Book Review – The Maze Runner by James Dashner

9780385385206_p0_v4_s260x420I need to stop going to the movies. Almost every time I see a trailer for a movie based on a book, I add the book to my “To Read” list but never end up going to see the movie. The Maze Runner by James Dashner is another on that list (though I might end up actually seeing the adaptation of this one). Only ever hearing mixed reactions from the few people I knew who’d read it and never getting a good feeling for what it was about, my number finally came up at the library. I understand those reactions better now.

Thomas wakes up in a dark room with no memory of his personal past or anything concrete beyond his name. Then the room begins to rise, the ceiling opens, and he finds himself on a platform in the middle of a large open space populated by teenage boys like himself, less than cordially welcoming him to the Glade. Information about how things are done in the Glade, Thomas learns that the boys are stuck in the middle of an elaborate maze, the walls of which change nightly and in two years, no one has managed to find a way out (at least not one that doesn’t involve dying). Terrifying creature/machines called grievers roam the paths at night while the boys stay safe behind the closed doors in the Glade. From the beginning, Thomas knows that he wants to be a Runner, one of the boys that attempts to map the maze. But several of his fellow Gladers think that there’s something odd about Thomas and when a teenage girl is introduced by the same means the day after Thomas’ arrival, the situation rapidly escalates.

Well, it wasn’t another YA book written in first person, but it was still very limited to Thomas’ character. Because of his memory loss (and all of their limited memories), there are a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. In general, I found it easy to root for Thomas and his fellow captives to solve and escape the maze, but beyond that, it was hard to care. Of course, by the end of the book some of the questions are answered, or rather, teased for the next book in the series. But there’s still no clear picture of who or what they’re up against besides the grievers. I find that (personally) rooting for something or someone feels incomplete; I also need something or someone to root against. In fact, in some cases when I don’t feel a connection to any of the characters you’re supposed to root for, rooting against someone is all I have.

Part of the reason I had difficulties connecting too strongly with any of the characters in the book was the lack of female representation (the only one of the boys whose fate I cared about at all by the end was Newt). I’m hoping that the next book in the series will either explain further why there were so few girls in the first and/or remedy that issue. Maybe I was just having a few too many Lord of the Flies flashbacks, but there seem to be an awful lot of books aimed at teenage boys where girls are almost entirely absent but I don’t seem to see quite the same happening in books aimed at teenage girls. There doesn’t seem to be the same level of denial regarding the existence of the opposite gender. Maybe I’m misremembering but in this case, I found it pretty annoying.

But, like I said, I have a feeling some of it will become clearer with the second book in the series. Of course, if it ends up being more of the same narratively speaking, I’m not sure I’ll end up reading beyond book two.


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