A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the scenes of violence are stronger in this book and more graphic than those of, say, The Hunger Games, partly because at times it is adults murdering children, and not from a distance or out of sight. The teens stranded in the Maze have their memories wiped, but they are still aware on some level that they are being held captive and endangered by adults, not monsters or other children. Some of the teens in the Maze go insane from the fear, the attacks, or in one case, the memory of the world he had left behind. Main characters are conscientious and risk their lives to save others.
What's the story?
Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up in a place called the Glade, where towering walls close at night to keep a colony of boys safe from the monsters outside them. They have all had their memories erased, but Thomas remembers just a little too much. The world is in catastrophe and they are living in the Killzone, mere animals in a bizarre experiment. Soon Teresa, the first girl, arrives and tells them the game is on. Some boys think they are better off in this cold, cruel place than going back to where they came from -- they have formed a society after all, with rules and jobs like farming and even butchering their own meat. But Thomas turns out to be the leader they've needed to form their own army, revolt against the monsters, and take on the people who have set them up in this very cruel and isolated world. Of course the outside world may have its own scary challenges.
Is it any good?
This is a fast-paced adventure in a very dark and pretty violent post-apocalyptic world. It is reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies, without the inventiveness of The Hunger Games. Readers who enjoy dystopian novels will enjoy it, and Thomas is a strong role model who does not fall easily into peer pressure or give up his own sense of what's right. Readers will root for him, and for Teresa, and the complicated relationships between the other boys will keep readers guessing.
Part of the attraction of THE MAZE RUNNER will be the world the boys and Teresa inhabit for most of the book, a world with no adults where kids make their own rules. The story makes up for the sometimes bumpy prose, and the invented slang is a little jarring since there are no clues about how far in the future the story is supposed to take place, or why the boys have made up their own words. A cliffhanger ending will gear up teens for the second in the trilogy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what happens when a group of boys are left to survive without the normal rules and laws of society. Who becomes the leader? What happens to those who won't follow the new rules?
The boys arrive one at a time but become acclimatized to their new society very quickly. Why do they form loyalties so quickly?
Why do you think the Creators use children in their Maze instead of adults?
The boys and Teresa have all had their memories erased. Is there really a memory-wiping device or drug available?