“A Heavy Character-Driven Story That Overshadows Its Main Plot”
There are three givens in life: death, taxes, and feeling pain. The Maze Runner made me feel a lot of pain that I think I legitimately experienced depression for a few days after reading Death Cure. I couldn’t eat a wholesome meal let alone wake up on my normal schedule. My thoughts clouded my mind so much that I didn’t have the will to continue. I believe this was all exacerbated by living in the year 2020 in the United States and reading other books such as A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as well as playing through The Last of Us Part II. This year hasn’t exactly been kind to me. I should have read The Maze Runner, just not in 2020.
With that being said, I am happy that I was able to dive into the world of The Maze Runner. The only reason this series isn’t as popular as it should be is because of The Hunger Games movies that came out before its movie adaption in 2014. To be fair, The Hunger Games has a more interesting plot and a premise that was engraved into pop culture. The Maze Runner has an equally interesting premise, but its follow up story doesn’t do much to make it disparate than The Hunger Games. However, what I like more about The Maze Runner more than The Hunger Games is its characters. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the characters in The Hunger Games, but I found the characters in The Maze Runner much more realistic and human. To me, that’s the strength of this series. If you appreciate the characters in these books, then you are in for a ride. There are friendships and bonds that are seemingly unbreakable, one in particular that I think is wonderfully developed and grossly underrated and overlooked in literature. That specific friendship is the soul and heart of both the books and movies that any human with a heart can truly appreciate. The Maze Runner is truly something special in regards to its characters and thus I recommend giving it a read especially if you like The Hunger Games.
PLOT AND CHARACTERS:
The best plot in The Maze Runner is the first one, unsurprisingly. However, I thought each subsequent book was better written than the last. A simple mystery about how to escape the dreaded maze built by WICKED, all while the characters are trying to recover their memories of their past selves. I don’t think the plot comes quite close to this even in the sequels.
The Scorch Trials was the weakest of the series. Although there were some vital developments, I felt like the main plot was an exact rehash of the first book minus the mystery of the Maze. It was a simple journey from point A to point B with a few character developments and twists here and there that didn’t feel as impactful as in the first book. The new characters, Brenda and Jorge are interesting, but I thought the ending to Scorch Trials was anticlimactic and not quite riveting for a book that’s supposed to get you excited for its conclusion.
The Death Cure was perhaps the most somber and depressing fictional novel I’ve read. The main plot revolves around destroying WICKED, but I feel like that was completely overshadowed by Thomas and Newt’s friendship in which it peeked only for it to come to a tragic finale. The last act of this book is difficult to focus on as a reader who read Chapter 55. You couldn’t help but to think about that infamous moment. It was always in the back of my mind that I didn’t care too much what happened afterwards. Death Cure has one of the best written Second Acts that has been put together.
Author James Dashner indefinitely improved his writing style as the years passed so much so that The Fever Code (the prequel) was my favorite book. I thought that the prequel was the best and most emotional of the entire series. It may actually be the best prequel ever written. Although it is much more character-driven than the trilogy, the characters that we have grown to care in the trilogy make their triumphant return. It was a nostalgia trip of sorts that made you better understand their backgrounds and their intimate relationships before they were sentenced to the Maze Trials. It is an emotional rollercoaster with great dialogue and character moments, both cheerful and somber, that will leave you wanting more.
The story in The Maze Runner series is my biggest gripe and its okay so long as the characters are compelling. Fortunately, that was the case and I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Maze Runner from Thomas’s perspective. I won’t discuss much more about the main plot points from each book. That is because they are either not very interesting or they kind of get lost amid the character discussions, actions, and their backstories which are all far more interesting than the main plot.
The brave hero of our story, although you can make a case for it being Newt as well (more on that later). I thought Thomas was okay in the trilogy. Not an eye-popping character or all that complex. He’s a simple, yet serious dude who cares about the well-being of his friends more than anything else. What I did like about him was his dry anti-humor. He wasn’t funny per se, but when tried to conjure up a joke, his friends laughed at him which I thought was funnier than his actual jokes. The strongest point of the character was his friendship with Newt and Minho. As Maze Runner fans would jokingly say, the real love triangle of the series, which I kind of agree with. Honestly, it’s a better love story than Twilight.
Thomas’s love interest, Teresa, is a well-written character who is not your typical teenage girl. Although both show signs that they are lovers, Thomas and Teresa are often at odds resulting in our protagonist understandably doubting her intentions and losing her trust after The Scorch Trials. Instead, Thomas grows a loving relationship with Brenda who seems much more honest and loyal to him. After reading The Fever Code, Thomas made the right decision to outright distrust Teresa. Thankfully, this story is not centered about a boy and girl falling in love which makes it already better than most YA novels.
What made me like Thomas and what I think ultimately made me have a penchant for him more than in the trilogy was his story arc in The Fever Code. He was much more conflicted about himself whether to help WICKED find a cure or save his friends from the Maze Trials. As soon as he realized the mistakes he had fallen for, he began to have doubts. From those errors, he grew a heart. He did the kindest things a real friend would do. He helped Newt reunite with his younger sister and equally formed a powerful bond with Chuck, consoling him like a little brother. We see a softer side of Thomas the likes we have never seen before as opposed to his serious side in the trilogy. This made him feel much more real, like a person who actually exists and not just some stone-cold, serious guy who simply cared about his friends. To me, that’s what makes his character arc wholly satisfying and complete.
As stated before, Thomas’s strongest point is his interactions with his two best friends, Newt and Minho. Their conversations never bored me. Not once. His interactions and thoughts about them felt very sincere and genuine. This trio would die for each other, no questions asked. Their bond was unbreakable no matter what conflict brewed between them. A comparison I like making about the trio of friends is Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli in The Lord of The Rings; Tony Stark, Steve Rodgers, and Thor in the MCU; and even Harry Potter, Ron Weasly, and Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. They are all at the forefront working together to help their other friends, but there’s something powerful about these trios and their distinct personalities that keeps them together thriving to accomplish the same goal.
The friendship with Thomas and Newt was miles beyond the universe, the strongest part of The Maze Runner, so much so that it carried the main story in both the books and the movies. Their dialogue and exchanges felt very real and touching. Every moment between them was well-written. Not a flaw to be seen, Dasnher’s best writing always involved these two characters. Their bond is very much the heart and soul of the series that it makes you forget the rather frail story in the latter parts of the trilogy. The best comparison I can make between this duo is Frodo and Sam in The Lord of The Rings; Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers in the MCU; Lee and Clementine in The Walking Dead Game; and Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. Like Thomas and Newt, these duos had an intimate, complex, yet raw relationship, one that carried their respective stories. You can even say that they had an honest depiction of what a true bromance is.
Character Score: 9/10
A great character comes around every once in a while in literature. If I were to make a top ten fictional book characters right now, there is no question that Newt would be on that list. A very likable and realistic character that transcends above everyone in this series, Newt is someone you will say to yourself, “This guy is my friend.”
So what makes Newt the epitome of how to write a perfectly developed character? First is his interesting backstory. It is not only well described, it is also very relatable and sympathetic. Second, his words and language make him rather unique. He talks in a British accent that you can’t help to mimic reading his words out loud. He also has some of the best lines in the entire series. Third, his personality is infectious. Newt is not only charismatic, honest, innocent, funny, and kind, but out of all the Gladers, he’s the most human. Likewise, he has believable flaws, such as suffering from depression (his suicide attempt) and not being immune to the Flare.
Newt’s story is the highlight of the Maze Runner series. From beginning to end, it is the most compelling of all the characters. No one comes close. His friendship with Thomas is about as perfect as it can be that it completely overwhelms the main story of The Maze Runner. Never have I cared about two characters so much in a book until now. I think if the main story involved Thomas and Newt in a large capacity as oppose to destroying WICKED or finding a cure, The Maze Runner would have unanimously become my favorite YA trilogy. Perhaps the next installment of the Maze Runner series will make that a reality. Time will tell.
If I had to critique Newt in any capacity, its that his story is too tragic to the point that nothing good seems to happen to him. The best thing that happened to him is finding his best friends in Thomas and Minho. That’s really the only family he had after his memories were wiped. It also feels extremely unfair listening his character in a lot of pain as evidenced by the way he talks, often scared and unsure of himself. Despite this weakness of his character, he still remains strong to the bitter end.
The fact that we are getting another book installment of The Maze Runner series that involves Newt’s perspective in Death Cure shows the importance of this character to the readers. I’m both excited and worried about this though. On one hand, I think this will be a compelling read because we will get to hear his personal thoughts on what went down. This could potentially complete his story arc and solidify him as a better character than he already is. On the other, I worry that the story in this upcoming book may not make a lot of sense or that he might actually survive in a way that makes less sense. Whether he’s somehow alive or totally dead, I think Dashner can conjure a compelling plot involving Newt that can serve as a proper farewell to his character. Please Dasnher please, give us something to cheer about. I want to be bloody inspired!
Character Score: 10/10
From Thomas to Newt, how can I not talk about the third important piece of the puzzle. Minho is just equally as awesome as his two best friends. Minho’s personality is the polar opposite of Newt, while Thomas is often a mix of both characters. Being the reckless, arrogant, witty, and rebellious person he is, Minho is easily the best and strongest fighter of the trio. He is a warrior who is never afraid to attack those who desire to harm him or his friends.
Minho has some of the best dialogue in The Maze Runner books. His sarcastic demeanor often brings out the humor of the series. He jokes often much that it amusingly confuses Thomas. Thomas even begins to talk like Minho a few times because he outright agrees with him. Let’s also not forget about his dry humor during a dire situation and his conversations with Newt. They are comedy gold and are often the best quotes in the entire series (his inspirational speech in The Maze Runner, for example).
Minho’s best role was definitely in The Scorch Trials. He was labeled as “The Leader” and although you can argue that either him, Thomas, or Newt belong in the same category, I think Minho brought out the best in both his friends. He made them think deeply about the ridiculousness of every situation. He made them challenge their beliefs about WICKED. He was also willing to admit when he was wrong conceding that Thomas was a better Runner than him. This mix of arrogance and unselfishness made him interesting and unpredictable. You never knew how he would react to each situation. It thoroughly kept me on edge. Despite his fickle attitude, one thing never changed about Minho, protecting his friends.
Character Score: 9/10
Teresa is the most polarizing character of the series and for good reason. Some like her, some don’t. No matter what your opinions are on her, there’s no doubt that she is a well-written character. I tend to believe that maybe she was partly an antagonist if not a bigger threat to Thomas and his friends than Janson. You see, there’s a plot twist reveal at the end of Fever Code that explains many of her actions. I will not spoil that twist because it shifts the entire perspective of the entire trilogy, but her actions more times than not were in the name of WICKED. I like to think Thomas had feelings for her and vice versa, however, she felt guilt for betraying him and causing more damage to him than she expected. So I can feel some compassion for that, but the fact she knew more than initially thought renders a bad taste in my mouth.
I tend to have a disdain for Teresa because of the reasons I stated. She is surprisingly complex from Thomas’s eyes, yet easy to dislike. She isn’t loyal to Thomas as is Newt and Minho are and that makes it easy to despise her. The fact that Thomas would rather hang out and talk to his two best friends instead of Teresa, whom he has strong feelings for, shows you how little he trusts her. He still cares about her through thick and thin, it’s just that he doesn’t want anything from her after the betrayal. I don’t think Teresa could have lived with Thomas in the safe haven. There was too much bad blood between them despite sacrificing herself and saving his life. I don’t think her fate redeemed her as a whole, but it at least put an end to their differences.
Character Score: 8.5/10
Who doesn’t love Chuck? I mean what is there to say about him. He’s funny, he’s young, he’s innocent, and most importantly, he’s fearless. He’s the first one to befriend Thomas in the Maze Trials and for good reason. Chuck did everything in his power to help Thomas and the Gladers to solve the maze despite his untimely sacrifice. His death not only shattered Thomas, but it made the protagonist lose his mind. That’s how strong of a bond they had developed in such a short time. Thomas even admitted that he loved the kid that was more like a younger brother to him and who always treated him with such respect.
My biggest complaint about Chuck is that he only appears in two books. I think Thomas could have benefited from being a softy at heart in The Scorch Trial with Chuck traveling with him. Although his time was short-lived, he is mentioned throughout the trilogy by Thomas as a grim reminder of what WICKED did to him. This traumatic memory that has been ingrained in the protagonist’s mind convinces him to not trust Teresa and instead keep fighting for his deceased friend who he deeply misses.
Character Score: 9/10
Jorge and Brenda:
Although they are not related, Jorge and Brenda seem to have a strong bond that is somewhat overlooked. To have survived for as long as they have shown their resilience in a post-apocalyptic world. They hold on to hope for a cure to be developed and have shown to have grit and determination, thus trusting Thomas and his friends to find that last shining glimmer of optimism. Their bond with Thomas grows to the point that they understand what Newt means to him, hence helping him find his friend during his most dire situation.
Character Score: 8.5/10
The big baddie who is often in control of WICKED despite not being Chancellor and lies time and time again to Thomas and his friends. He’s hell-bent of finding a cure no matter the cost. The moment he appears for the first time, he reeks of arrogance and selfishness that knows no bounds. He doesn’t care if a bunch of teenagers suffer through the Scorch Trials. He tries to convince the Gladers that everything has a purpose, but when Thomas, Newt, and Minho see right through his bogus lies in Death Cure and successfully break through the WICKED facility, Janson still does not give up hope on a cure. He was willing to go to whatever means, such as sacrificing Thomas to dissect his brain. In a way, I wished he appeared more in the books because he does seem to have an interesting philosophy even if it is short-lived. For Janson, the ends justify the means.
Character Score: 8.5/10
The Maze Runner books are often compared to other YA novels such as The Hunger Games because of their similarities. Although The Hunger Games has a much better story behind it, I strongly affirm that The Maze Runner has better-written characters that feel a lot more like real people. That’s not to say I like one series more than the other. I think they both a lot to offer. The Maze Runner didn’t reach the popularity that The Hunger Games did because the latter had its movies released first. Had the Maze Runner enacted a powerful main story, then it would be superior to The Hunger Games in my opinion. Regardless, these two franchises are at the top of my favorite YA novels.
Ultimately, it was a thrill reading through The Maze Runner and seeing it unfold from Thomas’s perspective. Never has a book series made me feel heartbroken many times before. I legitimately could not sleep or eat well after reading page 250 of Death Cure. I don’t think I could read Chapter 55 again without feeling depressed. Admittedly, it was one of the best things I’ve read in a book. It sent chills down my spine. Every word meant something. I believe that was the purpose and the series did such a powerful job of making me care about what was happening to these characters, who are for the most part. hard to dislike. The action scenes in the series is also a plus for me as they resemble something out of a movie. The world-building is also phenomenal and interesting.
My biggest fear for the series is that it may overstay its welcome with a new installment. I will be reading it regardless when that time may come, but I can’t help but feel very excited learning more about the characters I grew a penchant for. I think there is some potential to devise one last powerful story that can end the series on a high note. I’m not confident that the author can pull it off, but if he does exactly what I’m thinking he should do (if not I’ll write it out myself), then he very well could make The Maze Runner my favorite book series of all time.
The Maze Runner
Overall Score: 9/10
Most Valuable Character (MVC): Chuck
The Scorch Trials
Overall Score: 7/10
Most Valuable Character (MVC): Minho
The Death Cure
Overall Score: 8/10
Most Valuable Character (MVC): Newt
The Fever Code
Overall Score: 9.5/10
Most Valuable Character (MVC): Thomas
-Well-written and thought out characters.
-Thomas, Newt, and Minho are a strong and powerful trio of friends.
-Frantic action sequences.
-The Maze Runner is a great first installment.
-The Fever Code is one of the best prequels ever written.
-One of the best YA series out there.
-An unoriginal main plot that is overshadowed by its own character plots.
-Its main plot is muddied by the end of the trilogy.
-Why would WICKED risk the lives of the Immunes if they’re trying to find a cure? Makes them look dumb as villains.
-The second and third books don’t live up to their lofty expectations.
My Top 10 Characters - Books
9) Janson/Rat Man