The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner Trilogy, book 1), by James Dashner, 2009, Book Review

the maze runnerWhoa!  Can you say “suspense”? How about “intense”? This is one of those books that sticks to your fingers the moment you pick it up. Meanwhile, your house goes to pot all around you and the kids start complaining that they’re hungry. Minor details–I could not put The Maze Runner down!

Thomas wakes up in a creaky elevator with no recollection of his past life. His memory has been wiped clean, and he has no idea where he’s going. After a long ride, he emerges in the Glade, home to about fifty other boys who came there in the same way.

The Glade is a huge courtyard with massive walls all around it. Inside the walls the boys are safe. There, they farm, sleep and tend to their survival while trying to comprehend their situation. Who are they? Who put them here? And why? The answers, they believe, lie in the Maze.

In the middle of each of the Glade’s walls there is a doorway leading to a whole network of corridors. Miles and miles of corridors fashioned of the same towering walls. Each day, runners are dispatched to all corners to map the Maze. There must be a way out, if only they can find it!  But each evening the runners are careful to return to the Glade. For each evening the doors close, and Grievers stalk the corridors at night. And each night, the walls of the Maze shift.

Dashner does an extraordinary job crafting this novel. We enter the glade just as clueless as Thomas, learning as he does, in little bits and pieces, driven always to understand this baffling situation. When events beyond the ordinary begin to happen, the tensions between the  boys are superb, especially when the elevator delivers a girl! And little hints of memory, little smatterings of guilt seem to indicate that Thomas isn’t as innocent a participant as we hope.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about this story was the lingo. Instead of using common swear words, Dashner makes up a whole vocabulary of profanity unique to the Glade. It really works, illustrating frustration and anger without becoming offensive, and it adds a degree of humor. I’d much rather my kids call each other klunk, shuck, and slinthead than the usual litany of choices.

This book is intended for an audience of teens. It’s pretty mild, for the most part, with more suspense than violence, but at the end, after the boys understand the desperation of their situation, things heat up. The Griever attacks are bloody, and the climax ends in a fair amount of death. But it isn’t dark and senseless slaughter, rather it’s bravery and sacrifice.   enjoyed it immensely.

**Disclaimer added after reading books 2 and 3: While The Maze Runner is a fairly mild read, its sequels turn up the violence. Let me emphasize a 12+ recommendation. 

Watch for my upcoming reviews of the rest of the trilogy:

The Scorch Trials, book 2
The Death Cure, book 3

 

3 thoughts on “The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner Trilogy, book 1), by James Dashner, 2009, Book Review

  1. That’s a tough one, Erik. It’s definitely intended for teens. It’s not an easy good vs. evil like Harry Potter. The great evil in this book is whoever set up this whole mysterious senerio. (We get hints that the reason is to train to combat a natural catastrophe, but it’s still very mysterious.) The boys’ interaction has very positive elements – they’re valiant and brave and selfless – but a lot of them die. If it was a stand-alone novel, I would probably let my nine-year-old read “The Maze Runner”. HOWEVER, the second book ups the gruesome violence. So, based on the desire the first would create to read the second (I haven’t read three yet), I’d probably make my kid wait a couple years. I’d suggest your mom read them first before saying yes.

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