Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (October 6, 2009)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Price: $9.93 from {amazon}
Summary: from {goodreads}
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is. His memory is black. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning, for as long as they could remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night, they’ve closed tight. Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift. And no one wants to be stuck in the maze after dark.
The Gladers were expecting Thomas’s arrival. But the next day, a girl springs up—the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might be able to find their way home . . . wherever that may be. But it’s looking more and more as if the maze is unsolvable.
And something about the girl’s arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different. Something is telling him that he just might have some answers—if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locked within his own mind.


Review: I had very high expectations for The Maze Runner, considering all the rave reviews I’ve read about it, and while The Maze Runner met some of those standards, I’m still a little disappointed with the book as a whole. While great, I wouldn’t say I fell in love with The Maze Runner nor was I aching to devour it as a crawler would (those who've read the book might get my reference). Granted, I finished it within a couple hours, and I have to agree with a good number of reviews that the setting was definitely amazing.

The Good: Read The Maze Runner’s premise, and it’s pretty self-evident how original the concept is. It was my first time reading about a seemingly unsolvable maze and a group of boys continually pitted against it and there were tons of interesting spices (aka plot twists, action) incrementally thrown in to keep everything fresh. I think James Dashner’s interpretation of human nature was spot-on in most, if not all, instances. He does a fantastic job giving parallels to society and describing what would develop in the absence of authority and order. Each of the boys represented how a certain type of person would fare in such a survival-driven world, and it was interesting seeing how they would interact with each other. Paradise without parents? Think Lord of the Flies here, and conclude that maybe not. Overall, very realistic and believable.

Now for language. While James Dashner’s writing is fairly simplistic and definitely easy to comprehend, the descriptions of some ailments and creatures made me go “wow.” As in those crawlers in the maze are some seriously scary stuff. Again, great concepts here, and James Dashner has a very concise way with words that let me easily, quickly, and vividly envision all the unique aspects that made The Maze Runner what it is. Without those creepy blades, various hooks, and sharp syringes stinking out of the crawlers' slimy bodies, would I be reading the acclaimed The Maze Runner? The answer is: no, definitely not.

The Not-So-Great: I had problems connecting to Thomas at the beginning. He has these weird, unexplainable urges that I wish he would just wait for the right moment to say SOMETHING about, instead of sort of hinting at things at the wrong time and to the wrong people. I knew that it was simply a matter of time before Thomas proved his self-worth, but, really, as I waited I became extremely frustrated with his weak attempts. And though I eventually grew to like this “hero,” it definitely took me a while.

And you might not want to read this sentence if you haven’t read the book yet (!!), but the ending and the scientific experiment part seem like they have a few parallels to Maximum Ride… Not that that’s a bad thing, especially since The Maze Runner definitely has it's own characteristics that set it apart, but in the scientific experiment area, Maximum Ride is definitely going to be a hard one to trump.

Romance: Very, very mild to none. There are the beginnings of a romance between Thomas and mystery girl, and, trust me, I'm not ruining anything here since she's the only girl (unless you expected Thomas to be gay? Then I'm extremely sorry.). But, in general, nada - no kiss, no hug, just some vague words hinting at a "romantic relationship." Yes, be awed by my amazing equivocating.
Cover: 3.0 - nice, but not exactly how envisioned the Maze...
Writing: 4.0
Characters: 4.0
Plot: 4.5

Bottom Line: The Maze Runner boasts an original concept with great insights into human nature and an extremely vivid setting. While technically it was great, it lacked that “so-awesome-it-leaves-me-speechless” factor, partly because it suffered on the character reliability side (to my little sensitive heart). However, overall, I would definitely recommend The Maze Runner to ones who enjoy the survivalist/apocalyptic aspect and it comes as a highly recommended read to any young adult genre readers!