Is Human Self-destruction Inevitable?

Written in '09 Dashner's The Maze Runner is a thrilling ride that explores the depths of human cruelty.

According to some YAL authors it is.

I recently posted about the growing trend of ‘punk’ genre books in YA literature, which you can find here, but there is another fascinating trend that has reinvented the YAL world. These books have everything to do with teenagers surviving in a post-apocalyptic age or in vastly dystopian societies.

The most popular of these books right now would most likely be The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  It is hard to find any avid YAL reader who hasn’t picked up at least the first book. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it, but I’ll save finding out more about the book for you to explore. Suffice to say, the book focuses on the post-apocalyptic world after fallout in North America, and well lets just say society has a unique way of handling the aftermath.

Collins finished the trilogy just this past year by releasing Mockingjay.

A newer book that is starting to get buzz, and rightfully so, is James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. (Check out his blog.) I recently got around to reading it myself and was hooked almost immediately. James is actually a native of the Atlanta area and if my information is correct, Dashner graduated from a Gwinnett County high school. (He currently lives in Colorado.) The Maze Runner isn’t Dashner’s first YAL attempt. He has another series entitled The 13th Reality; still, Maze Runner is what is starting to put him on the map as a YAL author. The book tells the story of a young man named Thomas who wakes up in a metal box that is slowly elevating towards an unknown destination. Thomas cannot remember anything but his name. When the lift finally stops, the lid opens and he is greeted by other young men around his age. They are surrounded by giant walls and live inside these walls in a parcel of land they call the ‘Glade.’ Thomas soon discovers the dangers of his new home as it turns out the Glade is surrounded by a giant maze that shifts every night and has terrifying creatures lurking in it as well. On top of it all, the maze appears impossible to solve. The novel becomes really interesting when a young woman arrives in the ‘box’ with a note of dire consequences attached to her unconscious body as only boys have ever arrived in the box in the past. What happens next? You’ll have to read it for  yourself.

The novel is one of many newer titles that explore a world of chaos where human beings are experiments and human life appears expendable. They are enthralling books and are becoming popular with teens and adults alike. These books appear to be a reflection of what many of us see in ourselves–the inexplicable ability to destroy one another. As an English teacher I find these novels to be great modern day supplements to ‘classic’ dystopia stories such as 1984, Lord of the Flies, and others. I haven’t met anyone who has read The Maze Runner or The Hunger Games and didn’t enjoy the books; they are already timeless in that they explore the same issues, themes, and motifs that some of our near and dear classics are lauded for every decade. Who knows? Maybe these modern takes on human self-destruction might just become classics in their own right.

**Note: James Dashner’s sequel to The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trails, is available in hardback now. Suzanne Collin’s third installment in The Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, is available in hardback now as well.

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