With the slew of young adult dystopian novels already topping the charts as bestsellers, such as “Divergent,” “The Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” “The City of Ember,” and “The Giver,” you really begin to wonder if there is anything new out there. The genre has exhausted itself many times over. So when someone recommended “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner, I immediately balked.
“Seriously? Another one? Do I really want to read about another lackluster protagonist who overcomes the odds and manages to triumph over an overbearing, malevolent evildoer, all the while finding some romance?”
My answer is usually a hearty, “no thank you.”
However, after some major prodding, I picked up the book and began reading, and what I read really surprised me. I found a book that not only had a unique setting, but had a different take on the dystopian genre completely.
The novel starts off ominously with the protagonist being lifted to an unknown destination. He has no idea who he is, where he’s from, or anything really. He only knows his name: Thomas. The lift opens and Thomas is introduced to the Glade — a community consisting of only teenage boys and surrounded with an air of mystery. The book then chronicles Thomas’ desperate attempt to understand the world he’s been dropped into and who he is, all the while battling Grievers (gross animatronic/mammalian creations), mutiny within the Glade and the ever-mysterious Creators who run the maze.
It truly is a thriller from start to finish.
What this book does really well, even to the point of frustration, is keep the reader in the dark. The fact that the protagonist has no idea what’s going on — the fact that no one really knows what is going on — lets you truly understand and relate to all of the boys.
However, what I really enjoyed about this book was how human it was. In a lot of the dystopian novels around today, the teens seem almost too perfect, too confident and too grownup, and they always have to prove themselves. In this novel, they argue, they fight, they fart, they cry and they sling incoherent insults at one another; they’re boys. Thomas never tries to prove himself, never aspires to be a leader; he simply aspires to be a good person and to survive, which proves to be more difficult than he first imagines.
If you’re not into constant action and want a more philosophical and slower paced book, this isn’t the book for you. If you’re not into an (almost) all male cast and prefer a broader one, this isn’t the book for you.
But if you want a book that keeps your pulse racing, if you want a book that makes you question authority and if you want a book that brings survival to a new level, this is exactly the book for you.