Review – The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

     This book pleasantly surprised me – I have
a bit of a love/hate relationship with books generally classified as YA, but
fortunately this one landed on the love side of the group. The Maze Runner follows
Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped inside a maze with a group of
other boys, and no memories of his life before entering it. It was interesting
and thought-provoking and unpredictable, and on finishing it I immediately wanted
to get my hands on the sequel.

     First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the
mystery of it all. The novel follows Thomas’s point of view, and therefore the
reader only knows as much as he does, which is very little at first. This is
what kept me guessing, and made me want to read on to find out what on earth
was going on and why these boys were trapped in the maze. And every answer
provided brought more questions alongside it, making the story exciting and
tense. There are also elements of thriller and horror to the novel, largely in
the form of the hideous creatures called Grievers, which hunt down the boys.
More than once I had my heart in my mouth, frantically praying that they would
escape. This also demonstrates my fondness for the characters, which proves
they are well-written. And while the Grievers are enemies to the boys, the
ultimate antagonists, in the boys’ opinion, are the Creators of the maze. These
are figures shrouded in mystery, and we are left questioning their motives
behind their decisions, and whether they are really good or evil.
     Thomas is a strong protagonist, intelligent,
curious, brave and determined. He is the catalyst for change, not only because
his (and Teresa’s) presence causes changes in the maze itself, but because he
makes the rest of the group think differently. While they had not yet given up
hope of finding escape, Thomas pushes them further and harder into finding a
solution. Yet he is not perfect – he has moments of emotional struggle and a
particularly mysterious past, but all the best characters have flaws. They make
characters real and well-rounded and far more relatable. I also liked the
relationship between Thomas and Teresa, and there is an obvious connection and
closeness between them, but we are not bombarded with romance, as YA novels are
often prone to doing. I would have liked a little more female presence, as
things are very male-dominant, but this didn’t detract from the overall story
(although I believe this is rectified in the sequel). Gally is also an
interesting character – he is the most suspicious of Thomas and has seems to
have some kind of darkness within him. I liked that he provides the
counterbalance to the other boys, and because the novel has so much mystery in
it, we as readers do not immediately dismiss his claims. When we know so little
about the boys’ pasts and the outside world, we can recognise that Gally’s
claims about Thomas could be true, which keeps us wondering.
     This is also a novel to restore a little
faith in people, particularly teenagers like these boys. It’s a very easy age
group to look down on and patronise, but this group proves to us that they can
be mature, responsible and loyal. Despite being thrown into an unfamiliar place
with no memories, they have created their own fully functioning society, where
everyone has banded together in order to survive. They are forced to deal with
circumstances that would be difficult at any age, and they never lose hope in
trying to escape their predicament, particularly reassuring when I feel our
society can be rather pessimistic much of the time. They do, of course, make
mistakes and give in to their emotions during moment of weakness, but that only
proves that they are human and therefore imperfect.
     I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and will
certainly be checking out the rest of the trilogy. I find a good book should
make me think and make me feel, and this did both. I was intensely curious
about all the unanswered questions the boys faced and became fond of many
characters. The novels themes also led me to think about humanity and how
societies work, giving the book bearing on the real world. A great read for
those looking for mystery and adventure.