The Maze Runner
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.
Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.
Attention – this review contains spoilers. Typically, I don’t give away the surprises throughout the story, but I have to for this review. If you want things to be a surprise, which I recommend, don’t read this review and read the book based off of my recommendation.
The Maze Runner was exactly what I was hoping it would be. The world that Dashner has created is the perfect type of dystopian society that science fiction books are typically known for. However, what makes it particularly unique, is that this dystopian world is a world within a world.
The world that Thomas wakes up in with his memory lost is a Lord of the Flies type of scenario. The maze world is populated only by teenage boys, and each has particular tasks that they’re in charge of performing in order to make sure that their little world can continue working. The other world is the outside world, that some of them seem to have some faint memories of, and when they go through the Changing, they remember that their world is not a world worth going back to. However, they still hold out hope that there must be something better than what they have now, and so they attempt to solve the maze
What Dashner has cleverly done to avoid the boys fighting amongst each other is given them something to hope for, something to work toward. They channel all of their respective energies into solving the maze and finding freedom rather than fighting against each other. In that way, it’s unique from Lord of the Flies or many of the other dystopian science fiction novels.
There is a good balance between the death of the boys, and the difficult situation they’ve found themselves in, and the hope they retain for discovering freedom, coupled with their intelligent pursuit of that goal. They crack codes, which is an interesting discovery process as well for the reader.
Lastly, the ending is perfect for the way the setting and plot slowly reveals itself to the reader throughout the novel. You don’t know any more than the characters do themselves, and that’s part of the adventure. In addition, the fake murder of the scientists, and the false hope they’ve placed these characters within yet again makes for a tantalizing next novel. Often with follow up books, they are rarely as good as the first because everything has already been revealed, and there is no mystery. I recommend this book to all readers 13+.
For the Classroom
Although this isn’t directly applicable to any specific studies within a classroom setting, it’s a book that I recommend to all late middle school and high school students. If there’s a point where you are studying dystopian literature, this is a great example and something that the average teen reader may enjoy more than 1984.