I have been ruminating on whether to read this book since before the movie came out. Honestly, I am not a huge YA fan. Even the books I actually enjoy in this genre (like The Hunger Games), had really poor character development. So, I confess, I was avoiding this book. But this week I had nothing new to read and I was like, “Why not give it a shot!”
And oh, boy, what did I get myself into!
Release date: October, 2009
Synopsis: Set in a dystopian world, teenager Thomas wakes up with few memories in a strange elevator which rises up into the Glade, filled with other boys like him. The Glade is a safe home for the boys, surrounded by stone walls. Outside those walls is a constantly changing maze, which is unsurpassable, and it is the only way out. Everything changes when the first girl arrives and they must escape this prison maze.
This book is a perfect example of the best and worst of YA sci-fi. It is extremely well-paced, starting from a compelling introduction (when Thomas arrives) and rising progressively as the plot twists abound. Let me just say, I did see the movie years ago when it came out, so all the plot twists I already knew. However, my memory was foggy as to the details (memory, get it, since none of the teens remember…I’ll stop trying to joke).
The beginning immediately drew me into the story. One of the best things any story can do is to keep you guessing, whether it is a murder mystery of who the murderer is or a sci-fi like this where you are constantly wondering what is going on. The author gives enough information for the reader not to feel overwhelmed but still feel invested. And this coming from someone who rarely reads fantasy/sci-fi because I hate learning all the new rules of a world.
Thomas is a brilliant protagonist in the beginning. He is smart, intelligent, but he also has weaknesses. He feels fear, confusion, and even breaks down in tears several times. But he is also essentially a good person. He tries to protect the other boys in the Glade, as well as risking his life to find out the truth. He is not perfect, but he is good. Despite being surrounded by lies and danger, he constantly fights for survival of everyone, not just himself. I will say, without giving away any spoilers, in the last part of the book the author rarely gives us the reasoning behind what Thomas does, which annoyed me because in the beginning we clearly see into Thomas’s thoughts.
Likewise, the other characters (save for Teresa, who we will get to in a minute) were really interesting. Despite all being teenage boys in a similar position, Dashner (the author) does a good job at making all the boys really stand apart. Both Newt and Minho were my personal favorites, but I could really understand the motivations of all them. While there were about fifty boys in the Glade in the beginning, only a handful are named and developed, making it less confusing then if Dashner decided to try to incorporate all of them in the story. However, that also means when many of them die we aren’t affected by their deaths.
Teresa…oh, Teresa. Keep in mind, she is the only main female character in the entire book! And I was super looking forward to her appearance. And I will say I felt really let down by her development. She just came across as a one-dimensional, stereotypic sassy girl. Either she was helping solve the mystery of the maze (which added nothing to her character) or she was making remarks about how capable she was. Just telling the boys she’s capable does not make her capable! The only time I saw anything deeper in her character is when she is frightened being in the maze…and who wouldn’t be? So, I really didn’t like her. Luckily, she didn’t really feel like a main character and only even wakes up halfway through.
So, basically, the plot was interesting, the world kept me asking questions about what was happening, and most of the characters were really well-developed.
That ending, though…
Before I spoil the ending, let me talk about a few things that stuck out to me throughout the book.
First, the use of swearwords. Or, rather, the avoidance of swearwords by using a new lingo. Like “Shuck-faced slinthead.” I read it a few times and immediately my mind went to…f**k-faced shithead. Forgive my swearing, but you get my point. It was like Dashner originally had swearwords throughout and then changed it to these weird, new slang words created by the boys in the Glade. Just a very funny thing I noticed which really threw me off when I started this book.
Next is, I thought this was a completely sci-fi world, but then we also have telepathy between Thomas and Teresa, making me wonder if there is some magic involved. Unless there is a “scientific” explanation for it in future books.
One thing I really liked was that, though the author clearly wanted to make Thomas smart enough to figure out puzzles that the boys had been unable to figure out for two years, he did not dumb down the rest of the boys in order to do this. Often times when Thomas had an idea, Chuck or Minho would simple tell him that they already tried it. In many YA fiction, the adults and secondary characters are presented as ridiculously stupid in order to make the main protagonist seem more intelligent, and I liked how this book, while playing the Thomas the savior card, did not make the rest of the boys seem stupid in any way.
Now, the ending…
I understand that the last fifty pages were almost an introduction to the rest of the series, but it seriously felt like the moment they escaped the maze that there was a massive information dump. The Flares? WICKED is good? There’s an apocalypse going on outside and they are all orphans. WICKED is planning a phase two. There was just so much information I felt lost.
Saying that, I’m pretty sure the next book will explain a lot of it. And, surprisingly, I plan to read it! While this book wasn’t perfect, it is one of the best YA sci-fi I have ever read. It’s enjoyable with provoking characters and a mysterious world. Unlike The Hunger Games, it is not simply about killing each other, but instead forming strong bonds of friendship, loyalty, and a journey for the truth, all themes I think are incredibly important.
I highly recommend this book it anyone who enjoys sci-fi.
Have you read this book? Would you like to read my reviews for the rest of the books in the series? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,