Thomas wakes up in the total dark in a small room. He can't remember any details of his life--no last name, no parents, no mental image of his hometown. He senses that the room is moving up, like an elevator. When it finally stops and the doors are thrown open, he finds himself surrounded by strangers and in a strange land. All around him are teenage boys--no girls, no adults. How did he get there? What kind of place is it? Who are these boys? Why can't he remember?
James Dashner's The Maze Runner is the first book in a young adult dystopian trilogy. The reader knows only what Thomas knows and thus explores the dangerous and mysterious world of the Glade and Maze along with him.
Thomas quickly finds out that each boy in the Glade has the same type of amnesia and also arrived via the dark elevator. Each month on the same day at the same time, a new boy is introduced to the group. Outside the Glade is the Maze, which changes each night and is inhabited by deadly creatures. No one has yet solved the Maze or figured out its purpose.
Although there is quite a bit of action (squabbles among the boys, fights to death with the creatures) and a sense of mystery (what is the purpose of the Maze, who sent the boys there), the novel isn't very captivating. There are a few problems that stand out. First, the entire story takes place in a very short time, making Thomas's mastery of new skills and quick adjustment seem unrealistic. Second, the characters remained vague and were not vividly portrayed. I was unable to develop a clear picture of Thomas or any other character. Third, the solution to the mystery of the Maze seemed somewhat contrived, and it was unrealistic that no one had discovered any of the clues before Thomas showed up.
Most annoying, however, was despite the fact that Thomas had no memories, he was constantly sure that he'd never felt or done [fill in the blank] before. How could he be sure, when he doesn't remember anything specific about his life before the Glade?
I'm not sure why the The Maze Runner was a miss for me because it has been the recipient of a number of awards and honors. The novel was a 2009 winner from both Kirkus Reviews and the Kid's Indie Next List, was nominated in 2011 for the Tennessee Volunteer State Book Master List, was a 2011 winner of a Kentucky Bluegrass award, and was nominated for the 2012 Connecticut Nutmeg Children's Book Master List. Before taking my word for it, check out some other other reviews.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Listening Library, 10 hr, 50 min) read by Mark Deakins. Deakins is veteran narrator (although new to me) who was able to keep my attention throughout the book. I'm sure I would have abandoned The Maze Runner had I read it in print. Deakins's accents helped me keep the characters straight, and he brought a spark to the action scenes.
To learn more about the trilogy, visit the Maze Runner website. More about author James Dashner can be found on his blog. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.
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