While I appreciated the new aspects of mystery to the Trials, Thomas started to irritate me. He's whiny, self-absorbed, and tends toward repetitive thought that seems compulsive. Yeah, I get the fact that he's an adolescent male whose memory has been wiped and thus has the working memory of like a 10 year old, but Dashner began to lose me midway through this one. There's an attempt at character growth as each of the major survivors has to fit into these new molds that WICKED has literally stamped on them and there's some tension and conflict as people figure out and reject labels, but all-in-all it's pretty one dimensional. When characters do reject imposed labels in melodramatic existential struggle, they do so only to replace said label with a new one. Every character can be distilled to their basic archetype to the point where Dashner feels compelled to tattoo it onto the skin of his characters; talk about having little faith in your reader. Couple that with the continuing lack of a strong female character that doesn't collapse in a heap to win the affection and approval of said whiny male and you have a recipe for a story that's staler than sourdough bread with none of the zingy aftertaste.
Fortunately for Dashner, he does do the whole LOST thing really well and the mysteries involving WICKED, the Trials, and what exactly as going on are teasingly scattered throughout the narrative. I wouldn't say the plot "thickens," but it definitely takes some odd turns in this one. The comparison to LOST is quite appropriate, I believe. It appears that a giant game is being played and that each person has a specific role to play. There's some foreknowledge of the future hinted at and some hints that the Trials were designed for specific purposes and that there is an expected end-game. I think he does try a little too hard with the backstabbing only to be backstabbed by backstabbers who backstabbed the original backstabbers bit. Yes, we understand you're trying to be surprising and want to hold the cards a little longer, but seriously the quadruple-crossing that you're building makes the your dear protagonist and reader want to throw their collective hands in the air and say, "SCREW IT! KILL ALL THE PEOPLE." Which, redeemingly enough, may actually be the point. 8| Anyway, this is still a fun read, just don't expect growth or complexity in anything other than the mystery and plot.