The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Maze Runner begins with a boy, Thomas, finding himself in a metal box that he soon realizes is a small elevator. He has no memory of how he got there, who he is, or what to do next. In fact, the only thing he knows for sure is that his name is Thomas. The box finally reaches its stop, and is opened to reveal The Glade. Upon exiting the box, Thomas is surrounded by boys ranging in age from about 8 to 16, none of whom seem too phased by his sudden appearance. Thomas soon finds out that once a month a new boy emerges from the box in the center of The Glade. This boy is the newbie of the group until the next month, when a new boy arrives.
The Glade is pretty massive, and contains a working animal farm/slaughterhouse, a large area for growing crops, a makeshift dormitory (complete with a hospital wing and a prison!) and a mini-forest (with a cemetary! Oooohhh!) The Glade is surrounded by four impossibly tall stone walls, and in the center of each wall is an opening, which closes every night before dark. Behind these walls are more walls, also crazy-tall, forming a maze that surrounds The Glade on all sides.The doors close at night for two reasons: One, there are beasts called Grievers that roam the maze at night (more on them later) and two, the walls of the maze change while the boys are trapped inside The Glade each night.
Each boy has a job to do, whether harvesting crops, slaughtering pigs, or running through the maze. That's right. The boys have realized that if they can solve the maze, they will be free. Runners are the boys who go out into the maze once the doors open and dart around, trying to commit to memory every turn and dead end. At the end of the day they run back into a small shack in the middle of The Glade and write down all they remember. Each Runner is assigned an area of the maze to work through, and although the boys haven't made any progress, they are sure that they can use the maps to somehow figure out how the maze works and finally be free.
Thomas knows, somehow, that he is destined to be a Runner. The leaders of the Gladers are not so convinced, as the Runners are the boys that have proven themselves over the long term to be fast, smart, and loyal. Thomas has only been in The Glade for a day. The leader of the Gladers also shows Thomas just what he's facing out there, and what happens if you stay in the maze overnight. Grievers.
The Grievers are huge, beastly creatures that mercilessly hunt the boys and sting them, causing something called the Changing. I never really paid that much attention to the description of the Grievers, but in my mind I pictured Snuffaluffagus merged with the cleaner from Labyrinth. If a Griever stings a boy, he must be returned to the medical ward in The Glade to get an antidote, or he will die. Even after receiving the antidote, the boys go through the Changing, in which they are able to recall snippets of their lives before The Glade. This changes them considerably, and some even go crazy (because how else would you realize The Glade and the maze were part of some kind of crazy shit?)
So Thomas still has about a bajillion questions about this whole set up, but his plans for discovering the secrets of his new home have another huge wrench thrown in them when the elevator he came in starts humming again. All the boys are shocked and scared; the elevator ONLY comes when a new boy is delivered, once every thirty days, and Thomas showed up YESTERDAY. Then the elevator doors open to reveal... A GIRL IN A COMA.
No one has arrived in a coma, and there's never been a girl. Basically all hell breaks loose. The girl is taken to the hospital, and the boys turn on Thomas, thinking he's responsible for this upset in their usual schedule. Thomas feels that he knows the girl from somewhere, but, having his memories erased, he can't figure out how they would know each other.
Okay, this is where the summary ends. Let me just say that the girl (Theresa) wakes up, and she knows some stuff, and Thomas knows some stuff, and there's a lot of action and just when you think you have some answers there's MORE. And that's why there's a sequel The Scorch Trials, and a third and final book coming out next year. The Scorch Trials is next on my reading list, so I can't review it yet, but I am very excited to see what happens next.
I would say that while reading The Maze Runner, I totally thought the 10-year-old boy I watch would love it. It's kind of like Lord of the Flies for the born-after-2000 set. I'm interested to see what happens in the next book, but I'm not peeing myself waiting to get it on my iPad.
Overall Grade: B (But I think if I were 10 and a boy I'd give it an A)