The Maze Runner — Book Review

The Maze Runner tells us the story of a young man who wakes up in a box…
That is moving…
And completely dark…
And he can’t remember…
Anything.
Well, anything except his first name: Thomas.

A Glade, a Maze, and a boy…

The Maze Runner begins as the box Thomas has somehow found himself in stops moving and drops him in a glade.  This isn’t just any glade though – it is full of other boys who have also been dropped in by this moving box.  Thomas quickly notices the towering walls around the glade that open to what’s outside.  What is that outside the walls?  The Maze.  Now stop asking questions!  

Every boy in the Glade knows you must not ask questions.  In fact you should keep your mouth shut completely and just do as the Keepers tell you.   

Every boy in the Glade has a job.  Keepers are…well, keepers of the jobs, or managers you could say.  They are naturally the best at their assigned job.  Every other boy is under his keeper and follows his lead.  

Every boy in the Glade understands the unwritten rule: no one but the Runners are to enter the Maze.

Every boy in the Glade has been told the Number One Rule (in fact, the only rule): no one, NO ONE, not even the Runners, enter the Maze at night.

But Thomas isn’t like every other boy.

On just his second day in the Glade, Thomas breaks the unwritten rule by entering the Maze before first becoming a Runner.  Not only that, but he entered the Maze just as the doors in the wall closed, thereby breaking the Number One Rule.  

Thomas’s rash action of going into the Maze is justified, but he ends up running straight into a living nightmare.  The Glade walls close at night, not so much to keep the boys in the Glade, but to keep the Grievers out!  Grievers, half-monster and half-machine terrors, prowl the Maze mostly at night.  They hunt down and kill any boy left in the Maze with a poisonous sting.  The only cure the boys have found is called Grief Serum, but even with a cure, few, if any, of those who are sung actually survive Griever stings.  

Thomas and the two boys who are trapped in the Maze with him manage to survive the night and avoid the deadly stings of the Grievers.  

But Thomas broke the Number One Rule AND the unspoken rule.  Though he saves the life of the two boys who were trapped with him, Thomas is duly punished for breaking the only rules.  Order has to be kept.

While Thomas had to be punished for breaking the rules, he also receives a due reward for his bravery and accomplishment in the Maze.  Thomas is awarded the job of Runner.  Minho, the Keeper of the Runners, becomes Thomas’s teacher and running partner.  Thomas now runs the Maze with Minho, but he is quickly surprised by how little Minho and the other runners actually explore and attempt to solve the Maze (which is the point of being a runner.)  But Thomas now knows that he’s supposed to keep his mouth shut.

Then the sun disappears.  

Sounds like an interesting read, doesn’t it?  Keep scrolling.

I have to say, while the story line is a little wierd and feels like it might lead nowhere, I was in suspense the entire book.  So I kept reading.  And reading.  And reading.  In the process I discovered that this book really didn’t lead anywhere.  Well, not literally nowhere because it did lead to a sequel…but literature-ally there was no point and no plot-line! I will admit that I had the temptation to throw a fit when I finished the book and still had no clue as to what the point was.  

Naturally, I returned it to the library.  But, I also checked out book #2 (The Scorch Trials) and book #3 (The Death Cure) because I’m a reader!  I can’t leave a series unfinished (except for that one time…but that’s another story for another review.)  I had every confidence that this author just needed some confidence and story-building help that he would have received in time to write the following novels.   

I was not rewarded for my faith in a good plot line eventually developing.

In fact, you could almost say that I received due punishment for the assumption that this series could lead to another great youth-novel-sensation-turned-movie like The Hunger Games!  

If anything, the second and third books left a worse taste in my mouth than the first one.  To state it succinctly, I’ve now read all three books in the series and still cannot (for the life of me) explain to anyone, including myself, what the actual plot-line is.  The story ended eventually though, I can tell you that much.  

But I digress…

While lacking a plot-line may not come as a concern for some, there are other issues that may give you pause.  For instance, crude language is used heavily throughout the book.  The words used do not necessarily find common usage in every day life as curse words or vulgarities, but the context of their usage suggests them as inappropriate, offensive, and curse-worthy terms.  The characters using these words are also all young teenage boys, which does not inspire excellence in the currently-maturing generation.  Rather, usage of such base terms seems to express to our young adults that language is normal and even acceptable or necessary to get our thoughts across to people.  While worse words have been used in more noble works, greater words have also been used in lesser pieces of literature.

Unfortunately, violence has slowly crept it’s way into youth literature without much difficulty, and doesn’t seem to give many readers pause.  The Maze Runner is no different, although the graphic retelling and even amount of violence does not seem as heinous as some other well-known youth novels.  Mechanical monsters called “Grievers”, the primary instigator of violence in this book, terrorize the young boys in the maze.  Perhaps the blood, guts, and gore factor is lower in this novel, but the graphic description of these creatures left me with chills and goosebumps.  Needless to say, these creatures do not produce innocent or even pleasurable reading material for youth under the age of fifteen (and even older if you’re like me and can’t appreciate wild-creature imaginings.) 

Beyond even this, we are faced with the fact that there seem to be few to no moral lessons in these books (although one with a high dose of imagination could probably extract something from the mess.)  The Maze Runner presents us with a small world made up of only teenage boys and thus it lacks a certain maturity and wisdom that comes from older men and those who have walked through life longer than the characters we are presented with.  We could say that Thomas quietly teaches us the honor that comes with bravery and a willingness to sacrifice for others; however, this wanna-be morality is tainted by how the rest of the boys take it.  In short, Thomas’s actions are not taken as well as a spoonful of sugar.  In fact, all the boys begin to question Thomas’s actions because it seems as though he might be an attention-seeker.

We do see some authority aspects in the characters Alby and Newt who are two of the oldest boys that have been in the Maze the longest.  They seem to garner a certain respect from their peers which could be a testament to their character, but again, it is overshadowed by the fact that the Maze is full of selfish and self-centered boys.  On top of that, what person in authority doesn’t lay down the law of the land?  Since when did it work for mankind to live without a system of rules?  As mentioned previously, there are really only two rules in the world of the Maze: don’t go into the Maze (unless you’re a runner) and don’t go into the Maze at night (at all.)  That hardly constitutes an ordered system of law and order, as is evidenced by the purely selfish way in which these boys govern themselves.

Would I read it again? 

No, I would not read it again for all the tea in China!  Not even mint tea.  I would not suggest this as an afternoon joy-read for anyone; however, perhaps you feel differently?  If you disagree, leave a comment below.  If you are considering reading this novel, might I suggest a few other choice options more enjoyable for the literary palette: classics such as Ben Hur or Rifles for Watie are full of action, adventure, good morals, and plenty of plot-lines.

Until the next book!

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