High octane, fast-paced adventure books for teens, the Maze Runner books raise interesting questions if readers can stop long enough to ponder.
The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner. Delacorte.
The Maze Runner. 2009. 375 pages.The Scorch Trials. 2010. 394 pages.The Death Cure. 2011. 368 pages.(The Kill Order; a prequel. 2012. Not covered in this review.)(The Fever Code; another prequel. 2016. Not covered in this review.)
Reading Level: Teens, ages 12-15
Recommended For: Teens, ages 14 and up
When Thomas arrives in the Glade, in a box, he is utterly bewildered. All he remembers is his first name. No other memories: no last name, no parents or family, no idea where he is or why. The other boys in the Glade only increase his confusion as they talk in words he doesn’t know, about things he doesn’t know (“Grievers” and the “Maze”). Thomas is a smart kid who catches on quickly; he’s also a spunky kid who refuses to back down from bullies or shirk the duties of justice.
The boys are trapped in a Glade surrounded by high walls. Outside the walls, the Maze surrounds them on all sides. The goal: to escape the Maze. As Thomas regains memories, reconnects with a girl named Theresa, and uses his brain, he suddenly see the way out. But the way out demands supreme faith and courage. In succeeding books, Thomas and his friends must continue to bring to bear all their reserves of courage and wisdom as they continue to seek a way out, a way forward.
Big Questions in the Maze Runner Books
The Maze Runner books, at their core, raise big questions: Who do we trust? How do we know who to trust? How do we even know what is really true? What is reality? Who are our friends? And yet, the Maze Runner books are so chock full of action (including zombie-esque “Cranks,” a lab-created disease called the Flare, crazy technological weapons, nefarious government organizations, drastic climate change from sun flares, and more), that the deeper questions get a little buried. Readers barely have time to process what has just happened before they’re racing, alongside Thomas, through yet a new danger. As is often the case with series like this, the first book is the best and works as a stand alone. The successive books get caught up in the action and spinning readers along without satisfying conclusions. Readers are left with more questions than answers.
These books are BIG business. Movies have been made, and the books are best sellers. They’re worth reading alongside your teens if “all” their friends are reading them. Sure the language is crass. Yes, they’re crazy violent in parts. But overall, they are relatively tame compared to much teen literature, especially when compared with other zombie stories or dystopian/apocalyptic stories. Quick reads, they will appeal to reluctant readers, readers who may be struggling to keep up, or readers who have such a heavy academic load that they need a little “brain candy” at the end of the day. But do take the time to ask your teens what they think. Probe a bit deeper: there is no adult authority in this series that Thomas and his friends can trust. It’s up to them, and they continually have to choose NOT to trust the authority figures. The Maze Runner series alone isn’t going to cause teens to reject authority, but a steady diet of similar titles starts to plant seeds….
Violence: People are wounded and die, often in gruesome ways. The series as a whole is quite violent.Images: Plenty of blood and assorted graphic imagery is used for the violence. These books aren’t illustrated, but there IS a movie version. Language: Very minimal profanity/vulgarity in terms of the usual words we suspect, but copious made-up slang terms that are transparent stand-ins for the usual suspects (in terms of vulgarity; there is little to no real profanity). For example, “klunk” is used in the following scenarios: “Go take a klunk.” “Klunkhead.” Etc.Sexuality: Overall, these books are pretty tame for a contemporary young adult series. A little kissing here and there; Thomas finds himself conflicted over two young women and obviously wishes for more of a relationship with them, but it’s portrayed more as a genuine relationship rather than simply lustful thoughts. All in all, it’s very much in keeping with the average teen sensibilities.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5
Worldview/Moral Rating: 3 out of 5Literary/Artistic Rating: 3 out of 5
Related Reading From Redeemed Reader
A Resource: Lord of the Flies: a Christian ResponseA Review: MindWar by Andrew Klavan, another sci-fi thriller for teens (but one that is highly recommended)A Review: Shepherd Suspense Novels by Andrew Huff, real-world action that reads like a movie (fast-paced, nail-biting!)
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