Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

Thomas wakes up with no memory of who he was or how he came to be in the Glade, a place where several other boys live, each with no memory of their past life except their own name. The boys live in the Glade, surrounded by high walls that protect them from creatures that live without in a place of corridors and dead ends: the Maze.

Thomas soon integrates himself among the self-named Gladers, and aspires to join the Runners, boys who run the Maze to try and solve it. This place, the Glade and the Maze, are full of questions that don't seem to have any answers.

Until the very first girl shows up. Then their small world explodes.

The Maze Runner is full of mystery and tension. Like Thomas, readers have very little idea what's going on, and the questions will nag and leave a need to be answered, making readers turn the pages. And when we do get answers, they come hard, and they come fast, making the tension and conflict skyrocket. The conflict can be found almost everywhere. There's the expected conflict against the Grievers, but Thomas finds himself in the middle of conflict with some of the other boys. Suspicions rise, making the tension and mystery greater.

There is also a creepy factor. The Grievers, creatures part metal and part squishy sewer-something, are monsters that prowl the Maze. If you're caught outside the Glade when the walls close, you're pretty much a goner. The Grievers are gross, and the sounds they can make give them an atmosphere that can make one's hair stand on end.

I enjoyed the mystery and elusive answers. I wanted so badly to know what was going on and why. The idea of electricity in the Glade was interesting, giving a modern touch to a place that would otherwise feel like a campsite. In some ways I liked the creepy atmosphere the Grievers brought. I felt myself getting tense, especially during Thomas's first encounter with one.

Thomas, the main character, was very interesting. And in my opinion he is probably one of the most realistic characters I've read. He showed moments of weakness in his emotions. He cried a couple times, he felt offended or angry. There would be times when Thomas would try to hide it behind a mask of acting tough, but I appreciated that he wasn't always trying to act brave and strong. I liked that about many of the boys, like Alby and Minho, and how they showed moments of weakness. I appreciated how real the boys seemed.

The Gladers also have their own slang terms, like "klunk" or "shank." It gives the Gladers a rough appearance, but it adds a nice layer to the all-boy community development. However, sometimes I felt one of their words, which they used quite often, could be used in place of a bad word in some places. Newt uses the word "bloody" frequently in his speech (in case this may bother some readers), and there are a couple references to swearing, but otherwise the profanity in this book was minimal. There are occasions of crude bathroom humor/talk, too, but they use their own slang term.

There is violence and gore in the story, but it's not a lot, or described in great detail. I think for the most part some of it could be seen as unsettling instead of violent or gory. But again, I don't think it is very detailed in most places. As for sexual content, there were only possibly vague references in the boys' dialogue a couple times, but the book was clean of any action.

All told, this was an exciting and tense story. Some of the characters were endearing, and the mystery that enveloped the Maze can keep a reader turning pages to find the answers to these questions. As tension rises, so do the stakes.

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