Grace's Reviews > The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
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's review
Jan 21, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it, young-adult
Read in January, 2010

Really disliked this book. Read it through to the end, hoping it would pull out of the nosedive: didn't.

If you're looking for good YA of this sort, go with "Ender's Game" or "The Hunger Games". Only come back to "The Maze Runner" if the other two prove too wordy, complicated, or deep. And yes, that means I am calling this book flimsy, simple and shallow.

The book's main character would be a Mary Sue, other than his hideously annoying personality. Other characters are more interesting, but we're stuck with the demanding, surly one. Anyone who compares this with "Lord of the Flies" really wasn't paying attention to LotF -- there's no psychology here at all. A kid hates another kid just because. A girl shows up in a throng of 13 to 18 year old boys, and we get absolutely no hint of what's happening in her head about that situation. The main character does flat-out stupid things, or does things because he suddenly "remembers something". It's head-bashingly awful.

The language is nuts, too. These kids choose to call themselves "Gladers", because they live in a glade. And then they refer to the name, like "I'll go get a few Gladers". There is no need for this labelling because there are no other people in the book, just so-called "Gladers", so it's just taking the place of the word "kids" or "people". Likewise, the fake-slang is clunky and bizarre. It's transparent that the author wanted to use the words "shit" and "fuck" in the book, and so just substituted "klunk" and "shuck" (yeah, that last one's a real brainteaser). It's wedged into the book awkwardly; unlike Battlestar Galactica's "frak", the slang in "Maze Runner" is hideously jarring. Other insults/slang show up as well, with no explanation at all. I've read books where slang has sprung up and felt realistic; not here.

The worst bit, I think, is that there is some potential in all this. But it's a book full of missed opportunities. Especially at the end, which is inexplicable. Seriously, the hell?

Maybe a nine year old boy would like this book, but that's pretty much the only audience I'd give it to. Adults, this is not the book you're looking for.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Margaret I have not finished the novel yet so I don't know what happens at the end but I do know this is supposed to be the first in a series so perhaps the follow up will clear up the klunky ending?

Grace I know a lot of people have enjoyed the book, so hopefully you'll like it, but it was more than just the ending for me -- I don't think the follow-ups will fix it, and I'm usually a big series reader! Then again, I'm also an adult reader, not a teenager. The things I pick at could just not matter to the target audience.

Honestly, it was the characters that put me off, they felt like flat paper cut-outs. And the "solutions" in the book didn't feel worked-for. My favourite bit in the whole book is probably when Thomas first goes into the maze and has to solve a life-or-death issue (I don't want to spoil it for you). But most of the time, we just get "he knew he had to do this" or "he felt like that was familiar" or "Hey, guys, I remembered all of this in one big chunk!" When a character really works at puzzling out a problem, it's rewarding. But when he gets everything handed to him (or "remembered") -- well, why bother trying to puzzle out the solution with the character, if there's information that's going to be parachuted in instead?

This comparison's a bit clunky, but: when I was little, we'd play cops and robbers with all of the neighbourhood kids. Basically, it was a long game of the cops finding and "locking up" the robbers in an imaginary jail, and the robbers then had to think of a way to get out. The fun part of the game was thinking up wild ways to get out of jail, like tricking a cop into coming into the cell and throwing sticky spiderwebs over him, or having someone hide behind a table and run out when the door was open, or tying together all the (real) brooms and sticks in the "jail" to trigger the imaginary fire alarm. All imaginary kid stuff, but lots of storytelling and drama and fun.

But there was one kid who would CONSTANTLY... well, "cheat". Stuff like reach into her pocket and go "hey look, I have the key!" or, when we told her that no, she didn't, and she didn't have a copy either because the jailor had the one and only key hanging on his keyring, she'd go "...but I have a puppy in my pocket that went out and got the key!" She was just no good at playing the storytelling game, no drama. She's always have some sort of too-easy fix.

That's what a lot of the storytelling here felt like. Just, hey, presto! It's a key! Or if it's not the key, it's the puppy I had in my pocket this entire time! When characters don't really work at getting to a solution, it makes the story hollow. No drama. And in "The Maze Runner", a huge portion of the book is based on Thomas getting uncanny "feelings" -- and not the sort that are instinct, more like flat-out directions.

And on another note, I just generally hate weak girl characters. And Theresa had no character at all, she was just "the pretty girl". It annoys me when that happens.

message 3: by Margaret (last edited Jan 28, 2010 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Margaret Thanks for your response. I'm not far enough along in the book to really respond to most of your points--but I do agree that I hate when the story "cheats." I'll have to come back and reread your thoughts once I'm finished.

Megan Loved your review ~ glad I'm not the only one who sees Thomas as a Mary Sue. Besides, he was such an ass. I hated the way he made a bee-line to the Keepers without even bothering to talk to the ordinary kids, much less learn their names. The one Keeper who actually answered his questions in the beginning (can't think of the name... begins with Z... works in the garden) Thomas never bothered with again ~ presumably because he didn't seem to hold a power position within the Glade.

And Thomas was more than a little patronizing to Chuck, no?

Finally, Thomas spends his entire few days pestering the ones in charge for answers. When Teresa shows up and starts talking in Thomas' head ... he deliberately ingores it! Granted, that must be a freaky thing to experience. But considering how well he handled other freaky aspects of his new existance I expected him to handle the whole Teresa situation better. Not run aways and hide under a blanket. Seriously lame. You're right about Teresa. Her role seemed to be to cheer up & support the guys. Ugh.

I'm also a sucker for series, so will probably go on to the next one.... maybe ;)

message 5: by Margaret (last edited Feb 03, 2010 10:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Margaret Ok, I finally finished this morning and I really, really did enjoy the book. However, I did not love it the same way I love, love, love The Hunger Games. I am really looking forward to reading the next two books in the series but I probably won't gobble them up right away the way I will Collins' upcoming third book.

I do agree that Teresa as a character wasn't very well-developed. However, she did spend most of the book in a coma. And we only know her through Thomas who really doesn't have a clue. I expect her characterization (and the rest of the crew) to be more fully explored in the next novel. I'm not sure it is fair to single out Teresa--I don't believe the male author is having trouble writing a fully developed female character--. I didn't find her to be any less developed than Chuck or Alby for example. Part of the problem with characterization in this novel is simply the characters don't know who they are and without knowing themselves they can't know each other or their place in the world. Face it, none of them have a clue.

And I do agree that Thomas isn't very likeable thus far but Harry Potter was a whinging nancy boy in half the series as well. Perhaps we aren't supposed to like Thomas yet or even at all. Minho was my favorite character and I look forward to reading more about him.

I loved the ending. To me, it reinforces that none of Gladers, not even Thomas or Teresa, have any idea of what is really going on. I did suspect it before the final reveal.

Last year I started reading The Lightning Thief and I had to put it down because I found it particularly masculinist (for lack of a better word). I read it cover to cover last month and I really enjoyed the story but there were things about the novel that are just so male. Not that male is bad. I'm trying to pinpoint a feeling that is nearly impossible for me to articulate. I suppose it might be the way boys might feel about the Twilight books (my 13-year-old nephew read these novels which I find inexplicable but I don't think my sister read them first . . .). But I do think that there is a movement in young adult literature to get boys reading, particularly boys that don't like to read, and I think Maze Runner is one of those novels that will appeal to boys who don't like to read (or have trouble reading).

Grace I absolutely loved "The Hunger Games"; enjoyment-wise, it's close to "His Dark Materials" for me. And I think you're right that both "The Lightning Thief" (which I'll admit I am not at all tempted to try) and this book are targeted more at teen boys. If this makes them want to read more? Fab.

I don't fault the author for not being able to write female characters, there's not enough evidence for that; my issue is more that Teresa is some sort of Answer Fairy. She's the only one who's psychic. She's the only one to remember things. She magically goes into a coma for most of the book, and then she wakes up and provides all of these fixes. Both Chuck and Alby were underwritten (and I liked Minho a lot, too), but they didn't come out of the blue with spackle to patch up plot holes. Teresa did.

But the kids (I'm sorry, I can't call them "Gladers") also differ from Potter in that there are no real relationships between them, no cliques or social balances. There's the occasional pair, and the loose Keeper construct, but the book's devoid of politics. That was frustrating.

The ending's a good setup for the sequel, whatever that might be. I wonder if Group B is made up mainly of girls. And of course the whole game's changed, with a flood of new information. But it didn't work for me in the context of THIS book. I don't know why that kid (G-something) did what he did. I don't know who any of these people are. And the kids' bid for freedom was just bizarrely fast and didn't have much logic to it.

Maybe the best way to explain what I feel is that we got half a book, or maybe two-thirds of a book. But again, that's purely me -- I'm really glad you liked it! Have you tried "Incarceron"?

message 7: by Margaret (last edited Feb 06, 2010 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Margaret I have not yet read Incarceraon. In fact, I just learned of it today from you but I've added it to my to-read list. It sounds good. I am going to probably read Girl in the Arena or When You Reach Me Next.

It did not occur to me that Group Be might be all girls. Now I'm even more excited for the sequel.

message 8: by Jami (new) - rated it 1 star

Jami I agree with your review whole-heartedly! I've been trying to figure out why so many people have raved about this book when I felt like it was such a massive disappointment.

Everything you said was true, though. And to me, the biggest problem with the book was the poor writing. Maybe the main character would have been likeable (or maybe I could have sympathized the tiniest bit with him) if he'd been written better. The only thing I got from him was the whirlwind of emotions that he tells you he is feeling every other second.

Nothing was shown or revealed. The author tells you what he wants you to see or feel which is why it came across so forced and unnatural. What made books like The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series so amazing was the talented writing that created completely different and believable worlds.

Tatiana Excellent review and comments, Grace! I completely agree with you. Solving mysteries by suddenly remembering something you already know is just not as rewarding as actually working for it.

Tannerbot Grace,
Thanks for your review. I've found the amazing amount of positive commentary on this book absolutely depressing. I don't mind a light-on-character page turner, I really don't. But please, it has to make sense. At the very least, it has to make sense. And this one just doesn't. I think the problem, simply stated, is that a person of low to average intelligence cannot - as prescribed by the laws of thermodynamics - write a book about people of above average intelligence. Can't do it. Can't bake a cake if you ain't gots eggs. Thanks for your review.

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