Book Review: The Maze Runner – James Dashner

★★★★☆

“You ready or not?”
Thomas looked at Minho, matched his suddenly hard gaze. “I’m ready.”
“Then let’s go runnin’!”

The Maze Runner centres on the story of Thomas, who finds himself in an unnerving place called the Glade with no idea who he is, where he’s come from or why he’s been sent there.
He finds himself amongst a group of boys who have all started in the same situation – they’ve been flung into an enclosed and daunting scenario with no recollection of their lives outside this world. For the past two years these Gladers have spent their time trying to solve a weird monster-filled maze that surrounds the Glade in hopes of finding a way out.

However, Thomas’s arrival at the Glade starts string of strange and questionable events, and whilst many of the Gladers become suspicious of Thomas, he wants nothing more than to escape this place and discover what his life in the outside world was. Thomas will either be the one to help his fellow inhabitants, or the one to bring nothing but ghastly events and bad luck to the other Gladers…

“Can’t take a chance that one day, in one spot, somewhere, an exit might appear. We can’t give up. Ever.”

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Although this has been on my to-read shelf for a while now, I really wanted to read it soon because I am desperate to see the film. I just want to start by saying that I absolutely loved this book, though it was by no means perfect. I’m gonna get my criticisms out of the way quickly before the good stuff. Lovers of the book, please don’t hate me!

My main problem with the book is that I found it so difficult to connect with the characters, and found there was a definite lack of character development, which was a shame. I actually found the protagonist to be quite annoying at times, and didn’t sympathise with him most of the time. I also found Teresa to be rather irritating and pointless… sorry!

Minho, Newt, Alby and Gally all definitely had the potential to be amazing characters, but unfortunately they were very secondary to Thomas and we didn’t have the opportunity to explore their characters as much as I’d have liked to. I did love Chuck though, he was definitely my favourite!

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Although the enemies – the Grievers – were well described, I found it so difficult to visualise and get a firm picture of them whilst reading the book, which was a huge shame because James Dashner did an otherwise perfect job of giving them an eerie quality, and I certainly found them spooky. I could feel the fear when the maze was no longer safely closed off at night time, it was brilliant. I’d also have liked to have had more explanation about the Changing. I mean “Everything else turned into pain.” just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to go through it with Thomas, see what he saw, feel every little thing.

Another thing I really didn’t take to was the fact that Thomas and Teresa could communicate with each other using their minds. I just didn’t get the whole telepathy thing. I was open minded and gave it a chance, but no. Unfortunately, to me it seemed like an unexpected plot twist to resolve the fact that things were starting to reach a dead end. Other than this, I don’t find it served a purpose whatsoever apart from annoying me. I mean, reeeeaaaallllyyyy…?

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So why on earth did I still give it 4 stars you ask? Well, I just couldn’t put the bloody thing down. I might have had my problems with it, but I could not stop myself reading it; I was well and truly engrossed, and surely that’s the main thing about a book, right? Had my other commitments not got in the way, I would have finished this book in the same day I opened it to the first page.

The concept will draw you in and grip you as soon as it gets going, and it won’t let go until you’ve reached the end. Although written in third person, we witness the world through Thomas’s eyes, and whilst he’s kept in the dark, so are we as a reader. We feel his helplessness, his frustration, his wanting. I found myself trying to figure this world out alongside the protagonist, and the promising story kept me guessing all the way through. I love suspense, and I enjoy a good puzzle, and this book gave me exactly that.

Even though I didn’t find myself attached to any of the characters (apart from my little Chuck!), James Dashner did a fabulous job of creating the camaraderie and friendship among the young boys in the Glade, and I really believed in the community they had created together. It was done perfectly; they never seemed too childish, nor too grown up. They were simply a bunch of boys who wanted answers, worked together and had to survive with the help of one another..

“Order. You say that bloody word over and over in your shuck head. Reason we’re all sane around here is ‘cause we work our butts off and maintain order.”

The chapters of the book were relatively short, around 6 or 7 pages on average. For me that was a definite plus. I like short chapters in books… it means I can justify squeezing in just one more chapter before bed!

As I felt the remaining pages in my hand become less and less, my mind was trying to predict the outcome at every twist and turn in the story, but to no avail! The book kept me excited and on edge until the very end. Since the book is part of a series, I was well prepared for a cliff-hanger ending or some unfinished business. I knew it was coming. But I did not expect the cliff-hanger I got! It was clever and unexpected, and I am now kicking myself for not having a copy of The Scorch Trials at the ready for me to read!

Finally, I just want to take a minute to quote one of my favourite parts of dialogue in the book…

“…I broke down and sobbed till my throat and chest hurt.” Thomas remembered all too well. “Everything crushed in on me at once. Sure made me feel better – don’t feel bad about crying. Ever.
“Kinda does make ya feel better, huh? Weird how that works.”

… It’s not some magnificent speech, and not even something that pushes the story along, but I absolutely loved this. I like that it was acknowledged that it’s okay to cry, and it is a form of release. I especially liked that these words came from both a male character and a male author. That exchange between Thomas and Chuck struck a chord with me, and I felt it deserved a mention. Oh, and I certainly cried when Chuck sacrificie himself! I did not see that coming, booo!

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Oh, and Thomas looks super hot in that picture above. Something tells me I won’t find him as annoying in the movie…

So, if you’re a fan of suspense, puzzles, and a dystopian story with plenty of twist and turns along the way, then I definitely recommend this book. My particular copy says on the front “…A must for fans of The Hunger Games.”, which I would completely ignore. Go into it with an open mind and don’t bother comparing it to other books… there’s plenty of space for all the books out there, no need to compare! I guess my next step is to watch the movie, and I can’t wait, it looks awesome

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