I cannot get behind this book. I wanted to, I did - oh, and based on recommendations by other people, I have been recommending it to teens and tweens who like action for a good year now - but I think it is poor science fiction.
Thomas is a teenage boy who wakes up one morning in a windowless metal room, unable to remember much more than his name. When the room opens up, he finds himself in a community of several dozen boys, all of whom arrived in what they call the Glade just as he did, devoid of memory. The Glade is a sizeable square area surrounded by tall stone walls. Behind the walls, on all sides, is a gigantic maze. In the two years since the first boys were delivered to the Glade, they have formed an extremely functional, organized, (mostly) self-sustaining society, and have set themselves the task of solving the giant maze - looking for a way out.
Kind of a long way to go for a premise, but ok, I've swallowed bigger bites of fancy. I don't mind ambitious. I do mind clumsy exposition, though. Naturally, our Thomas has a million questions, which he asks, but nobody wants to answer. This is not because there are giant secrets in the Glade - his questions eventually get answered - but rather it is to spread out the exposition. Also, if his questions had been answered right off the bat, he would likely immediately embark upon the action plan he eventually initiates and this book would have been a lot more like a short story.
As it is, the reader spends easily a hundred pages not only as mystified as Thomas is, but provided with zero clues by which he or she might begin figuring things out. This is the author saying, "Your job is just to watch."
And when the big, important answers do come, they come from a black box. Specifically, Thomas forces himself to have a vision, and his vision reveals a whole ton of stuff that is completely external to the Glade and to the book that we have been reading. This is known in some circles as Cheating. Annie Wilkes may have been a psycho, but that doesn't mean she was always wrong.
There is also a great deal of Future Swearing, which is quite handy when you're writing about teenage boys but you want tween-age boys to be allowed to read your book, but the these particular swears - "klunk," "shuck," and "shank" - are monotonous and overused.
The action is well-written, I'll say that. Fight scenes, chases, running and jumping - it all resolves, through steps and pivots, to bodies moving in a coherent way. And god knows fifth grade boys have enjoyed this book.
But not me.