I checked out The Maze Runner from the library, having no real idea what it was about other than it was another YA dystopian, and I’d heard it was really good. And people…”really good” just does not do this book justice.
Thomas wakes up trapped in a dark box, with no recollection of his past, his identity (other than his name), or his purpose. Soon, the Box is opened by a group of teenage boys he doesn’t recognize, and Thomas emerges from the Box into a bizarre world which is surrounded by huge concrete walls on all sides. No one can tell him who he is or why he is there, because they all started in the Box too.
The boys tell him that the he is in the Glade. And outside the Glade, through the huge doors in the concrete walls, lies the Maze. They have formed a small yet functional society within the Glade, surviving until the time when one of them can find a way out. And the only way they can conceive of to escape is to solve the Maze.
Every day, the doors open. The Runners go out, searching for an exit. Every night, the Runners return, the doors close, and terrifying monsters prowl the corridors of the Maze. To be trapped in the Maze at night is to guarantee a horrific death.
The Runners have been searching for an exit from the Maze for years, but have never found a solution. But Thomas feels an inexplicable pull to become a Runner. And although he can’t explain why, he thinks he can solve the Maze.
Holy cow, people. This book was insane. I was completely riveted from page 1, something that rarely happens. Even with books I completely adore, it normally takes me a chapter or two to immerse myself in the world of the book. But with The Maze Runner, I was in that Box with Thomas. I was confused and uncomfortable and determined to make sense of the situation.
As the book went on, I, like Thomas, was completely perplexed and frustrated by the mystery of the Maze and why they were trapped in the Glade. But James Dashner had an uncanny ability to predict what I was going to ask, and then have Thomas ask that very question. For example, when they’re explaining that getting trapped in the Maze at night is a death sentence, I wondered if they’d attempted climbing the walls. Then Thomas asks, “Why don’t you just climb the walls?” So although I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how they were going to escape the Maze or why we were there, I was frustrated with the characters instead of at the characters.
The pacing of this book was excellent. While the action doesn’t really kick up until about 1/3 of the way into the book, I still felt my adrenaline pumping right away just because of the strangeness of the situation. There was suspense simply in not knowing why any of this was happening. Then, once Thomas gets his bearings a bit better, the real action picked up. So basically, I felt like I was having heart palpitations for the majority of this book. In a good way.
The characters were also well developed. While not every Glader was fully fleshed-out, the main ones all had their own personalities and layers. I felt like I knew these kids, and I found myself cheering for some and rolling my eyes with Thomas at others.
Even the dialogue, which I sometimes find really annoying in sci-fi/dystopian books when the author feels the need to throw in a bunch of made-up “future” slang, somehow felt natural in this book. Maybe it’s because Thomas draws attention to it almost immediately, saying it sounds weird and foreign. Since it’s acknowledged in the book, I accepted it and moved on. Eventually, it began to sound natural, to me and to Thomas.
Bottom line: I thought this book was amazing. It’s not for everyone. It’s got an extremely high “weird” factor. And the suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire book may not be what others are looking for. But for me, I completely and totally adored this book. I couldn’t put it down (literally. I read the whole thing in a day, something I was not planning on doing). It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read. My only complaint is that my library doesn’t have Book 2 available RIGHT NOW.
Content Guide: Contains violence and death of children, constant feelings of suspense and peril.