Many comparisons have been made with James Dashner's Maze Runner Trilogy (Delacorte 2009, 2010) and Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series but in my opinion, James Dashner shouldn't be anything but flattered.
Yes, both are dystopian tales of young teens thrown into horrible, life-threatening situations that, as a reader, will make your skin crawl and the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention. And yes, they both suck you in from the very first page, grab you by the throat in a strangle hold, refusing to let go until the last cliff-hanging sentence when you finally take a deep gasping breath and wonder how in the world will you ever be able to wait for the next installment.
Yes, fans of one will most likely adore the other.
But as many young readers have discovered, Hunger Games is not just a girl's story. Neither is Maze Runner only for boys. Both are stuffed full of adventure and, yes, violence -- some far too disturbing for sensitive readers -- but Dashner's trilogy has an element of mystery and confusion that takes it in a different direction.
It's difficult not to reveal too much, but Maze Runner has definitely stepped into the void left by the final Hunger Games book, taking readers down a path with twists and turns so unexpected it's truly impossible to predict where this will all end up. Where the Hunger Games' intrigue stems from the relationships between Katniss, Gale and Peeta, and their challenge of surviving in the Games, Dashner has upped that tension by refusing to let his reader know what is actually going on. We don't know who threw these kids into the Glade, who built it, why they built it, or what the Gladers are supposed to do to escape.
Thomas' wiped memory gives us hints along the way, but even by the end of the second book, The Scorch Trials, we really aren't more sure of the answers to these questions. And it just doesn't matter, because the read is so out of control and wild, like riding a roller coaster inside a tornado, no knowing is half the fun. You just have to hang on and trust that in the end you'll roll to the platform in one piece and more enlightened for the experience.
Definitely not for the elementary crowd, The Maze Runner trilogy has put Dashner on the map. No doubt, Hunger Games fans are hoping the third book, The Death Cure (October 2011), wraps things up in a way that will not disappoint. I know I am.