The Maze Runner is a Thought Provoking Series for Teens (and Adults)
Despite the fact that I'm well past my teen years, I find myself drawn to young adult literature. The stories being written for this age group are phenomenal and are often more exciting than adult literature. Not only are they addicting, many of the books are thought provoking. James Dashner's The Maze Runner series falls into both of these categories. It keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and constantly guessing about what might come next at the same time as it poses serious ethical questions.
Thomas wakes up alone in a pitch black elevator. His only memory is his first name. The elevator is moving, but he has no idea where it's going or what will be waiting for him when he gets there. Terrified, he sits alone in the dark while he slowly ascends to the unknown. When the doors finally open, he finds 50 teenage boys waiting for him in what seems to be an idyllic green space that they call The Glade. These boys are the Gladers and, like him, have no memory of their lives besides their first names. Thomas quickly learns that the Gladers have established a life for themselves in their new home and that there is a great deal more to this new place than meets the eye.
Thomas is the latest in a long line of boys to ride the elevator into the Glade. Once a month, a new boys arrives. Despite the fact that they have no idea why it happens, it has been a predictable pattern ever since the first of the Gladers arrived two years earlier. But, the day after Thomas arrives, another person arrives in The Glade, and this time it's a girl. Teresa sets off a chain of events that will alter the Gladers' world forever.
The Glade and The Maze
The Glade is a large, square expanse of green land that is home to the Gladers. It has everything they need to survive: farm animals, shelter, and even a small wooded area. Supplies are sent up weekly. However, it is surrounded by four enourmous walls, which lead into a gigantic maze. Each wall has a door into the maze and every night the doors close. In the day, the maze is relatively safe. At night, it's deadly. Lethal creatures wander the maze in the dark and no one survives a confrontation with them.
Everyone has a purpose in The Glade. It's the only way they can keep order: keep everyone busy. Thomas has a chance to try each job, from cooking to farming, but doesn't take to any of them. The most prestigious and difficult task is charting the maze. To do it, you need to be fast and brave. Thomas doesn't know if he's either, but he knows he wants to be a runner. The Gladers have been trying to find a way out of the maze for two years, but have made virtually no progress. The fact that the maze changes shape at night doesn't help. The closest they've come to an exit is a sheer cliff that drops off into oblivion. Thomas is convinced he can find a solution, but first he has to convince the Gladers to let him try.
Dashner has created an array of memorable characters. One of the best aspects of his characters is that they are all flawed. Alby, the leader, is confident but arrogant and doesn't always think much of Thomas. Newt is second in command and much more personable, but he hides a dark secret from his time in the Glade. Minho is a runner and while talented, is far from patient. Gally shows nothing but contempt for Thomas and the reason for that may be more than it at first seems. Chuck is the youngest of the Gladers and shows it in his naivety. He tries to help, but can't always contribute as much as he'd like.
Not only is Teresa's arrival strange and unexpected, she is the only girl the Gladers have seen since their memories were taken. Everyone is curious, but Thomas feels an extra connection to her. He is convinced they've met before, and when Teresa finally wakes up, she knows they have too. They don't have time to dwell on the strange familiarity as things begin to fall apart in the Glade.
More Than Just a Good Story
The Maze Runner is both mysterious and thought provoking. You are constantly guessing of what is going on and what will happen next as Dashner expertly drops hints about the world outside of the Glade and the maze. We learn of a mysterious thing called "The Flare", though we don't know anything about it other than it's extremely unpleasant. We also know something called WICKED exists and that it might have to do with the Creators. None of these concepts are so present in the first book that you are left confused, but rather you learn about them alongside the Gladers.
Dashner also raises some thought provoking ethical issues for his readers about the value of human life and what we are willing to do to survive. Ultimately, no one knows to just what extent they will go to until they aren't given any other choice. While the Maze Runner series is not an uplifting read, it is truly fascinating and entertaining. The characters will stay with you long after you're done reading and you'll find yourself wishing there were far more than four novels.