Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner -YA Dystopian Challenge read #2

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Copyright 2009
Delacorte Press (a division of Random House) - YA/Dystopian
374 pages
James Dashner's website

A giant maze. A group of teenagers trapped like rats in an experiment. Dangerous creatures that roam the maze at night. A sting that brings back horrifying memories of life outside.

When Thomas awakes in an elevator and emerges into the center of a maze, in a place known as the Glade, he has no memory at all and no idea how he arrived in this new world. Surrounded by other teenage boys who've been trapped in the Glade for as long as two years, Thomas begins his new life as the "greenie" of the group - learning about the jobs in the Glade, the Grievers that often kill those who don't make it back from the maze before giant doors creak closed, the rules of a strange new life.

Thomas knows he wants to join those who search the maze passages for an escape route from the moment he sees the runners arriving home at the end of his first full day. But, it takes time and training to become a runner and he's new. New people are not allowed to be runners; they're not even accepted until they've had time to prove themselves. Then, everything changes. A girl arrives -- the first female ever to show up. She brings a message and a handful of memories, but they're fading fast. Thomas has a fleeting sensation that he knew her before he arrived in the Glade.

The girl's arrival signals the beginning of the end. Is there any way out of the maze? Or, will everyone die, one by one?

The Maze Runner is my kind of book -- thrilling, action-packed, suspenseful and unique. The pages flew so fast I felt like I needed a seatbelt.

I probably should have done a self-interview for this one because I'm afraid I'll gush if I get going. So, I'm looking at my old Q/A format to nudge myself into talking about the right things. What, for example, did I think of the characters? I thought Dashner did an excellent job of creating believable characters with a broad variety of personalities. The leaders were a little difficult to distinguish from one another and most everyone could have used a bit more development, but I'm pretty sure I went where the author wanted to take me. I liked Thomas, adored his friend Chuck and thought Teresa was funny. When a character was angry or rude, I tended to side with Thomas because he seemed level-headed and reasonable in his curiosity.

The way Dashner doled out just a little information at a time and kept the reader hanging irritated me, at first, but then I began to actually like that style. Bread-crumb trails of clues not only kept the pages turning but also helped to reveal important details about Thomas, like the fact that he was clever and saw clues to potential escape from the maze as if they were pieces of a puzzle.

Gladers have their own slang, which practically sounded like a foreign language, at first. Little by little, Thomas finds out the meaning of the slang terms and begins to use their expressions. I loved the way they said, "Good that," much like the Australian, "Good on you." The word "klunk" and its meaning bugged me, though, because it was a little too graphic.

And, oh, those Grievers were scary. Grievers were like the Reavers of the Maze -- utterly terrifying and somewhat baffling. If that group of teenage boys were part of an experiment, as it appeared, why would anyone let loose deadly creatures in the Maze? Wasn't it bad enough that they were trapped and had to work hard just to survive? I had this image of the Maze, shrunk down to size with humans peering over the top, watching how the kids behaved, as I was reading.

I don't want to spoil the book, of course, but I will say that the ending was expected in many ways and yet satisfying. There was enough information held back that it still managed to surprise me. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. And, isn't that a terrific cover? My copy is an ARC that I requested from Shelf Awareness -- black and white, darn it. I absolutely love the dripping moss and vines, the huge concrete walls. That cover is by far one of the most accurate, apropos, perfect bits of artwork I've seen, this year.

I should also mention that one of the things that really jumped out at me was Dashner's skill level. The Maze Runner is loaded with the senses; you really get a three-dimensional feel for the atmosphere, the emotions, the feeling of being trapped in a maze and not knowing what's going on. This is a book worth buying, saving to reread just before the next in the series is released.

4.5/5 - Excellent, very tight writing, suspenseful, high on senses - a fascinating little world. Half a point off for heavy violence and the word "klunk" (because it's my blog and I can take off for a word, if I want to).

I'm going to call this book #2 of the YA Dystopian Challenge, even though I finished it just before the challenge began, primarily for the sake of linking back.

Other reviews:

Heather, the Capricious Reader

Devourer of Books

My Friend Amy

Suey's It's All About Books


  1. Wow! Love the review! Fun, descriptive, yet to the point...sounds as good as the hype has made it out to be. I believe you've made my TBR longer by 1...thank you very much. =0)

  2. GMR,

    Why, thank you. :) The Maze Runner is definitely getting a lot of attention, isn't it? I noticed several people have said it's not their normal type of read but they liked it anyway. I'm the opposite -- it's the kind of book I seek out but seldom manage to find. I love an adventurous dystopian read.

    Hahaha. Sorry. I know your TBRs are scary, but it's good!!!! :)

  3. So glad to see you liked this one! I have it, but my hubby has taken it hostage.

  4. Ha, I get taking off half a point for some of the words in there, I wasn't that fond of some of the slang. I liked it, but I think I'm going to LOVE the next one.

  5. I know everybody who has read this - loves it, and those who haven't - are going to, but the made-up words really did me in! I took off a lot for that. Also, I know it's YA, but most YA I read doesn't feel like it and this one did. :( So, I took off a lot for that too. However, the suspense, thrill and very cool plot idea was worth a 5/5! Glad you loved it, Bookfool!

  6. Kathy,

    That's hilarious! Really fun to share a book with your hubby, though, right? I love it when my husband and I can share a book -- it's so rare. I've done a couple of reviews in which I added his thoughts. You should do that. It's fun. :)


    I liked most of the slang, but it did take some getting used to and the word "klunk" was just a little too vivid. Every time I read it, I visualized what it meant -- which did make me realize that people get used to certain words and don't actually think about the meaning when repeating them. Curse words, I mean. I'm pretty sure I'm going to love the next one, too. :)


    I forgot to link up to Alyce's review (Alyce of At Home With Books . . . I think she's the right blogger) but she gave it a 3.5/5 for the same reason. She did not like that slang. I don't mind if a YA sounds like a YA unless it's so thoroughly dumbed down that the protagonist sounds dim. That's kind of how I felt about Life As We Knew It -- the writing was too simplistic and that really bothered me. I didn't get that sense from The Maze Runner, but I did get swept up in that plot!

  7. I have this one on my list! Good to hear another positive review!

  8. Jenclair,

    I have a sneaking suspicion you'll enjoy this one. ;)

  9. I loved this one, too - passed it on to my dad, and he also devoured it. Great review!

  10. Carrie,

    I'm trying to convince my son to read it and having no luck, so far. I so want to share with him!! Very cool that your dad gobbled it up, too. And, thank you. :)

  11. You are flying through that challenge! I want to read this book eventually. I am going to have to get a copy soon!

  12. Kelly,

    Well, I did sort of cheat. LOL But, I'm just in the mood for YA Dystopian reads. This challenge is going to be breezy fun. I do hope you read this one, soon. It seems like a Kelly kind of book.

  13. I enjoyed this one, as well, it was super fun! I"ve seen several messages of the slang but it really didn't bother me at all.

  14. Amy,

    Super fun is a good way to describe it. Only the word "klunk" bothered me.

  15. Well, you're just tearing the YA Dystopia challenge right up, aren't you? :D

  16. Debi,

    I can haz fun with dystopes? Yes, I'm having a great time with it. More, more, more, I say! I'm going to buy Pretties, this weekend.

  17. Yay - another positive review from someone I trust. I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

  18. SuziQ,

    I hope you love it. She trusts me! That's more than I can say for my poor kitty cat, right now. I think she's about to disown me. LOL

  19. Glad you liked it -- I'm thinking of reading this one.

  20. Michelle,

    Warning - it's got a cliffhanger ending, but it's so good I'm still tempted to buy a finished copy. Need to give myself a talk about buying books I already own. Self, I'll say, just cut that out!


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