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Review: The Maze Runner, James Dashner

Thomas wakes up in a lift with no memory of anything regarding his previous life.  He knows his name and how to speak, but virtually nothing else.  He’s stranded, until the lift doors open and he’s greeted by a group of boys who have similarly lost their memory.  All of these kids eke out a life in a place called the Glade, farming, cooking, and doing their best to solve the ever-changing maze that lurks just outside, without getting killed by the Grievers, machines designed to kill kids.  The gates open in the morning and close at sunset; any kid left outside at night is guaranteed to die in the morning.  The day after Thomas’s arrival, the first girl is found in the box, and she is suspiciously familiar.  Can Thomas solve the maze as the end game engages?

This book is a great read.  It’s going to be hard for me to back up and explain why, but I’ll give it a shot.  Perhaps the foremost reason is how amazingly suspenseful it is.  There is a sense of dread lurking over the entire book.  Thomas is tossed into this strange world with no knowledge of it at all, and as we learn what the boys know, we also learn that nothing is as it seems. This is even more pronounced when things start to go wrong.  I had no idea what was going to happen next or how the boys (and girl) were going to solve the maze, or even if they were going to be able to do so.  There was no way I was going to stop reading this book.  Besides that, I adore dystopias, and while this is another variant of the fight-for-your-life scenario, it has plenty of individualism to spice it up.  The wiped memories, the larger picture that is only available at the end of the book, and the maze itself and the reasons behind it were all fascinating.

Of course, such a book wouldn’t be so great if it didn’t have characters to care about.  We have to care whether or not these kids die, and luckily Dashner pulls this off just beautifully.  Thomas is a great kid.  He’s perplexed, he’s unhappy, but he’s smart as a whip and determined to succeed.  He’s not a perfect wonder boy, but he’s loyal, tenacious, and a true friend.  I also thought his role in the greater plot was excellently planned and made his position a lot shakier than I’d expected.  The other kids, while not center stage, are also characters to cheer for.

This is a YA book, but I had very few moments when I was aware that its projected audience was younger than me.  I did take a while to get used to the fact that the boys are frequently called “kids”.  I haven’t referred to anyone as a kid in quite some time, and somehow I don’t remember coming across this in other YA.  Saying that I’m not sure how else to refer to the group, so I suppose it is more natural.  That was really the only strange moment; otherwise I was as absorbed in this novel as a thirteen-year-old would be.  There is similarly the fact that this book is totally clean; it’s as though these boys have no sexual urges whatsoever, and even when a girl arrives their reactions are subdued.  To be honest, I don’t think a romantic entanglement would have been out of place, but the story works extremely well just as it is, so this is more of an observation than a criticism.

I highly, highly recommend this YA dystopia.  The Maze Runner is a breathtaking work of truly addictive fiction and I am waiting with huge amounts of anticipation for the next book.

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