The story is told in a close 3rd person following closely the adventures and interactions of young Thomas. He wakes in a darkened elevator with no distinct memories of himself, his past, or his future. He remembers his name and has very vague memories about things of the world (he knows what an elevator is and general concepts like that, for example) but is totally oblivious as to his current situation. The elevator finally arrives in the Glade where he's welcomed by a group of boys no older than him (and many are younger). He quickly learns that they all came up through the elevator in the same way with the same amnesia and that none of them really have any sense of an overall purpose for the Glade or, the larger mystery, of the large maze surrounding the Glade from which there is apparently no exit. The 'Gladers' have organized a routine by which they sustain life through farming and they explore the maze through the use of 'Runners' who search each day for a way out. After 2 years, they haven't yet found an exit. Still confused and trying to understand things, the next morning brings another teenager in the elevator…the first girl ever to arrive at the Glade and she brings a message with her that "things are going to change."
Thomas is the central character that we follow on the journey. We get his thoughts and analysis along the way and we unravel the mystery along with him. We experience a sense of amnesia along with him as we try to figure out what could be going on and why. As various elements unravel that confront Thomas with some potentially harsh truths about himself, I found myself feeling some of the pressure on him as though the accusations were coming at me and I didn't understand why. I guess what I'm saying is that it was pretty easy for me to relate to Thomas…not just because he's a male protagonist but also because the presentation allowed me to learn along with him and to feel very close to his confusion and his emotions.
We don't get as close to the other characters but we do learn a lot about their personalities through their interactions with Thomas and the other Gladers. Even though the various leaders in the Glade have distinct personalities they felt largely the same to me in two main categories…those who were pro-Tom and those who were anti-Tom. I often lost track of which Glader was speaking/acting at a certain time because apart from those two main groupings, a lot of their behaviors/dialogue/actions were very similar. Still, many of them did do very unique things at key moments in the story which set them apart, but generally, the Gladers fit into these key groups.
The one Glader who was different was Chuck. Chuck was the seemingly out-of-place Glader who was almost an outcast among this group of outcasts/exiles/whatever-they-were kids in the Glade. He didn't have many (any?) friends. His skillset was low. Early on, Thomas was easily annoyed by Chuck, but as the book went on, Chuck became the enduring and sympathetic character.
And finally, there was Teresa, the girl who arrived and brought on the major changes. She spends a large chunk of the book in a coma but we still get to know about her through the various snips of memories and implications that come as well as her connection with Tom. When she starts taking part in the action, it's quickly apparent that she's strong willed and maybe a bit cocky. I'm interested to see how she plays out in the next book as well.
The idea for this plot and this world is very interesting to me. It's a strange dystopia world where adults are absent and children are fighting for their lives and their future.
The intriguing twist comes in the amnesia that plagues the group. Nobody knows why they're in the Glade/Maze, who put them there, what the world's like outside the Maze or any other key details. Even after two years of searching and making maps, the kids haven't found an escape nor have they gotten any closer to answers. And now, with the arrival of Thomas and Teresa, their entire existence within the Glade has changed and their forced to find answers and escape or die.
As the overall mystery is slowly revealed, it becomes more intriguing and each answer brings more questions.
My two main complaints with the unraveling of the mystery are both related to the intelligence of the kids.
- As smart as all these kids are and as much comparing of the maps as they made, it seems odd to me that either out of desperation or just pure luck, they hadn't yet made the discovery that Thomas and Teresa help them make.
- Again, with the intelligence of these kids, it was frustrating just how long the acronym (WICKED) remained a mystery…even once Thomas started asking the question, it still told half or two-thirds of the book before he made the connection.
So, although the kids are very intelligent, so much so that their conversation and thoughts seemed very mature at times (don't worry, there's still enough balance of immaturity to realize they are just kids/teenagers), it seems that there were a couple of things that these smarty-pants should've figured out sooner.
This was a very engaging story. Even though the mystery is thoughtful and intriguing, it's not so deep as to overwhelm the tween/teen reader.
The story is very action packed and should appeal to an action-hungry reader. However, if you're looking for a deep book large amounts of character and plot development…a sort of literary classic…this isn't the book for you.
The book is part of a series with the second book already released. While this main segment is self-contained as a single story, it still definitely leaves you not only wanting more, but needing to discover what happens next. I'm not sure if the hardcover came with the "WICKED files" or not, but the version I did had various office memos/emails/etc at the end of the book that shed some more light on the mystery while also creating more questions. In addition, it had the first few pages of book two which helped whet my appetite.
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more. I've got a couple of brothers (who aren't huge readers even) that I'm thinking of giving this to as a gift.
I can certainly recommend this as a good adrenaline filled adventure book.
4 out of 5 stars
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