The Maze Runner by James Dashner is yet another dystopian young adult novel in which teenagers, in this case a group of boys, find themselves in an untenable situation, only not all of the boys seem to mind. When Thomas, the protagonist, wakes up in the Glade, his memory mostly erased, he tries to make sense of the situation in which he finds himself. The Glade is the center of a maze which changes every night. Every morning, a group of boys go out to see if they can find a means of escape.
Within this dystopian setting, there is a seemingly utopian perfection where each boy’s role within the community is determined by his innate skills. Everyone has a purpose and even the weather seems accommodating, allowing some of the boys to even sleep outside. Once a week, new supplies arrive. Every month, a new boy is added to the community. But when Thomas arrives, things begin to change. And the other boys begin to distrust him even as Thomas himself begins doubting his own memories, or lack thereof.
The novel is relentless. The moment you enter the story with Thomas waking up, you can’t help but feel the same confusion he feels. Who was he before he arrived at the Glade? How did he get there? Why is he there? Why does one boy recognize him? How can they solve the mystery of the maze that keeps them all trapped where they are? And why do things begin to change when he arrives? All of these questions not only drive the story but Thomas himself.
Most of the characters are not very layered but, when you think about how limited their experience is, it is hard to begrudge the author for not developing everyone more fully. After all, how faceted can characters be when they have only two years, at most, of solid memories to define them? Yet, the characters are differentiated enough that they don’t become confused with one another. There is the mentor character, the best-friend, the antagonist bully, and a few others to give a sense of how large the small community truly is.
Reading this novel is like trying to keep up with a runaway train. It’s nearly impossible to put down. There is one turning point in the plot that is significant and is, unfortunately one pivotal plot twist is spoiled in the trailer for the movie. This really disappointed me because I loathe spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the movie trailer and plan on reading the book, don’t watch the trailer until after reading the book. I look forward to seeing the movie. Given the tense breathless pace of the story, I’ve no doubt it’s an edge-of-your-seat film.
Thank you to my son Marc for the recommendation!