I mean is it any surprise I went and read the sequel to the book that had dinosaurs and Romans in the same place?
Potential spoilers for The Chosen ahead – but spoiler-free for The Challenger.
The stakes are higher than ever in The Challenger, the second book in the Contender YA trilogy by the New York Times bestselling author of the Summoner series, Taran Matharu.
The first battle is over, but the Game is just beginning…
Cade Carter and his friends have survived the qualifying round of the mysterious overlords’ twisted games, decimated by the loss of so many of their comrades during the fight. But they have no time to mourn, for the next round of trials is about to begin.
When the group discovers that their next foe will be even more ferocious than the last, Cade leads them on a quest out into their strange new world to find anything that might give them an edge. But what they find in the wilds could prove to be even more dangerous than the impending battle…
The stakes are higher than ever in this thrilling sequel to The Chosen.
I have a complicated relationship with these books. On the one hand, I think the concept is really good, I like the plot a lot (both the meta-plot and the more contained plot of this particular book). I also think it’s a good male YA protagonist – something harder to find than one would think in 2020 (they always seem to be either a bad example or something that I think teenage boys are going to find damp).
I think it’s that last point that makes these books not for me – but still something I would recommend for other people! This book has a good balance of action for male and female characters, and there’s an emotional angle to the story that I wouldn’t necessarily have expected from a book geared to YA boys.
Overall these books are thrillers, not quite as hard hitting as The Hunger Games felt when I first read them, but equally ‘disturbing meets fun’ as often happens with dystopian YA. There are humorous moments, there are legit dinosaurs and roman soldiers meeting on the page, but there are also some really difficult themes brought up, and Matharu doesn’t shy away from exploring the consequences of book one.
I also appreciated learning about various places/people who have vanished from history, it’s a fun aspect of this series as a whole and I felt like this book really leaned in – you kind of want to read with Wikipedia open in front of you to research alongside – which is something I do enjoy in fictions set in the real world (or…sort of?). I like having that starting point to widen your knowledge.
I wouldn’t say this is the kind of YA that I would recommend to everyone, you know how some YA transcends genres? But I would wholeheartedly recommend this to librarians or parents looking for books for younger teens who perhaps crave some action – but who don’t want to recommend some of the…sexist stuff coming out of other publishing houses geared towards teenage boys at the moment. (Naming no names of course). I like Cade as a main character, and I think he would appeal to others even more.
I also feel the need to mention, again, that there are dinosaurs AND Romans.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
The Challenger is out August 20th
What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know in the comments below!