REVIEW: The Maze Runner by James Dashner
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Thomas enters “the glade” as all the boys do, in an elevator and with no memories. The boys are trying to solve the monster inhabited maze surrounding the glade to find their way home when a second monthly tribute arrives. And it’s a girl.
PROS: Realistic teen male characters; positive reactions from teens under pressure.
CONS: Frustrating plot; inconstant protagonist.
BOTTOM LINE: Great for teen readers, hit-and-miss for adults.
Thomas wakes up in a moving elevator with no memory of his life. When the elevator stops, doors on the ceiling open and he’s helped out by a group of boys living in “the glade”, surrounded by a maze. Once a month a new boy arrives and once a week supplies come up the elevator. The furthest back anyone remembers is two years. The day after Thomas arrives something unusual happens. The elevator opens again. This time, there’s a girl inside.
I consider there to be two types of kid/teen books. Those you read and appreciate only as a youth and those that are equally good when you’re an adult. I’d put The Maze Runner in the first category.
This is a great book for teen boys. As a loner in school I can sympathize with Thomas, both in his desire to learn more of what’s going on as well as his need to keep his own counsel on matters of importance.
I especially liked how, despite the problems facing them, the boys set up a community that focuses on hard work and cooperation. Too often, visions of boys in solitude show social breakdowns, pitting each one against the other or banding together in small violent groups. (Think: Lord of the Flies.) In this book, when someone steps out of line they are dealt with. Violently. Not because the boys are incapable of other forms of justice (they have a jail cell) but because they can’t afford the break down of order that could arise with rebellion or psychosis. In a tough situation they act with the good of the many in mind. And it works.
The glade was well planned, with the inhabitants utilizing specialized vocabulary to explain their existence and the problems facing them. It also allowed the author to have the kids use realistic language without filling the book with curses, which I thought was clever.
Now for the bad points…from an adult perspective. The Maze Runner is a book of questions. Thomas is teeming with them, and the reader is too. The problem is, no one knows the answers. While Thomas learns more about the glade and the maze, there’s no one to answer the more important questions: what is the purpose of the glade/maze and why were these boys sent there. This is a series, with the idea that answers will be forthcoming in future books, but I found it frustrating that so little was revealed, even at the end of the book.
The Maze Runner depends heavily on repetition. Thomas mentions several times how odd it is that he has memories of a life – movies, school, etc. – but can’t remember faces or names of people and places. Another aspect is the repetition of information. Someone would mention something and a few paragraphs later someone else would ask about it. And sometimes the information is contradictory.
But my biggest complaint was that I never liked any of the boys. There was nothing wrong with them besides being a bit annoying at times. They were all three dimensional characters, with good points and bad points. Unfortunately, we only see them through Thomas’ eyes. And as Thomas’ opinions of them change, waffling between liking them and hating them, so too did mine as a reader. It meant that when people started dying at the end, I didn’t care. That always disturbs me. Fictional or not, if the author is doing a good job I should feel something when someone dies.
Still, the book had enough positives that I’d recommend it for teen readers, if not necessarily their parents. The book has no sex, a little violence (mostly off screen) and lots of fake swearing.
Filed under: Book Review
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