Verdict: 3 Stars
Prequels come pre-installed with an inherent flaw that brilliant writers can overcome. How will the author hold the readers’ interest and give them new plot morsels and new character development when those same readers have already read—and presumably, enjoyed—the completed series?
James Dashner’s prequel to his highly acclaimed The Maze Runner series fell face first into the prequel trap.
Obviously, when you go back in time to events that happened before the first book in the series, there might be new characters. But The Kill Order not only focuses on completely new identities, it abandons those characters that the readers had been told all along (through the three books in the series) were there in the beginning.
Perhaps most irritating with the book is the same scenario that has been happening more and more in young adult literature, namely, plot lines and action that are decidedly un-YA. While most teen readers are perhaps more worldly and equipped for violent depictions than their elders give them credit for, this book felt simply like an attempt to pack as much gore in between two covers as possible. As both a parent and a teacher, I’m growing increasingly disturbed by the “crossing-the-line” that keeps happening in books that have been designated as YA-appropriate. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mature content and I vehemently abhor censoring books for young people simply based on the age of the readers, but I do worry about the increased number of books hitting the market with a YA designation that might mislead others into blindly handing them over to a reader who isn’t prepared for the violence.
Moreover, The Kill Order didn’t answer enough of the questions that made The Maze Runner so incredible. Book one in the series presented such a perfect apocalyptic world building that the readers didn’t need back story; it was so unbelievably “never going to happen” far-fetched that it was just an awesome book that sucked us in and made us want to know what happened in The Glade. The prequel should have cleared all of it up for readers who did want to know more, but instead, it simply provided more questions.