A group of teenage boys wake up inside a deadly Maze, and each day they must search—or fight—for a way out. The newest young adult dystopian trilogy to become a film is pitched at a slightly younger readership than Hunger Games and Divergent, and its strange mechanical and animal monsters seem created for the screen.

The boys—later joined by a single girl—don’t know who created the Maze or why they are there. In the process of making sense of their world there are many instances of self-sacrifice and bravery, even though characters sometimes make mistakes or let tiredness and strain goad them into revenge.

The younger readership is not implied in the frequent bone-crushing violence and gruesome encounters with disgusting creatures, or even in the complex exploration of whether the Maze creators are good or evil, but in the juvenile style in which the story is told. Dashner has invented an entirely new collection of profanities which are irritating when they are not plain silly. Characters, too, seem a little short-witted when they voice the same discoveries over and over, making the narrative tedious. Inconsistencies detract from the story’s quality, in the appearance and capability of the evil monsters—at times deadly or easy to avoid and defeat—and in the bad effects of memories which cause some to lose their mind but others to gain strength and clarity.

It’s important to note that these stylistic limitations are likely omitted from the film, and the violence and tension of the adventure may not do as well for younger viewers.

For readers tolerant of these short-comings the adventure offers plenty to draw them on. Later in the series the plot does thicken with discussion of how far the end can justify the means, boy-centred love triangles (for a change) and a somewhat perplexing presentation of complete selflessness as self-annihilation. While those are discussions for another review, I don’t believe they prevent the series from being readable.

Clare Cannon is the editor of www.GoodReadingGuide.com

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...