By James Dashner (Official Webpage)
Buy the book here: The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner the latest new series by veteran YA/Middle Grade Fantasy author James Dashner. Dashner has already shown great competence in writing with The Jimmy Fincher Saga as well as the excellent 13th Reality series. However, he has said that The Maze Runner was the book he always wanted to write, and it shows. Dashner has crafted a book that is an excellent read for any fans of "dystoipan" YA, though his chosen release time has lead to unfortunate comparisons between it and the also fantastic The Hunger Games series.
The Maze Runner stars Thomas, who wakes up in an elevator with no memories of his past or present. After the elevator arrives at its destination, Thomas is thrust into a world set in the center of a maze, run by children who also have no idea what is going on. They've managed to maintain a sort of self-sufficient society, though food and supplies are delivered weekly. Every night, the doors to their "safe house" close, and the maze they are living in the center of changes. They have been doing this for months, and none of them have managed to figure a way out.
Of course, it wouldn't be much of a book if Thomas just sat around. Right off the bat he wants to be a Maze Runner, the elite job assigned only to those of the most stalwart bravery and determination (as well as steady legs). As the story progresses and the riddle of the maze becomes clear, the reader accompanies Thomas through quite a few startling reveals, leaving on a cliffhanger that's setting up Dashner's next book, The Scorch Trials. Overall, the book was a very fast read, lasting around 4-5 hours. I read the book straight through, only taking a break because I had to drive to work, where I continued reading it there.
It is clear Dashner did his very best to make this book appropriate for any young adult aged 12+. Rather than use actual swear words, Dashner has the boys in the Glade (the name of their "safe house") concoct their own swear words and slang, meaning he can get away with a lot more "cussing" while keeping the book safe (though you might want to be careful your kids don't go around saying "shucking" in public). The book also, while containing lots of tense scenes and even the deaths of children, takes a similar approach as The Hunger Games does, by keeping most of the violence offscreen or simply implied.
As a whole, I enjoyed my time reading The Maze Runner, though I'm afraid that when one compares it to The Hunger Games, they might find the former a bit lacking. While Dashner has done a terrific job breathing life and detail to the Gladers, the society they establish isn't nearly as deep or fleshed out as a book such as Lord of the Flies (which Dashner cites as inspiration for the novel). Also, while the pacing is generally good, there are parts where I felt Dashner dwelt more on emphasizing how odd and unique the character's dialogue was rather than give us information to advance the plot.
Perhaps the biggest issue I had with the novel (again, I still loved it and will read the sequel, but nit-picking is a near-requirement in this job) was the fact I left the book wishing it had gone deeper. Perhaps, in The Scorch Trials will elaborate more on it, but there were so many questions Dashner left unanswered, so many the ending of the novel didn't seem like a bonafide conclusion, but more like a transition to the next book. Because of that, I was left wanting more, but since The Scorch Trials isn't out yet, I had to settle on "unfulfilled."
Still, The Maze Runner is a superb example of dystopian YA, and those who enjoy the genre (or are simply waiting for Mockingjay, the third book in The Hunger Games, to come out in August) should certainly give it a shot. Plus, Dashner has hinted the movie rights are being thrown around in Hollywood, so we might be seeing a film of the book within the next few years.