The Maze Runner: Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1

Book review by
Debra Bogart, Common Sense Media
The Maze Runner: Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Teens are the pawns of evil adults in violent dystopia.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 226 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value
Positive Messages

Many teen readers enjoy post-apocalyptic or dystopian fiction because it is so dark and over the top. They can judge the actions of an out-of-control world from a safe distance. Even in this dystopia main characters follow their consciences and risk their lives for others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Thomas sets a strong example by doing what he knows is right and risking his personal safety, and later his life, to save the others. He quickly recognizes the value of having even one friend and does everything to protect that friendship. He feels responsibility for the younger teens, and is willing to go against authority.


Depicts a violent world where chosen children in a maze are mere pawns. They face mortal danger from the monsters outside the walls and mortal danger inside from boys who have been stung (but not killed) by the monsters. Some boys go insane. Boys attack monsters with guns, knives, and spears. Adult Creators of the Maze control everyone in it and don't stop at murdering children. Disease and pestilence run rampant in the outside world. A climax where many characters are killed by gunfire.


Some of the boys refer to the only girl as "hot."


Mostly made-up slang words, such as "klunk" and "slinthead"; the word "shuck" is used often and it's hard not to think it's the word "f--k" every time you see it. Some usage of the words "butt," "crappy," and "sucks."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybencom October 13, 2018

Not Terrible

A few Spoiler Alerts for below.

The Common Sense Media assessment is incorrect regarding adults in the book. At no time in the book does an adult directly harm... Continue reading
Adult Written byunknown person June 2, 2011


The Maze Runner was spectacular. Although it may be a little violent for young readers, it is perfect for young readers. If a film was made from the book, I wou... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byfrank2003 February 5, 2019


I think if you need a new adventure in your life the maze runner is one of the best choices for you. You can live a life with the characters of the book and exp... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byreadqueen June 17, 2013

not at all like the hunger games

i was so excited to get this book. I loved the hunger games and was lead to believe that this was just like it. I hated this book. It started out okay, until on... Continue reading

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?

Book details

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