I've been sucked into another round of dystopian young adult fiction.
It's not clear to me why I find these particular young adult books so fascinating. I think my sister-in-law summed it best when she said: I am starting to seriously question my reading level.
But it can't have anything to do with reading level. Sure, these books are relatively easy reads that allow you to fly through them. Ironically, though, if they were just the opposite -- if they weren't easy reads (Faulkner comes to mind) -- the stories would obviously lose their appeal and interest would inherently be lost. A book that makes you think too much isn't fodder for entertainment; it's fodder for a headache.
These days, I read for entertainment. And for some odd reason lately I enjoy reading books about teenagers stuck in impossible, science-fiction-like, life-threatening situations where they eventually emerge the victor. Most of the time.
Okay, that's kind of weird. But at least it doesn't include vampires.
All of these young adult novels have one thing in common: dystopian societies, which is slightly odd because I'm not exactly a science fiction type of girl. But at least I'm not alone, considering The Hunger Games has sold like a bazillion copies. (And because I thoroughly enjoyed The Hunger Games, someone recommended I read The Maze Runner Series. I am so glad I did.)
The Maze Runner begins with the main character, Thomas, trapped in a box with no memory of anything other than I know my name is Thomas. He emerges from the box in a vast green landscape filled with teenage boys -- dirty and tired. In this vast landscape, The Glade, the boys have created a makeshift life filled with farming, cooking, cleaning; they're basically trying to survive. None of them have any memories.
The Glade is enclosed by huge stone walls. On the outside of these walls lies the maze. The boys believe this maze holds the answers to why they are there and more importantly how they can get out. The smartest, strongest boys spend their days as runners in the maze, memorizing the slightest configuration changes in hopes of a creating a pattern that will eventually somehow free them.
Every night the stone walls close and keep the boys safe from the Grievers -- the fleshy, slimy robotic monsters let loose in the maze each night. If allowed, the Grievers will sting and kill anyone they come in contact with. The Grievers are the Gladers' biggest enemy and worst fear.
Thomas arrives and everything around him feels vaguely familiar. He feels he must become a maze runner. Shortly thereafter, a beautiful girl,Teresa, arrives with a haunting message: This is the end. And that's when the end somehow turns into the beginning.
James Dashner has the unique ability to create mystery and suspense in a completely natural way. You're left wanting to know more. You can't put the book down because maybe, just maybe, in these next few pages, all of the questions Mr. Dashner so carefully planted in the story will be answered.
The characters in The Maze Runner are well-developed and Dashner is able to dissect them in such a way that the reader makes an instant connection -- whether good or bad. Thomas is everything you want in a main character -- smart, strong and trustworthy. His inner thoughts somehow mimic that of your own as you are reading. He is not in on the secret. Most importantly, he asks the same questions you find yourself asking. His instinct is strong and Dashner does a great job allowing you to trust Thomas, when everything else going on around him seems so untrustworthy.
This isn't one of those frustrating-this-is-so-unbelievable-why-can't-he-just-tell-me-what-is-going-on books. Dashner reveals just enough at the absolute right times, but more often than not, those answers create an even bigger question.
I highly recommend The Maze Runner for its originality (it's not The Hunger Games knockoff at all), character development and the uncanny way Dashner keeps us intrigued right up until the very end.
Verdict: Absolutely Recommend