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The Maze Runner: James Dashner

Book: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner (blog)
Pages: 384
Age Range: 13 and up 

MAZE_cover Background: Kiera Parrott at Library Voice made me want to read this book when she said: "I heard this book described as “Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games.” Sweet Jimminy! That pretty much bumped the ARC right on up to the top of my to-be-read pile. After plowing through the 374 page sci-fi/adventure/thriller in less than two days, I was not disappointed." The Maze Runner has been on my radar since then, and when Random House sent me a copy, I moved it to the top of my to be read stack, too. Like Kiera, I read the book quickly, agreed with the Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies characterization, and was satisfied with the result. As this is a book that's all about suspense, the less you know about it, the better. Feel free to skip the review altogether, though I do have a few things to say.

Review: James Dashner's The Maze Runner is the first book of a planned dystopian sci-fi trilogy. It's a fast-paced page-turner of a book, one that will leave the reader wanting more. It's not a book that I left littered with post-it flags marking lyrical passages. It's much more about action than characters. But it is a book that I read in one compulsive sitting, and for which I expect to pick up the next book as soon as it becomes available.

The Maze Runner begins with a teenage boy, Thomas, making an interminable ascent in a lightless, clanking elevator. Thomas has no memory of who he is (besides his name), or how he came to be in the metal box. He can't remember anything about his life (although he understands generalities, like what an elevator is, and how to eat a hamburger). Thomas' ride ends with his arrival in The Glade, a large clearing bordered by perilously high walls on all four sides. The Glade sits in the middle of a dangerous labyrinth, and is populated by a motley collection of teenage boys. Supplies arrive at regular intervals, but the boys in the Glade have no other outside contact. Thomas struggles to understand where he is, and why, and what his role is in unlocking the secret of the Maze.

Here's an early passage, to give you a feel for the book:

"Someone lowered a rope from above, the end of it tied into a big loop. Thomas hesitated, then stepped into it with his right foot and clutched the rope as he was yanked toward the sky. Hands reached down, lots of hands, grabbing him by his clothes, pulling him up. The world seemed to spin, a swirling mist of faces and color and light. A storm of emotions wrenched his gut, twisted and pulled; he wanted to scream, cry, throw up. The chorus of voices had grown silent, but someone spoke as they yanked him over the sharp edge of the dark box. And Thomas knew he'd never forget the words." (Page 3-4) 

The Maze Runner takes a bit of getting used to. The boys in the Glade use a lot of peculiar slang. And, just as Thomas doesn't understand anything about where he is, neither does the reader. But if you stick with it, I think you'll find yourself drawn in quite quickly. Dashner is a master of cliff-hangers and building suspense. The Glade and the Maze are delightfully creepy. The social dynamics between the boys are compelling. And yes, The Maze Runner is reminiscent of The Hunger Games (though the characterization isn't nearly as strong), The Lord of the Flies, and (I think) David Ward's Grasslands Trilogy. I think that The Maze Runner will please teenage fans of dystopian fiction, science fiction, and/or adventure novels. Although it is obviously boy-friendly, I think that girls who enjoy reading thrillers will like it, too. Recommended for teens and adults. Personally, I'm curious about what's going to happen in the next book.

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 6, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: My Friend Amy, Through A Glass, Darkly, Library Voice

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and may result in my receiving a small commission on purchases (with no additional cost to you).