The Lost Boys in the Maze

In THE MAZE RUNNER, Thomas wakes up to find himself in the Glade, a LORD OF THE FLIES meets ENDER'S GAME kind of experiment where boys fight monsters and try to solve the maze, all without adult supervision—or girls. Thomas soon gets the hang of the place, learns a few things, and positions himself to be one of the elite, a Maze runner.

Then surprise, surprise, a girl is introduced into the Glade—and everything changes. And that’s exactly what she tells the boys just before she slips into a coma: “Everything is going to change.” And clutched in her hand is a piece of paper that says: “She’s the last one. Ever.” Her arrival signals the end of the Glade. The Maze stays open all the time, and the monstrous Grievers can enter the Glade and pick off the boys as they sleep. Thomas and the others realize it’s time to get out.

This whole scenario has a Wendy and the Lost Boys flavor—except that the Glade is not an idyllic place. In PETER PAN, introducing Wendy into the land of never-ending boyhood results in many of the Lost Boys wanting to grow up and leave the island. Can the same be said of the introduction of Teresa into the Glade? I’m not sure. The Gladers generally want to leave already—though some may enjoy the relative freedom of the experiment. They may be trapped in this horrific Neverland, but no adult is telling them what to do.

Dashner's target audience does seem to be middle grade and up boys.  And boys, as Jeff pointed out yesterday, do love a good tribe--which often excludes the opposite sex. So I can see the appeal . However, from an internal story logic standpoint, I don't quite get why girls weren't included in the experiment in the first place. (Granted, I haven't read the Scorch Trials yet, and all may be revealed by the third book.)

So here's my question--actually questions--for you guys.  

What do you think about the role of girl(s) in THE MAZE RUNNER?  If we're writing for boys, do we need to exclude or downplay girls? (I don't mean this as a criticism of Dashner's work, but just as a general question for us writers of YA/MG fiction.)


Aubrey said...

I thought it worked really well for the scenario. Obviously the maze is some sort of trial and the gender differences is a variable. It really never crossed my mind as an issue when I read the book.

(P.S. this gets answered some in Scorch! So don't worry about that!)

Sarah Ahiers said...

THAT'S what the Maze Runner is about?! I need to read that like right now!

Anonymous said...

Haven't read the book in question (yet) - but I think the key thing is simply not to compromise the novel by forcibly making all the characters one sex or another. Or balancing them between XX and XY with solemn political correctness.

That said, I'm sure some young readers do actually have predilections for books mainly featuring characters of their own sex. Fr'instance, I remember going through a phase (was about 11?) where I read nothing but series focusing entirely on girls. (Chalet School, Saddle Club, endless other school series whose titles escape me now.) In retrospect I realise they helped me feel secure in suddenly being A Girl rather than a kid. It was enough trying to cope with A New Perspective On Boys at school, I didn't want it in fiction too. (until I started reading romances a few months later.) (Anyone else recall going through a phase like that, or am I exposing myself embarrassingly?)

Um, I'm not really sure what my point is, at the end of this lengthy comment. Oops. Maybe "authors should be true to their stories, but their readers might not think in the same ways" ...

Angie Smibert said...

Thanks, Aubrey. Scorch Trials is next on my to read list.

Emilydreams, you're very right about not compromising the story. And you make a good point about some readers gravitating toward same-gender books because they might not be ready to deal with boy-girl issues yet, at least in fiction.

Shallee said...

Read The Scorch Trials. All is explained. :)

But generally, I do like a balance of the sexes in what I read.

Elana Johnson said...

Shallee, I'm glad more is explained in The Scorch Trials. As I was reading TMR, the lack of girls didn't really bother me, but I can see your point, Angie. Now I'm wondering, really wondering, why there weren't any girls in the Glade!

amberargyle said...

At the very end, he mentions group B(?). I'm thinking that's the girls.

I've been told that if you write female MC, 1/3 of boys can't empathize enough to read it? I hope that's not really true. If so, writers like me will leave out 1/3 of their audience.

Unknown said...

Interesting. I am looking forward to reading this book. I'm glad Scorch Trials is already out so I can read them together.