James Dashner's Maze Runner
Children's book review by Tracey Fortkamp
Ages 12 and older
A young adult novel about escape
He begins his new life standing up, surrounded by cool darkness and stale dirty air. My name is Thomas, he thought. That…that was the only thing he could remember about his life.
With no memory of his previous life, Thomas arrives in the Glade. He does not where he came from or how he got to this self-contained farming community. The community is home to about 60 other boys, who also cannot remember their past lives.
The Glade is surrounded by tall stone walls, and on the other side of those walls is a maze. The boys believe that the only way they will ever be allowed to leave this community is to solve the maze. However, solving the maze is easier said than done.
Each day several boys (known as runners), explore the maze hoping to find a way out – a way to get home. Each night they come back, unsuccessful, and the doors to the maze close for the night. The maze runners keep detailed maps of what they find in the maze each day, but unfortunately every night the maze changes.
Not only does the maze keep changing, it is also home to horrible monsters, called Grievers. Part slug-like beast, part machine, the Grievers are completely gruesome. One sting from the grievers' built in needles causes immense pain and delirium and triggers “the changing”.
“The changing” causes the sting victim to reclaim memories from their life before The Glade. While this sounds like a great benefit for boys who cannot remember who they are, these memories seem to terrorize those who have been stung. The sting victims become reclusive and angry and claim their memories were of an inhospitable world full of turmoil and chaos.
Thomas’ arrival in the Glade seems like nothing out of the ordinary - for over two years now a new boy has arrived every month. The only problem is Thomas is the first boy to arrive who feels a familiarity about The Glade. He is also drawn toward the maze and becoming a runner. More alarming is that the boys who have gone through “the changing” instantly recognize him from their memories.
The day after he arrives, things get even stranger. A girl is brought to the Glade with a chilling message, “She’s the last one. Ever”, and then she falls into a coma. The boys are completely taken back by her appearance. First, there has never been a girl in The Glade before. Second, two new people have never come to The Glade in the same month let alone in two days. Third, and most disturbing, she seems to know Thomas.
Thomas is also drawn to the girl and visits her bedside to see if it brings back any memories. During a visit, she relates to him that she definitely knows him and claims they are responsible for this whole situation - “It was you and me, Tom. We did this to them. To us.” Thomas is stunned, how could he be responsible for the Glade and its diabolical maze?
Soon things around The Glade start changing and changing fast. The sky goes gray and the sun does not come out. The boys do not receive their weekly shipment of supplies and the doors to the maze do not close at night, giving the Grievers access to the boys. Needless to say, tensions are high.
Thomas realizes that they have to figure out the maze and get everyone out of here or they will all die. But, the maps make no sense and nobody can figure a way out. In the end, he makes a dangerous decision to unlock his memories and find clues to solving the maze.
James Dashner (The 13th Reality Series) has created a dark and suspense filled story with numerous plot twists and plenty of action. Maze Runner is an intriguing read from the very first sentence and builds momentum as the story progresses. While sometimes vividly gruesome, the violence is not at all gratuitous and gives the reader a glimpse into the boys’ daily fight for survival.
Thomas is a convincing, although reluctant, hero. He possesses both strength and compassion and empathizes with the boys’ situation. He proves to be the leader the boys needed to help them revolt against their situation.
The action-packed conclusion does not disappoint and ends with an enticing cliffhanger. Readers will be pleased to find out that The Maze Runner is the first book in the Maze Runner Trilogy.
Read more of Tracey's reviews.
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