Where to start on a review of The Maze Runner? First, a short synopsis: Sixteen year old Thomas wakes to find himself inside a box that lifts him into a world where teen boys must work on their own to survive (well, they do get weekly supplies) and run through a Maze in hopes of finding a way to escape. All memories previous to this awakening are erased; the large living community is surrounded by giant walls which close at night to keep out the Grievers--a hybrid mechanical animal with the power to both sting and kill. And these boys who are trapped in this community (the Glade) are angry, and doubly so when Thomas's arrival signals a shift in the routine. Follow that up with the arrival of a girl with the note that says she is the last one ever, and the need for escape intensifies.
Great, great premise. The idea that a moving Maze somehow must be escaped by boys with no adult supervision is genius. Lots of tension and the threat of danger and death that's real...awesome. There's a bit of gore but not much, and lots of unanswered questions, including why is Thomas so different? Why does a girl show up? What happens when a boy is bitten and goes through the Changing? Lots of good stuff there, and there are sparks of brilliance along the way. The chapters often end on cliffhangers that defy you to stop reading, and the idea of a Griever attack is creepy stuff. By the time I was halfway through, I knew i would have to finish the book because I needed to know how they got out of that freaky Maze.
And there goes the good news.
It was a struggle to finish this book, but I committed myself halfway through and I meant to keep it. But the characters...I really only liked Chuck, and mostly I just felt sorry for him. Thomas was meant, I think, to be a strong, mysterious boy, and yet he was just clueless and frustrating, as were most of the others. I never warmed up to the "leaders" Alby and Newt, and Teresa...well, if I knew who she was, I might've been intrigued but really she was a throwaway character because she neither added to nor helped the storyline. Biggest issues beyond those? Lots of the story was transparent including (spoilers....) the names of the characters and WICKED's signs in the Maze. But mostly it was the style of writing, which was supposedly geared to young adult but in actuality is much more for the younger end of that spectrum (perhaps twelve/thirteen). Thomas was said to be sixteen and yet he acted much younger; I never warmed to him because he just didn't seem to be real. And the substitution of "shanks", "klunk", etc., for the words we *know* they are saying was just odd and irritating and only led to the aura of a younger mind-set.
Worst of all, however, was that non-ending. If the author was trying to ensure that we'd go for the next books, he underestimated his intended audience, because of the five friends I know who have read this book, four of us will not go ahead to the next one simply because of that ending. I won't detail it here, but I will say that the lack of answers and the forced march into The Scorch Trials is a huge turn off.
I initially gave The Maze Runner two stars because I *never* take two weeks to read a book of this size, and for the reasons I mentioned above. However, upon reflection, I decided it warranted 2.5 stars (there are some gems in there, and the excitement, when it's good, works well) so I'm allowing that to round up to 3 stars. Consider yourself gifted, Mr. Dashner.