will be shaken by deaths of two important characters. One sadly begs to be shot when he gets the disease. Other violence is fairly constant and runs the gamut: shootings, stabbings, electrocutions, fist fights, and numerous people are crushed to death. The main character is forced to decide whether to sacrifice himself for what may be the greater good.
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What's the story?
After five weeks of solitary confinement at WICKED (the government agency) headquarters, Thomas needs a shower and some answers. They're willing to give him both if he's ready to get his memory back through an operation. But when he and some of his friends decide against getting their memories back it sets in motion an escape plan to Denver, one of the protected cities where the Flare disease is screened for and protected against constantly. All is not so safe in Denver, though. Looking for other escaped friends uncovers plots to take down WICKED -- about time, Thomas thinks -- and rumors of city officials becoming ill and spreading the disease. It's not long before lawlessness reigns and Thomas has to decide whom he's going to side with: the too-powerful government that still wants his help, the rebels who want to take them down, or his friends who just want out of government control for good.
Is it any good?
It shouldn't be surprising to series fans that THE DEATH CURE stays grim throughout. As answers surface, friends don't suddenly stop dying or getting manipulated by the government. The scientists keep being fanatical and nonsensically blood-thirsty and are just about always one step ahead. The world is still diseased and mad. The hopelessness gets downright oppressive after a while, even as the pace quickens toward an explosive finale.
What keeps this series from being more memorable is that oppressiveness. The dystopian world of Hunger Games has a rabid fan base because of the hope the memorable characters have of overcoming all obstacles. It's always pretty obvious in The Maze Runner that there are too many obstacles to overcome. If this was adult literature, sure, depress the heck out of readers. But this is YA fiction and even if teen readers are mature enough to handle it, they still deserve a little more optimism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what a dark dystopian world this is. How is it different from other books you've read? Do you think the goals of the scientists will ever be met? Do you think Thomas made the right decision in the end?
Do you think all the violence in this book made sense for the story the author was trying to tell or was it too much?
If you were Thomas would you want your memory back? Why did he make the decision he did?
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