Review of the YA book “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is an engrossing tale of survival for young adults. It will bring to mind aspects of The Lord of the Flies, Ender’s Game, and the dystopic worlds created by China Mieville, Suzanne Collins and others that test the mettle of the participants in a fight for their lives.

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The story follows a group of young teenaged boys living in “the Glade,” a large area enclosed by tall stone walls surrounded by an ivy-covered stone maze. None of them remembers anything from their lives before they got to the Glade except their first names. Each month, a large elevator-type box brings up another boy. When the book begins, the boy Thomas has just arrived at the Glade, disoriented and utterly at sea.

In the first part of The Maze Runner, we get to know about the other boys, how they exist by themselves, and how to interpret their slang, which has evolved into a language of its own. We learn which boys are the leaders, which are the bullies, and which are children who need parental love and guidance more than anything else.

Thomas discovers that every day, “runners” go out and try to solve the maze; they are all desperate to escape, even though they have no memory of the world they want to return to so ardently. (What kind of world, after all, would tear boys from their families and subject them to the Glade?) At sunset, the walls to the maze seal up, and in the morning they open again. “Grievers,” or “blood-thirsty monster guards” patrol the maze at night; the runners must get back inside the Glade each day before dark or they will never return. Somehow, Thomas knows he was meant to be a runner.

The day after Thomas arrives however, the order that has guided life in the Glade for the past two years suddenly is disrupted. First, some of the boys feel they know Thomas, but don’t know why or how. Then, the box comes back after just one day, bringing a girl, Teresa. She is the first and only girl, ever. Thomas recognizes her, but doesn’t know why. Some of the boys become suspicious of Thomas, and factions in the Glade solidify for and against him.

They all sense that things are changing, and fear and unease permeate the Glade. Thomas and Teresa are either their only hope, or a sure sign of their imminent destruction.

Evaluation: Once you get used to the slang and the set-up of the Glade, this book becomes a fast-paced heart-thumper that draws you into its alternative world. With the focus on a group of young, scared kids trying to act tough (some more successfully than others), I found my “maternal” instincts kicking into gear, fretting over the predicament of these teens, and sympathizing with the expression of their hopes and dreams and fears. The mystery of why the boys were there and what happened to their memories keeps you reading, and the scary scenes as they run the maze and fight the Grievers keeps your pulse racing.

The book is marketed for young adults, and I see no problem there. From the very beginning, Thomas is fixated on the positive goal of getting out, rather than dwelling on the impotency, despair, and cruelty of his situation. Instead of curse words, slangy euphemistic substitutes are used. Hormones seem to have passed these boys by, so there are only non-sexual thrills and chills. I enjoyed reading this book, and will undoubtedly read the sequel when it comes out.

(Note: the author has constructed the story with a sequel in mind; it “ends” only in the sense that a television series “ends” for the season. You can stop if you want, or wait for next season to find out what happens.)

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Delacorte Press, 2009

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14 Responses to Review of the YA book “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

  1. Steph says:

    You know that I generally don’t read YA fiction, but the premise of this one sounds appealing. Then again, if one has already read The Lord of the Flies and Ender’s Game, is this really adding to the genre, or just padding? I could see this potentially being a good one for Tony and me to read aloud to each other, though the slang could become problematic/awkward…

  2. I don’t normally like this kind of book – the kind where there isn’t a happy ending. But I do like thinking about the concept and what kind of metaphor of life this whole plot could be. Very interesting.

  3. Staci says:

    I so have to get this book not only for me but for my son to read too!! He loved Hunger Games!!

  4. I think my 12 year old nephew and 13 year niece will like this book.

    And so would I!

    😀

  5. Carrie K. says:

    I really enjoyed this one – thanks for linking to my review! I passed my ARC on to my dad, and he’s devouring it, too.

  6. Julie P. says:

    I am very curious to read this book after your review. Great job!

  7. Alyce says:

    This is one of those genres that I typically love, so I’ve been looking forward to reading it (it’s just waiting on my shelf).

  8. Ti says:

    There seems to be a lot of books out right now that deal with young kids fighting battles to survive. They remind me of that movie Logan’s Run where life must end at 30. I wonder what this all says about society today or is it just a phase that we hit every 20 years or so? The need to survive…the futuristic aspect, etc.

  9. Belle says:

    I’ve never been a huge fan of this type of fiction – Lord of the Flies has never been a favourite of mine – but I’ve recently started remembering all the dystopian children’s and YA fiction I’ve read and enjoyed thoroughly, like The Giver and The Wind Singer. I think I just read too many in the interval in between that were too dismal. If my library has this one, I’m going to give it a try.

  10. bermudaonion says:

    I think my whole family might enjoy this one.

  11. I’m on the fence about reading this one (not a fan of dystopia in general), but I think my 11 yr old son would love it.

    I like your Note comparing the end of the book to a television show’s season finale (often a cliffhanger)

  12. Jenners says:

    I don’t know why but these types of set-ups appeal to me. I guess I want to face something like this … I think I like the black and white “gotta get out” aspect to it … and I like to imagine myself as a hero. Reminds me a bit of that M. Night Shamalyan movie (“The Village???”) where they live in this town and can’t leave because of “monsters” and then they do, they find out some interesting stuff.

  13. Pingback: Book Review #25: The Maze Runner | Whirl of Thoughts

  14. Pingback: The Maze Runner – James Dashner | Regular Rumination

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