Will Hobbs' The Maze is about a fourteen-year-old boy named Rick. He never knew his father and his mother left him when he was a toddler. He grew up with his grandmother in California, but she passed away when he was ten. He then drifted through foster homes. Rick stole two CDs once when he was quite young, and when he turned fourteen he went to a detention center for throwing thirty or so rocks at a stop sign. Blue Canyon, the detention center where he escaped, was rampant with corruption. Rick told his social worker in the center about the corruption but the social worker was fired. Rick then discovered he was ratted out and the guards paid some boys to beat him. When he became aware of this, he devised a plan of escape. Luckily for him, his escape went rather well. He finds himself somewhere between Utah and Nevada and snuck into the back of a pickup that went to a very remote part of some national forest in Utah. There, he met Leo, who is a surveyor of condors for the U.S. government. Throughout the tale Leo teaches Rick a lot, most importantly how to fly a hang glider, which later results in Rick saving Leo's life during a torrential rain storm while Leo was stranded by two gun smugglers. Rick had nowhere else to go and Leo gave him a place to stay. Eventually, Rick went back to a judge and Leo explained to him that Rick was not a menace, he was just afraid for his life. The judge let Rick stay under the supervision of Leo and the condor program.
When Rick is desperate after his escape from Blue Canyon Detention Center, he goes through great odds to find a path out. There have been many films and books on escape, but he makes it look easy. Even after he thinks he's free, he has no idea where he his. He steals Leo's truck, thinking it will get him to a highway, but finds that there is nowhere to run. Many young people reading this have not been in situations as desperate, but certainly we have all had feelings of desperation. The way that Rick deals with it is admirable. He goes from a boy who is terrified for his life and future, to a boy who is a hero and rescuer; he becomes completely reformed.
The adult-mentor relationship in the novel is quite clear. Leo is a government subsidized worker trying to keep condors from going extinct by living in a remote part of Utah: Canyonlands National Park. At first, Leo is apathetic about Rick's appearance. He lets him do what he wants and Rick is confused about what to do, especially with little guidance. Soon, they both come around and build a bond. Leo starts to teach Rick about the condors, and which birds are which. Their personalities reflect off of one another and Leo makes an impact on Rick's identity. Rick realizes that there is hope and that his future isn't as bleak as he may have thought. Leo serves as a great mentor and motivator for Rick. Young adults reading this may have someone like this in their life and not recognize it. This will help kids understand that you may find someone that can help you without really looking. Leo empathizes with Rick's situation, although not emphatically, and changes Rick's life forever, teaching him lessons that he needed to learn to grow as a person.
Coming-of-Age and Corruption:
Although Leo had a great role in helping Rick's coming-of-age, Rick's survival is due to his wits. A teenage boy, Rick certainly put himself into a pickle after escaping Blue Canyon. I think that a lot of readers understand his plight, and rightfully so. He would have surely gotten a beating had he stayed. He is clearly a smart boy, as he recognized the corruption going down in the detention center. He even told his social worker, but that was to no avail. Instead of exploring any other outlets, if there even were any, he escapes. A scared, young innocent boy molds into a man after Leo's lessons and witnessing a drug cache by the two men at Canyonlands. Rick's hang-gliding attempt to rescue his friend shows his emergence into manhood. Rick had the wits to fight the corruption himself now and show that he can overcome the odds. This certainly is not a situation most young adults are put in, but they are exposed to situations where they may see corruption but are unsure what to do. Rick showed them that this isn't something to be taken lightly, and taking a stand can pay off. Furthermore, Rick's emergence to manhood is important because it shows young adults that there are examples out there that show us that tough situations may be difficult, but we must sometimes go above and beyond what we expect of ourselves to do the right thing.
Rick's initial meeting with the judge in the courtroom that sent him to Blue Canyon was one where he displayed his lack of affection for authority. He spoke out of turn and had a bad attitude. He was still a boy and didn't understand what he was doing wrong. Because of this, the judge sentenced him to prison. Although I believe the reason for sending him to jail is abhorrent, the judge ordered him rehabilitated. What can young adults take from this? Well, first, we need to respect those in positions of authority. Reasonableness and sensibility are key, and listening to our mentors and those who are trying to help us is what will guide one and steer them in the right direction. This is evident in the final scene of the novel where Leo goes to court with Rick and explains to the judge, calmly and obediently, that Rick accepts whatever punishment is given him. He was simply trying to do the right thing and fear was certainly a factor. The judge recognized Rick's ascent to maturity and why he did what he did, and Rick's respect toward authority was fully restored.
Will Hobbs' The Maze has received several awards:
Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association (ALA)
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (ALA)
Pick of the Lists, American Booksellers
Nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Award, Best Young Adult Mystery
Teachers' Choices, International Reading Association (IRA)
Junior Library Guild Selection
Hobbs, W. (1998). The Maze . New York: Morrow Junior Books
Will Hobbs Official Website - The Maze. (n.d.). Children's Book Author. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from http://www.willhobbsauthor.com/bookspages/mazepage.html