Friday, February 5, 2016

REVIEW: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
374 Pages
Genre: YA, dystopian fantasy

I have to admit that I had a hard time getting into this book at first. Very rarely will I say this -- seeing the movie before reading the book helped me get through this story.

As I read the beginning of this novel, I was picturing what I saw in the movie. Thomas arriving on an elevator to a glade surrounded by walls, not knowing where he was, or who he was. I had the plot playing in my mind like another movie while reading Dashner's words. I like to immerse myself in a book as I read it, but there was something about this one that made that escape difficult. I think part of it was the constant use of slang. I understand that the Glade boys had somewhat made up their own language, but it was a bit overused. Maybe it was just the overall writing style. I had trouble getting to know these characters and forming that reader/character connection. The characters were thinly developed stereotypes....the newcomer, the experienced leader, the mysterious female, the crazy was like Lord of the Flies with a maze added.

But....I have to add that the story was a good enough adventure to keep me reading to the end, even if Dashner's writing style was a bit difficult for me to read.

The plot doesn't involve a lot of side twists. It's a lot of pure description and the author telling the reader what they are seeing, feeling, and simple plot devices to move the story along. But, this is a middle-grade or YA novel. I don't have a problem with the plot advancing in a way that a 5th grader could relate to or understand. The book was written for that age! Read this book for what it is .... a dystopian fantasy adventure written for 5th-8th graders, but enjoyable for adult readers as well. The plot moves the story along more so than the characters. The characters seem to be types rather than individuals that readers will get to know, or personally like. As a reader, I ended up rooting for the group as a whole, rather than any one character. Good vs evil. Or the group vs the unknown.

The basic premise, without spoilers, is this: A boy, Thomas, awakens in an elevator surrounded by other boys. None of them have any memories from before they arrived in the glade. The glade is surrounded by high walls. Every morning, a door opens into a large maze. And each night it shuts. Inside the maze are monsters that kill. Every day, the boys work. Every boy has a job. The fastest, smartest boys become Maze Runners. Runners investigate the maze, trying to find a way out or to discover something about why they are in the glade. But something is changing. Soon after Thomas appears in the elevator, a girl arrives. She shouldn't be there. New people only appear at certain times and it wasn't time. Plus, Thomas thinks he knows her. They can communicate telepatically with only each other. What does this mean? Will they solve the maze? Where did they come from? And why can't any of them remember?

It is the strength of the story premise that provides the magic for this series, not Dashner's writing. I am going to continue reading the series because the first book ends on a definite cliff hanger. I'm continuing on to the 2nd book because I want answers. This time, I'm reading the book before I watch the movie. I'm used to the slang now and will do my best to immerse into the story.

It isn't the characters that keep me's the story. The characters are just plot points that get me closer to the final answer -- what is going on here?

Rating: 6/10
Some violence, not overly graphic
Ages 10+

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