12 September 2011

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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.

The Maze Runner at Powell's
The Maze Runner at Book Depository
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Published by Random House / Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385737951
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: C
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Sandy Nawrot 9/12/11, 6:54 AM  

This book was all the rage there for awhile, but I did hear enough grumblings that I held off. (Plus the library didn't have the audio - ha!). I guess maybe I'll save it for a potential kid-mom book...

bermudaonion 9/12/11, 8:59 AM  

Carl read this one and it didn't blow him away either. He hasn't been interested in picking the next book up.

Jennifer | Mrs Q Book Addict 9/12/11, 8:59 AM  

I really want to read this one. I'm surprised to read that you didn't enjoy it as much as others. It happens, not every book is for every person. I would like to try this one. Great post!

Veens 9/12/11, 9:42 AM  

This does not sound like something I will enjoy.

Harvee 9/12/11, 10:04 AM  

I have trouble with most dystopian novels. Maybe because sci fi is not high on my list! Sorry it didn't work for you!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 9/12/11, 10:09 AM  

Oh bummer! I have been wanting to read this one for years and just have not got to it yet.

Zibilee 9/12/11, 11:17 AM  

I also remember when this book was very popular, and people were just going nuts over it. I think I ended up buying a copy for my kids, but I never read it. I think you have some very thoughtful perceptions on why this book missed the mark, and I would have probably wondered the same things. It is too bad that this one didn't hold up well, because the premise is rather interesting.

Serena 9/12/11, 2:15 PM  

I have this book on the shelf from a win, but still have not read it. Everyone seems to like it.

Julie P. 9/12/11, 3:37 PM  

I have heard mixed reviews on this one so I know you're not alone.

Dorte H 9/12/11, 4:04 PM  

I rarely read dystopian novels, and this sounds like something I can steer clear off without missing a lot.

Michelle 9/12/11, 4:11 PM  

Awwww, I'm sad that this one didn't work for you. It is a bit of a rough and tumble read though. Not a lot of positivity or brightness. Good news is that you know what you like and you can avoid the remaining two in the series. :)

Unknown 9/12/11, 4:26 PM  

Shame you didn't like this one, I think it's definitley a love it or hate it one (I loved it, even though I thought it wasn't perfect)

Unknown 9/12/11, 5:57 PM  

I remember reading many reviews about this book and felt like I saw it on every other blog. So when I opened your blog just now and saw the picture of The Maze Runner I wondered "Why haven't I read this book or at least tripped over it on my tbr list?" and then I read your review. I remember getting the idea that the book wasn't as good as it sounded. With all of the books there are, the line's got to be drawn somewhere!
Thank you for a terrific & honest review.

Carrie K. 9/12/11, 6:57 PM  

This was a "love" book for me, too - sorry it didn't work for you.

dogearedcopy 9/12/11, 8:28 PM  

It's kind of funny that this book would show up on your blog right now. I was just looking at my bookshelf last night and considering downgrading this book from a four-star to a three-star rating on goodreads. I liked it well enough when I first read it; but here it is a couple of years later and my reaction to it is "meh." I never did put the sequel on my "Must Reads List" :-/

Robin M 9/12/11, 9:30 PM  

This ones on my wishlist. Sounds interesting but not what I'm currently in the mood for.

Mystica 9/13/11, 4:05 AM  

I was interested in this one but maybe it will hold a while. Dystopian is anyway not a fave genre.

caite 9/13/11, 6:28 AM  

I have that one here somewhere..
but the fact that it won awards and such is not a good gauge of whether I will like it.

Meg @ A Bookish Affair 9/13/11, 10:50 AM  

I think I'll still give this book a shot!

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 9/13/11, 5:04 PM  

I really wanted to love this as so many other people raved and still rave about it and its sequel. I just found it flat for me. I read it right after The Hunger Games so maybe my expectations were just too high? :O/

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 9/13/11, 10:14 PM  

I saw that audio at the library recently. Glad to hear you liked the audio. Nice review.

Jenners 9/15/11, 4:42 PM  

I've been on the fence about this one. On one hand, the premise sounds neat but, on the other hand, I've heard some criticisms similar to what you found.

Unknown 9/18/11, 7:20 AM  

Sorry this was a miss for you. I'm actually reading this one now, buddy reading it with some people at work. One of the guys already finished it and liked it, so hopefully I will.

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