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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers can think about the idea of a dystopia and compare this world with other tales of scary future worlds. Also, Thomas and his friends are part of scientific tests, and there's much talk of "variables" and piecing together patterns in the brain to cure a disease. Readers can look up more about how scientists study human behavior in much less violent experiments than they find conducted in this series.
This book shows how a government agency with too much power can lose sight of how to help the people they're supposed to serve. And how that breed of government can often lead to violent opposition.
Positive Role Models
Thomas continues to put his friends first as he has the whole series, enduring life-threatening situations to save them. He even considers sacrificing himself if he thinks it means saving more people -- and with the help of the people who have been horribly manipulating him at every turn. These "scientists" continue their quest for a disease cure by staging trials that kill their teen subjects.
Violence & Scariness
There are two significant deaths of characters followed through the series. One is crushed by a building and the other succumbs to the Flare disease that causes madness and begs to be shot -- Thomas eventually shoots him. There are numerous fist fights; some intense electrocutions by specialized weapons; shooting deaths and a pinkie toe shot off; stabbings, broken glass and knife fights; and Thomas strangles someone to death. In a lawless city overrun by the diseased, people are "killing anything that moves" and there are hints of cannibalism. A van is surrounded by diseased and people are thrown from the car and shot. Numerous people are crushed when a building collapses, others are sliced at by government machines. Thomas is in solitary confinement for 5 weeks with no shower.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple kisses.
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The teens have their own slang. Fake swear words such as "shuck," "shuckface," "shucked in the head," "slinthead," "klunk," and "shanks" replace the real thing. And you'll see "bloody," "hell," and "dammit" a few times, as well.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sick people who can afford it shoot up a substance called "bliss" that slows down their brain significantly as well as the progression of the disease.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this final book in The Maze Runner Trilogy is just as dark as the other two. Adult "scientists" are still manipulating and killing teens and a whole city succumbs to a disease that causes madness, mass violence, and eventually cannibalism. The publisher still has this series marked for ages 12 and up, but it's more in line with other dystopian novels marketed to 14 and up. Fans of the series will be shaken by deaths of two important characters. One sadly begs to be shot when he gets the disease. Other violence is fairly constant and runs the gamut: shootings, stabbings, electrocutions, fist fights, and numerous people are crushed to death. The main character is forced to decide whether to sacrifice himself for what may be the greater good.
Is It Any Good?
It shouldn't be surprising to series fans that THE DEATH CURE stays grim throughout. As answers surface, friends don't suddenly stop dying or getting manipulated by the government. The scientists keep being fanatical and nonsensically blood-thirsty and are just about always one step ahead. The world is still diseased and mad. The hopelessness gets downright oppressive after a while, even as the pace quickens toward an explosive finale.
What keeps this series from being more memorable is that oppressiveness. The dystopian world of Hunger Games has a rabid fan base because of the hope the memorable characters have of overcoming all obstacles. It's always pretty obvious in The Maze Runner that there are too many obstacles to overcome. If this was adult literature, sure, depress the heck out of readers. But this is YA fiction and even if teen readers are mature enough to handle it, they still deserve a little more optimism.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.