The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Last year, one of the young men at my school who read The Hunger Games came up to me with a question (which I won’t put here, because it’s kind of spoilery). I couldn’t give him the answer, because it was also kind of spoilery, so we talked about it when he was done. When I saw him at the beginning of this year, we talked about Catching Fire and how he has to read it as soon as he can.

I saw him in the library a couple of weeks ago, and he asked for Lord of the Flies. I thought that would be a good choice for him, but all our copies were checked out. I started running through titles in my mind that might work for him, and after asking him why he wanted Lord of the Flies (he saw the movie over the summer) and what he liked about The Hunger Games and Lord of the Flies (the bleakness), I handed him a copy of The Chocolate War (an oldie but a goodie). I am not always able to make such a good connection, but I was pretty proud of that one.

The next day, The Maze Runner came for me in the mail. On the information sheet, it mentioned all three of those books – The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and The Chocolate War. That made me feel even more awesome about my recommendation for my student, and I was eager to read The Maze Runner to see if my Hunger Games fans (who are legion at this point) might also enjoy it.

At the beginning of the story, Thomas wakes up in a place called the Glade. He is surrounded by people he doesn’t know and can’t remember anything but his name. As he gets to know the people around him, he learns that everyone got here the same way and that no one can remember where they all came from. The Glade is protected by large stone walls with doors that close every night to keep out monsters called Grievers. Outside those doors is a maze, one that they have been trying to solve for two years. When Thomas arrives, everything about the Glade begins to change. Is he part of the problem or will he help them finally find the answers they are looking for?

It’s inevitable that a book like this is going to be compared to The Hunger Games, but let me tell you a bit about what worked for me first. I liked this book a lot – the ways the boys had set up their community, the friendships and rivalries between them. I also liked Thomas as a character – his bravery and strength were really admirable. There were some twists and turns I hadn’t anticipated that kept me turning the pages, and the ending was an intense cliffhanger that has me ready for the next book.

For me personally, the story wasn’t quite as exciting as The Hunger Games. However, I do think it’s a great choice for students who liked The Hunger Games and are ready for more dystopia. Not all students are ready for Lord of the Flies or The Chocolate War, and this would be a great bridge to those books. I think the ways that the boys relate to each other will make this one especially appealing to my middle school boys. In fact, I already handed my copy to a (different) student who isn’t really a reader who loved The Hunger Games. I will be interested to hear what he thinks.

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