What would you do if you woke up and knew only your name? You have a framework for how the world is supposed to work, but all memories have been erased from your mind. To top it all off, something is definitely not right. You’re stuck in a place that doesn’t feel like what the word ‘home’ is supposed to feel like. You’re surrounded by teenage boys . . . only. Yet, those boys are acting like adults, with their own slang, their own responsibilities, their own government. You’re in a place that doesn’t make any sense, surrounded by a maze, with moving walls and ridiculously scary creatures.
What would you do?
The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a very exciting book that is not so predictable. You start the book with nearly zero knowledge, along with the main character, and you learn what is going on throughout the story as he does. The premise is that the boys in the story are in a world that runs by the same rules that ours does, but there is something wrong, some alteration that has been done. They are not sure what is going on or how to fix it. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that things are taking a turn for the worse, and if the boys are not able to figure out the answer, or the solution, or what to change, they are all going to die. There, now you know more for when you start than I did when I started. Enjoy. 🙂
The first time I heard of the The Maze Runner, the person who was speaking likened it to The Hunger Games, which we all know I am a huge fan of. So, when I heard that, I knew that I would either love it because it was the same style, or I would hate it because it was trying to hard to copy. I would say that neither of those were quite true. There were aspects of the story that I really liked. The whole limited knowledge thing worked for Dashner, because it is a first-person styled story (I have a review coming where I am going to sorely criticize the author’s interaction with the reader’s limited knowledge.) Dashner’s story is built on following a character through a trial that he is facing and coming to terms with new facts as he does. You aren’t an outsider watching and judging his actions, but rather you are right there next to him learning as he learns and guessing as he guesses. And, I will admit, that it is really hard to close the book and not want to pick up the second, as the story itself isn’t really resolved, just the immediate conflict. So, in those senses, it is a well constructed story with an atypical storyline that definitely captures the reader and pulls them along for an unexpected journey.
I did have a few criticisms of the book, however. At times the writing seemed a little juvenile (and I recognize that this is technically young adult fiction, but I mean juvenile in the sense of the author’s writing itself, not the messages or content.) I felt like the same phrases were used about the same topics over and over again, to the point where it became tiring. In my limited, unpublished opinion, a little more strength and literary skill would add to the overall value of the book as a whole.
Another thing I didn’t really like about the book was the crudeness of the boys. I’m not saying that it is unreal or unbelievable, but the boys had created a new slang (which oddly enough worked in much the same way as our own swear words), and it really overran conversations. The dialogue was chock full of these made up words that either sounded like or utilized the same rhythm as existing swear words. I found that to be distracting and unnecessary, and it made me slightly uncomfortable to be constantly reading the equivalent of swear words from teenage boys. I really did not like the attitude or message that it portrayed.
The final criticism I will make about the book is in terms of morality. The book is not a book about morals, or faith, or anything of the sort, but I just found myself wrestling with the inherent morality portrayed throughout the book. I didn’t understand a clear message on the value of life or how to make sacrifices, and it left me slightly perplexed to figure out how a sacrifice from someone who caused the problem can really be a commendable or praiseworthy sacrifice. I don’t want to dwell long on this point, because it isn’t a purpose of the book, and it isn’t clearly written, but I will just say that the book caused me to question the author’s worldview and concept of morality in the world.
There are definitely interesting issues raised in the book (in a way similar to the Hunger Games) but the issues aren’t as clearly presented, so therefore discussion about the issues isn’t as easy to initiate. That being said, I argued before that if you were going to really understand the issues raised in The Hunger Games you had to read all three, and it was unfair to read just one. So, I will probably continue and try to finish the trilogy to be fair to James Dashner.
In my personal opinion, I don’t highly recommend this book, and especially not for young teenagers. If your teenagers are going to read this book, I would really suggest that you read it along with them and discuss the things that they are encountering. While there are not explicitly wrong messages, I think that some of the underlying values could be misinterpreted or misunderstood if they are not discussed together. I did enjoy the plot of the story, and I am very intrigued now about the following books, but I will say that it wasn’t my favorite book, and it’s not one I’m going to be encouraging my kids to read in the future.