Everyone loves a thrill, be it pleasurable or terrifying; that tremor that excites you and makes you gasp. You realize you’re holding your breath. It’s probably my favorite story to read, one where you’re on the edge of your seat, you can’t turn the pages fast enough, your eyes dart to the bottom of the page when a chapter is ending because you can’t wait to see what the author is going to reveal, leaving your pulse thrumming and your heart pounding to start the next chapter.
Here are our picks for YA thrillers:
Caryn’s Pick: THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner
It seems as if we’re in Dystopia heaven lately, okay, an oxymoron, I know. But we can’t deny the flood of stories hitting the silver screen lately: The Ender’s Game, The Hunger Games, Divergent, they even dug up that twenty-something-year-old classic, The Giver. Teens running around trying to reverse the horrible world the elders have made, brutal violence, trials of courage and morality, it’s exhausting, really. But it’s also good to force teens to think about such serious topics and so in that regard I applaud these authors.
The Maze Runner certainly lives up to the hype. Written in 2009, for more of a MG audience, it has just reached movie theaters. I’d categorize it as Lord of the Flies meets The Ender’s Game. It’s the story of a group of teens in a place called “The Glade”, a village-type area surrounded by a giant unsolvable maze lurking with mysterious lethal creatures, the Grievers. All the inhabitants of the Glade have no recollection of their previous lives. The story begins with the arrival of the newest resident, Thomas—one drops in through a metal box each month. Things begin to change after Thomas comes on the scene. The limitless, ever-changing maze is the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive. Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.
The author uses substitute words for curses like shuck, which we all know replaces that oft-heard four-letter word that rhymes with it, thus making it appropriate for a PG audience. The writing is above par and an easy read. I almost thought the author to be a Brit because he uses the words “bloody” and “arses”, but now I think he just used them as another way to avoid the usual curse words.
I’ll admit it was a real page-turner and I read it in about a day. The Maze Runner is also the first book in a trilogy, and I’m sufficiently intrigued to move on to book two. I liked it as much as I did the first book of the Hunger Games, but unfortunately found myself sorely disappointed in the next two books in that series. I’m hoping this goes better.
Postscript: Saw the movie and now I realize Newt is a Brit and the character who utters the terms “bloody” and “arse.” Didn’t pick that up while reading. I thought the movie great, although it did substantially differ from the book.
Heather’s Pick: HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME by Kirsten Miller
Lately I’ve been fascinated with the psychopaths in our midst, those people who are just born bad and lack empathy. And this book asks the question: “What if there’s a school that trains psychopaths and releases them into the world as super criminals?” Then takes it one step further with: “What if the school also attempted to create sociopaths?” Crazy though it may sound, I think the state of our world makes it easy to buy into this concept and imagine this really happens, and that makes the book even more terrifyingly thrilling.
The Good: Well, everything! There’s a seriously damaged main character with a good soul and a tragic life who needs to work out his sh*t and keeps getting it wrong, even though at first you think he’s got it right. The evolution this guy goes through is one hell of an accomplishment, writing-wise. The secondary characters are also gritty gems, but there are too many to list here. The twists and turns all hinge on characters surprising us, but in ways that are true to their personalities. There’s even a little bit of magic, if you believe in that. If you don’t, then you can write it off as hallucinations.
The Bad: Some readers may find this book long. My boyfriend did. He thought the first half was boring, and was more interested in the character of Joi than the main character Flick. He thought it was really Joi’s story. I disagree with him. It’s definitely Flick’s story because he’s the one who had issues to resolve and had to change. Joi knew what she was doing and was in control all along. No demons to wrestle for her. As for boredom, I wasn’t bored once, but perhaps that’s because I loved watching the psychological mind f*ck unfold as Flick gets his bearings at the Mandel Academy.
Note: The book jacket gives away a major plot point that doesn’t happen until halfway through the book (page 273 to be exact). Don’t look if you don’t want a spoiler. Then again, the summary on Goodreads gives it away too. Seriously, marketing people, you thought the only hook of this book was the romance angle? Which is just a small part of the book but happens to be a huge spoiler? Shame on you guys!
In Conclusion: Read this book anyway, even if you know the spoiler. It’ll thrill you, horrify you, and then reassure you that while there is powerful evil in the world, there’s good in most of us.