Saturday, 10 May 2014

Review - The Maze Runner (James Dashner)

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     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.


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