Publisher/Year: Delacorte Press, 2009
Where I got it: Library
Why I read it: It sounded like something I’d like, and I was looking for a quick read
Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.
Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?
I do not read a lot of YA these days, but I started The Maze Runner because I was in the middle of a very good, but pretty slow, novel and wanted something I could easily read on the airplane. Suffice it to say, I got exactly what I was looking for. I read the whole novel in the 5ish I hours I was on the plane, spending little time bored. With the YA genre exploding with dystopian novels (Uglies, The Hunger Games, et cetera et cetera), I was glad to find Dashner’s maze unique and appealing, constantly stirring my curiosity and making me wonder what he was going to throw at these kids next.
What the novel lacks, however, is development. The simplicity of the writing and the story indicate that it is written for a younger audience, perhaps of the 11-14 range (Amazon labels it as grades 6-10), but the plot still appeals to older teenagers, and Dashner unfortunately opened a lot of doorways through which he never stepped. I spent the first half of the novel wanting to yell at Thomas because he kept stating the obvious and acting like a whiny brat. I know his situation certainly validated the whininess, but I had a hard time feeling sympathetic. Aside from the final major battle, most of the problems in the novel are solved too easily and quickly—for example, nights which would logically feel to go on forever to the boys end very quickly. I suppose Dashner was trying to keep the story from lagging, but it ended up too simple and unrealistic. This attempt to keep the story moving resulted in a lack of character development and kept him from taking advantage of all of the opportunities his compelling environment offered. In addition, the novel’s ending, which itself was abrupt and clearly thrown in just to pave the way for the sequel, is a bit too much like all of the other dystopian novels I’ve read. However, there is still time for Dashner to make it more distinctive, and I do think I’ll read the next book at some point (maybe on the plane back to school) to see where he goes with the story.
Although I took little away from The Maze Runner, it had a great premise and moved at a quick pace, allowing minimal time for boredom. It was a good choice for reading on an airplane, and also worked well as a break from a slower but more thought-provoking book.