By James Dashner Genre: YA Lit (dystopian)
Reviewed by AB 4/5 stars
If you have a teenager, find yourself surrounded by teenagers on occasion, or simply own a television, then you have probably heard of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series.
Written for readers in grades 6-10 (though grades 8-12 seems more appropriate, in my opinion), these books represent the best in post-apocalyptic YA (Young adult) lit, with their intense action sequences, fast-paced plot lines, impossible end-of-the-world struggles between right and wrong, and awkward teen romance. The books have proven so popular, in fact, that The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials (books 1 and 2, respectively) have been adapted for the big screen with a 2018 release planned for the adaptation of The Death Cure (book 3).
The series begins with Thomas, the main character, waking up to find himself in the Glade—a community of teenage boys in the middle of an impenetrable steel-constructed maze. All he knows about himself is his name and that he has no memory of anything before the Glade. Through his interactions with other Gladers (as they are called), Thomas learns that each boy has arrived in the same way with no memory of his past life and that each one must use his talents to help the others survive and try to escape the treacherous maze. The boys have access to the Maze during the day and those who have been designated “runners” must literally run through and memorize the maze every day in desperate attempts to discover the way out. At night, the maze seals itself off, the runners record what they have seen, and anyone who doesn’t make it back into the Glade before the doors close is never seen again. Just as Thomas begins to understand this crazy world, the Glade is rocked by the arrival of a girl. And she asks for Thomas.
If your interest isn’t piqued by this set up, I can’t help you.
Each book in the series proves exciting, the characters are believable, and the plots contain some killer (pun intended) twists. The character development is acceptable, and I personally found it refreshing to read a YA series, written by a man, in which the main character is a teenage boy, instead of a strong teenage girl protagonist (seemingly the only character-type in today’s popular YA fiction).
Words of caution: The books do contain violence (post-apocalyptic fiction, after all), but it’s not the excessive violence readers find in The Hunger Games series, if that is a problem for you. Additionally, Dashner does create his own euphemisms for his characters to use instead of the typical “bad words,” but since I don’t really know what the euphemisms stand for, it makes them easy to ignore. Just know that they are pervasive. As I always caution parents, know what your kids are reading and read the books yourself. That kind of proactive parenting paves the way for healthy, informed discussion with your kids. As for sexually explicit content, there is none of that, and in keeping with the fast pace of the story, there is little time for the romance that does exist in the story.
Please keep the genre in mind as you read. YA literature is written for a certain age group and is typically not thought-provoking material. For adults, this series would fit in the category of “beach reads”—heavy on suspense, light on character. However, if you have a teenager who doesn’t like to read, YA lit (and this series) might be a good place for them to start.
This post contains affiliated links.