The Maze Runner
By James Dashner
My Rating: 3 stars
The Maze Runner is the first book in James Dashner’s The Maze Runner series. I’m a bit late in getting this review written since it’s come and gone in being on the best seller list and there is now a very successful movie out based on the book. But if you haven’t read the book and are thinking about it, maybe this review will be helpful.
Thomas wakes up in the lift remembering nothing about his past except his name. Surrounded by the Gladers, a group of boys who all share the same amnesiac symptoms. Thomas quickly learns that he is in the Glade and that he’s surrounded on all sides by a seemingly unsolvable maze. The Gladers spend their days out searching the maze for a way to escape. It’s just another day in the Glade when Thomas arrives but the next day another visitor arrives, only this time it’s a girl and she comes with a disturbing message. This message will cause the Gladers to push harder to develop and escape plan because an end is coming and it doesn’t sound like it’s an end they will like. Thomas, feeling like he’s supposed to take the lead, will push the Gladers to their breaking point in an effort to get out. But they must be careful because there are things in the maze that are hunting them and they won’t stop until all of them are dead.
Everyone said “If you loved The Hunger Games, you are going to love The Maze Runner.” I’ll be honest, I felt like this was a tragically false statement. This book is nothing like The Hunger Games. That’s not saying it wasn’t great, because it was. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. And while there are some similar themes like survival, a “big brother” political system, a government conspiracy and some really creepy entities that do, in fact, go bump in the night, this book is vastly different from The Hunger Games.
The first thing I’m going to say is that this book and the series as a whole is completely and truly a YA series. Adults may find it an acceptable read, but for the most part I don’t consider this a crossover series like The Hunger Games or The Divergent series. The writing is basic enough that a teen reading slightly below their grade level will still enjoy. I would even say that older juvenile readers would find this series immersing. That being said it’s still a great read and I do highly recommend it, but people should go in knowing what they should expect to get from it. The plot is simple and straight forward. There is that required twist at the end to make you want to move on to the next book and the development and progress of the plot is steady.
Dashner also does a great job in developing his characters despite the fact that they can’t remember their pasts. This could prove to be problematic for some writers if the plot isn’t well thought out and if they aren’t willing to spend the time in creating meaningful interactions between characters so that the reader can fully understand each character. For the characters within this book their standing in the group and thus their progression and development within the confines of the story and ultimately the series helps the reader get a feeling for each characters personality and what the the group and Thomas are going to face with each character.
Overall this was a great read and I highly recommend it. Having read this book and then followed up with a viewing of the film I was happily surprised by how well the movie was compared to the book. In fact, I think that some may like the movie better than the book. Because the book has a relatively simple plot line with few twists and turns, it makes it easy to move to the big screen. Other beloved series like The Mortal Instruments and The Caster Chronicles had a hard time making the translation to the big screen because of the complexity of their plots and the sheer number of characters within their books. While these series were completely awesome, the movies were made with the assumption that you could simplify the plots and get the same effect. Clearly, by how badly they did in theaters, this is not the case. You not only alienate all the readers but you fail to grab those that would enjoy the movies and have no intention of reading any of the books.
In the case of The Maze Runner, you have a book that is rather simple in nature and is intended for a young audience. The movie was done so well that adults would enjoy it when they may not have enjoyed the book. Perhaps that’s the key to successful YA movies – simple plots, allow for great movies. Unless of course you are willing to keep the integrity of the plot and all of the characters. That’s just my two cents on movie production…because, you know, I’m definitely an expert on that subject. But I digress. I highly recommend this book for all YA readers and even older juvenile readers. I think they will thoroughly enjoy this book and will be eager to read the other three books in the series as well as seeing the movies.