Mystery Makes ‘The Maze Runner’ a Refreshing Twist on the YA Genre

“Why is that guy in a freight elevator?”
“Why are all these kids running around that maze?”
“What the hell is going on?”

These are just some of the questions circling our heads after watching the first trailer for The Maze Runner, the latest YA book series to get the big screen treatment. The preview gave us a whole mess of questions to consider. Just when we thought we were tired of the YA novel film craze, The Maze Runner has recaptured our attention.

There’s no denying that a certain genre fatigue is starting to set in. A general malaise of been-there-done-that is creeping in, and it’s hard to look at the latest trailers for Divergent and not feel a faint sense of déjà vu. It’s another young teen trapped in an oppressive society who just happens to be special enough, or have the gall to stand up against her oppressors. And while that simple plot overview could be applied to The Maze Runner with a fair amount of stretching, the film still feels different than what we’ve been served recently. The whole plot rests on mystery, and the premise laid down in the trailer is seriously intriguing.

When the boys of a post-apocalyptic world are trapped in a maze, they can either try to escape or be trapped in 'The Maze Runner'

Equipped with only his name and no knowledge of his past, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) is brought to the Glade, a grassy area walled in by an intricate maze with unkown dangers lurking in its passages. Thomas is greeted by dozens of other boys who similarly have no clue who they are and why they’ve been sent here. They have spent the last two years trying to escape the enclosure through the surrounding maze. Soon after Thomas arrives, a girl arrives with a mysterious note, and things start to change.

What we are given in the trailer is a whole lot of questions and precious few answers about what’s really going on here. Judging from the trailer, the kids in The Maze Runner face a fate worse than Katniss or Tris. Thomas and the other boys in the Glade have been stripped them of their memories and identities, and thrown into a space where they’ve had to cobble together a society based on whatever is around. At least in The Hunger Games, Katniss understood the forces opressing her, even as they were stomping their boots on her neck. But these young men are stuck with the terror of mystery.

Within The Hunger Games, there are clear set rules to surviving; you just need to win the games, and as scant as those odds are, there is at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. But with The Maze Runner, the kids don’t know what’s at the end of the maze. Is it salvation? Is it death? Is it peace, or does the whole thing just round right back into the Glade? The whole thing could just be a big joke with the cruellest punchline. That’s what makes the Maze Runner a refreshing twist on the worn down trappings of recent YA films. The answers aren’t clear or simple. We just hope that when we finally do get those answers, they’re as satisfying as the questions themselves.