Rather than sticking to the stereotypical plot normally found in young adult books of finding the right boyfriend or girlfriend and developing the ideal teen relationship, books for teens are turning more towards a darker futuristic route. Books such as The Hunger Games, Angelfall, and Divergent are but a few of the most well-known of these morbid tales and James Dashner’s plot in his book The Maze Runner is no different.
The Maze Runner is the first in a series of four books that focuses on a group of about fifteen young boys (between the ages of eight and eighteen) who are trapped in a glade that is surrounded by a maze. The only way the boys can get out of the glade is to make their way through the maze. Sounds fairly simple and straightforward, right? Well, there are a couple of problems keeping these boys trapped. One, the maze shifts and changes on a daily basis. Two, come nighttime, the maze closes and, if the boys are trapped in the maze at night, they are killed by half organic, half mechanical creatures known as Grievers.
The book as a whole had intriguing and disturbing concepts scattered throughout the story. Focusing on the interesting points first, the one that stood out the most was the premise of not losing hope when there seems to be none left and refusing to give up. That sentiment is very inspirational and definitely is something people, especially today’s teenage generation, needs to hear and understand. The other interesting premise (spoiler ahead) was its end-of-the-world sickness that closely resembled the H5N1 virus, or the Simian Flu, that spreads in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Dashner used the large solar flares that have been erupting recently from the sun and had one of the flares reach Earth, causing an illness called The Flare to infect and kill millions of people. Aside from the millions of people who died, this illness seemed intriguing and will make some want to continue reading on to the next book.
Aside from a couple of intriguing concepts, to an adult, this book is rather disturbing. The boys are trapped together, they are all that they have, and they need to work together in order to get out; however, there seems to be no sense of comradery among them until the very end of the story. This portrays a bad message to the younger readers about trust. Teenagers already have trouble trusting one another and this story does not help. The story itself borderlines Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, but rather than kids mercilessly slaughtering one another to survive, adult scientists are the ones testing intelligent young boys like rats in a maze and killing some of them with the half organic, half mechanical creatures they designed in case any of the boys figured out the secret to the maze. This concept does not sound normal at all and it is scary to think that young adults actually find enjoyment in stories such as these.
Is the world that cruel and society that unwelcoming that the younger generations have to read books where children are living in a very dark future just to find entertainment? Granted, it is nice to see children and teenagers reading, given the many different forms of technology they are normally on. However, it would be nice if they read books with more meaning like the classics or popular fiction to expand their brains and realize that the world is not as dark and morbid as they believe it to be.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on December 11, 2014.