I still think The Maze Runner is an excellent YA book, (a great book, indeed, for a reluctant male reader) just not exactly the best fare for the younger set.
When I headed to the library in search of another audio book to listen to while walking on the treadmill, I stumbled upon Dashner's prequel to The Maze Runner series, The Kill Order. While this book was fast-paced, at times the action became a bit too much and the constant difficulties seemed drawn out just to keep the book going. The obstacles they faced were repetitious (same old obstructions over and over again - hordes of the ill surround them several times, the weapons accidentally fall into the hands of the enemy twice, the boy finds himself hanging with an enemy out of an aircraft window twice, etc.). But, it was interesting to hear how the world came to be in the state which led to the institution of the maze (although there's really no explanation offered for the origins of WCKD, the group behind the maze).
Moreover, with the recent introduction of Ebola to our country's soil, it was a terrifying ride to observe a society attempting to achieve population control through the use of biological warfare. It hit a bit too close to home and I was genuinely disturbed thinking of the realistic prospect of this fictional scenario. It isn't that big of a stretch to think that some evil individuals would actually consider that to be a necessary course of action in the face of the world's problems.
If you are looking for more information about the characters in The Maze Runner, you'll be disappointed. It is really a separate story altogether. The book begins with a natural catastrophe of sun flares wiping out the earth's resources and much of the population. Mark and Trina are barely surviving in their little settlement in the Appalachian mountains, when suddenly a large, hovering aircraft lowers its ramp and individuals in hazmat suits begin shooting people with darts. Mark and his military friend, Alec, manage to get aboard the ship and discover the darts contain a virus known as "the flare." Surviving the sun flares becomes child's play compared to what they are facing now, but they are determined to live long enough to ensure that a cure for the virus is discovered.
The book presents a realistic, and horrifying, glimpse at the demise of civilization as we know it. It is action-packed enough to appeal to reluctant readers. I didn't enjoy it as much as The Maze Runner, but it was certainly a riveting read. The minutes did slip away while I was listening (and that's an absolute requirement for my audio books, to distract myself from the exercise).