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I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner - James Dashner

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind. (source)

 

 

I actually finished this book several days ago, but I never got a chance to get on here and post a review. I've been incredibly busy over the last few weeks, between starting grad school, a part-time job at Pitt's Engineering Library, and my internship at a local public library, and I barely have time to read, let alone blog about it - which is super sad :( But, it's only for a year and after that my time should be back to a more reasonable pace - actually, hopefully I'll get into a routine one of these days and my time will be more easily managed. We'll see.

 

Anyway, I decided to read The Maze Runner because a discussion group that I'm a part of on Leafmarks chose it as our July YA read. So why did I not read it until September? It took 6 weeks for my library's copy of this book to be free. If you haven't heard of this book yet, you will very soon, most likely. The movie is coming out in theaters this week, making this the Next Big Teen Movie Phenomenon - maybe. Personally, I have my doubts.

 

I've been describing this book to people as "Hunger Games for boys." Please forgive me for gender-stereotyping here - the only reason I've done so is because Katniss is a girl and Thomas is a boy - , but seriously, this book is very similar to Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy. There are enough differences for Dashner to have successfully avoided ripping her off, but still - this is your typical YA dystopian survival story. The main character, a boy, is named Thomas. He remembers nothing else about himself when he arrives in the Glade, a sort of safety-zone in the center of a deadly maze that changes its pattern daily. The inhabitants of the Glade are only males, until a girl arrives the day after Thomas does. This is the first of many weird events that all seem to be linked to Thomas' arrival in the maze, which makes many of his new acquaintances suspicious of him.

 

With only this information, the only immediate evidence of similarity to The Hunger Games is that the maze kind of sounds like the arenas used in the Games. While the boys are struggling to survive together rather than kill each other, the maze is also inhabited by strange creatures that the Gladers have called "Grievers" - they seem to be some sort of weird machine/monster hybrid, I had a really hard time visualizing them - and the sole purpose of the Grievers appears to be to kill off the Gladers, which happens fairly frequently. I can't really get into too much more without exposing spoilers, so if you're okay with that, read on:

As it turns out, the world has suffered some sort of mass epidemic caused by solar flares. The illness has had horrific effects on people. In the midst of this, scientists have taken groups of adolescents and placed them in mazes - as is made clear by the epilogue, Thomas' group is not the only one - and their actions are observed by the scientists, who seem to want to see how the boys' humanity is affected. This reminded me of how the characters in THG are forced to participate in the Games against their will, although, in their case, this is not as part of an experiment, but to reinforce the Capital's power. Additionally, and I think that this is the most glaring similarity, Dashner implies in the ending that in the next book, the kids are going to be thrown back into another maze for round 2 - in other words, closely following the story structure of THG trilogy.

(show spoiler)

There are most definitely enough details in The Maze Runner to set it apart from The Hunger Games overall, but I think that as far as the overarching YA dystopia genre goes, The Maze Runner is just another one of many. Dystopia is so huge in YA right now, and because of that, authors need to come up with something really, truly original to stand out. It would need to be a book that has mind-blowing plot twists, an addictive storyline, and extremely well-developed characters. I don't see that with this book. It's not bad, but this is one that, in my opinion, just isn't enough to stand out. I think that it is going to become more visible with the movie coming out - if the movie is well done - but I don't see it gaining as much momentum as, say, The Hunger Games or Divergent. I didn't particularly like any of the characters except for Neil and Chuck, and the first half of the book was, to be completely honest, pretty boring. Things did pick up a bit after Thomas had been out in the maze, but not enough for my taste.

 

If you're a big fan of dystopia literature, this might be for you. If you're starting to get tired of it, this probably will not be. This book was, in my opinion, okay, but not brilliant. I might go see the movie just for kicks, but I'm certainly not going to be breaking down the doors or waiting in line for a midnight premiere.

 

Edit:: Also worth noting - it comes out at one point in the novel that all of Gladers are extraordinarily intelligent. However, at one point when Thomas is out in the maze, well before anyone realizes what's going on, he sees a sign in which the meaning for the WICKED acronym is spelled out VERY clearly and it gives the reader a pretty good idea of what's probably going on. Thomas briefly questions it, but Minho (I'm pretty sure that's who he was with at the time) says that 1) it's been noticed before and 2) it's not worth looking into, at which point, Thomas pretty much just acknowledges it as odd and moves on. This is far from logical and struck me as incredibly unobservant - which goes against the whole kid-geniuses thing. Not very well thought out.

(show spoiler)