January 4, 2012

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)As you might remember from my last post, read #6 in my Year of Reading at Your Mercy was James Dashner’s The Maze Runner (picked by “polling” Instagram). After having read The Road, I was looking forward to some YA, although I wasn’t expecting the story to cheer me up. It’s set in a dystopian future, like The Road, after all, so perhaps this pick was fate’s way of trying to ease me ever-so-lightly over McCarthy. I don’t want to say too much about The Maze Runner because the thrill of this book is following the protagonist as he moves from the position of the most clueless character in the story to a position of power and responsibility. You need to be just as clueless as he is at the beginning.

Having said that, what follows is a bit (ha!) about my thoughts on the book. I don’t think I give any more away than typical jacket copy might.

Thomas is a teenage boy who wakes with no memory of his personal history into a community populated entirely by other teenage boys who are being held prisoner for unknown reasons by unknown captors in the middle of an enormous, unsolvable maze. The boys have been trying to escape the maze for years to no avail. It changes every night while they sleep.

I enjoyed The Maze Runner for the most part, especially a particular scene toward the end, when I feel we really breath inside Thomas for the first time. This scene is raw and heartbreaking, and I know I’ll remember it. There are a some other wonderful scenes as well—this story has lots of clever action and uncomfortable tension. The story in general moves a little slowly at times, or perhaps I should say that even though a lot is happening to Thomas and his new cohorts, the characters repeat themselves a bit. At the same time though, I feel rushed in one sense. I wish we could spend more time out in the maze than we actually do, because mazes can be so intensely scary, and because the title of the book hints that we will.

I wonder too if the society these boys have formed is a bit too “adult” to be believable. (Perhaps “adult” isn’t the right word, since we all know adults don’t always behave.) What I mean is that I suspect there’d be more infighting and desperation in the community, although there is some and maybe there was more at the beginning. We arrive with Thomas in the middle of things, and that could be part of what’s tugging at me. I want to know more about the beginning.

I like a few of the characters quite a bit—Newt and Minho for starters. I like Newt because he’s the most grown up kid (attitude-wise) in the story, which makes me feel sorry for him, and because he shows so much loyalty for his temperamental best friend (and leader), Alby. I like Minho, Thomas’s mentor, because he’s dynamic. He’s wears his feelings like a banner but keeps them tucked in when necessary. He holds a great energy. I was a bit frustrated over the only girl in the book. Her arrival makes for one of the most compelling scenes, but in the end, I wish she’d steal more umph from the boys. Maybe in the next book? (See The Scorch Trials.) The protagonist, Thomas, is likable but feels a bit blank at times, since he’s just been wiped clean of memory, until near the end, when he tears into the reader’s heart. (Well, he did mine, anyway.)

Overall, I’d recommend The Maze Runner. Even though I was frustrated in some ways, this story isn’t like anything else I’ve read. It’s nice to meet that kind of fresh in a book.

I’ve just learned from Wikipedia that Dashner is writing a prequel, The Kill Zone, to be released in August. I’m in! (Stop wincing at me like that, you fellow librarians. I love Wikipedia. I love it so much I donated.) Also, a movie is in the works. And I just want to mention again that I listen to Wordplay, a podcast about writing for kids and adults hosted by authors J. Scott Savage and Nathan Bransford, as well as James Dashner. If you write or want to write one day in some future-perfect life, maybe you should listen too (although they’ve been strangely silent lately).