The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner

James Dashner is clearly an excellent writer. These books are chock full of suspense and action. In my book, he dominates the YA thriller genre.

The Maze Runner series is another group of books that have sat on my Kindle for ages, waiting to be read. I actually only ended up finally pushing them to the top of my list after a good friend of mine posted about loving them on Facebook. Sometimes, all you need is a personal recommendation and you can finally make the plunge into a book. I’m glad I finally did because now I can move on to other books.

The truth is, while I found these books compelling and intriguing, I also found them to be extremely frustrating.

The Maze Runner (#1) starts off great. Everything moves quickly, poses interesting questions, and moves you through the story. The end promises answers to your questions, but instead propels you into book two. I don’t have a problem with this because cliffhanger endings aren’t inherently bad. I was excited to start the next book to find out what happens next.

 Book Summary (From Goodreads):
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.
Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.
Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

I can definitely see why this book was compared to the Hunger Games. It came out around the same time and someone is setting a bunch of kids up to die. Harsh, futuristic dystopian realities are clearly all the rage right now. And that’s fine by me because I’m a fan of this genre.

The problems in this series are present in book one, but they are easily overlooked. It’s book two that really started to irk me.

The main character, Thomas, starts off and continues to be really freaking annoying. His hesitant behavior is understandable in book one when he doesn’t know or trust the people he is with, but at some point, I was hoping he would get over that and trust his friends. And any character who is suddenly the best at everything has to work extra hard to win me over, which Thomas really didn’t. Instead, he just keeps being the best at things and the chosen one and the all-important guy. Instead of trying to be humble, he comes off as arrogant and unlikeable. And sort of useless at the same time.

And his girlfriend is wishy-washy and annoying, too.

However, the supporting characters are all awesome. If this story could be told without the main characters, I would have really enjoyed it.

In the second book, The Scorch Trials, I expected more questions to be brought up, but I also expected at least a few answers. Nope – none. Just a lot of action, which is phenomenally well-written, but also feels sort of needless.

 Book Summary (From Goodreads):
Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he and the Gladers would get their lives back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to.
In the Maze, life was easy. They had food, and shelter, and safety . . . until Teresa triggered the end. In the world outside the Maze, however, the end was triggered long ago.
Burned by sun flares and baked by a new, brutal climate, the earth is a wasteland. Government has disintegrated—and with it, order—and now Cranks, people covered in festering wounds and driven to murderous insanity by the infectious disease known as the Flare, roam the crumbling cities hunting for their next victim . . . and meal.
The Gladers are far from finished with running. Instead of freedom, they find themselves faced with another trial. They must cross the Scorch, the most burned-out section of the world, and arrive at a safe haven in two weeks. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.
Thomas can only wonder—does he hold the secret of freedom somewhere in his mind? Or will he forever be at the mercy of WICKED?

The thing that started to really irk me was how kids kept dying and Thomas didn’t even seem to care. He doesn’t even bother learning half their names. And I swear, he spent more of the book asleep or passed out than conscious. The book took forever to get moving and then the payoff was minimal.

And his girlfriend’s situation is needlessly complicated and frustrating, again.

By the time I finished the second book, I wasn’t interested in reading the third and final in the series.

The Death Cure looks interesting, don’t get me wrong. I read about the first 30 pages just to find out what happened after the cliffhanger ending in the second book, but felt no desire to go any farther than that.

Especially after I read reviews online and they all said the same thing: more questions, no answers. I was so frustrated with the first two books, the last thing I needed was to force my way through the third book only to still not know what the heck just happened.

 Book Summary (From Goodreads):
Thomas knows that Wicked can’t be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they’ve collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It’s up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.
What Wicked doesn’t know is that something’s happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can’t believe a word of what Wicked says.
The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

Apparently, Dasher also released a prequel that answered all of the questions the trilogy didn’t, but in my eyes, if you can’t complete a satisfying trilogy without a prequel released later, you’ve not succeeded. And honestly, I didn’t feel like the need to have the questions answered was enough to make me sit through two more books. I didn’t even like the main character! I just couldn’t make myself do it (but I did read about the ending online and I’m glad I didn’t bother going forward.)

That being said, A LOT of people absolutely LOVE these books. Some found the ending satisfying and like Thomas. I just wasn’t one of those people.

I would still recommend people read these books if they like action. These books are fantastic thrillers, but as far as story goes, they might fall a little short. If you’re okay with that and just want a book you’ll speed through in less than three days, then definitely check these out.

Oh! And I should add that these are PERFECT for teenage boys. I know some parents are always looking for “boy books” and this one definitely fits the bill.

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