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Book Review: The Maze Runner

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For awhile now I’ve been reading books with a friend of mine who lives in Germany. It’s been like our own little book club. We take turns picking out which book we’ll read next, and then we spend weeks to months discussing/ranting about the fictional stories we’ve willingly plunged ourselves into.

The Maze Runner was one of these books.

It was my friend who suggested it. She was excited about starting this odd story about a group of teenage boys who are stuck in a maze. I bought the Kindle version, and started out on the roller coaster that is James Dashner’s The Maze Runner.

At 374 pages (Kindle version) it’s not a short read. It’s one you have to commit to. My friend bolted through this book, like she was one of the Runners in the book. She finished it so quickly, there was no way to keep up, which is ok. She tends to be a binge reader, finishing up a book in a few days, and then she spends the rest of the time telling me to hurry up so we can talk about it. It’s our relationship, and it works.

But, back to The Maze Runner. One of the first things that I noticed about this book is that it moves fast. Maybe a little too fast. People tend to see the characteristic of “fast paced” as a positive, but in this case, the book moved so fast that I often felt left behind. When you first enter the world of The Maze Runner, there’s a lot of people. Boys, most specifically. All of them are trapped inside the “glade” which is at the center of a massive maze that they can’t solve to escape. Life goes on in the glade though, and they do what they can to survive from day-to-day. Imagine walking into an enclosed field filled with 100 people. Now imagine trying to remember all their names and recognize each one for who they are and what their job is. That’s the world of The Maze Runner. As the reader, you’re following Thomas. He’s thrust into this same world of strangers with little memory and no idea of where he is or what’s happening, and as the reader, you share that feeling. I suspect that James Dashner wrote it this way on purpose. Bravo. 

While you’re trying to keep up with all the boys (who often have oddball names like Newt and Gally) you also have a new language to get used to. Dashner (almost brilliantly) replaced any trace of cursing with a sort of Glade slang. Instead of swears, you get words like “shank” and “klunk” and “slinthead”. You get used to it as the book goes on, but at first, it’s a little overwhelming.

The chapters are short, sometimes amounting to only a page or two. This makes the already fast pace of the book seem even quicker. You feel like you’re making progress as you zoom through three chapters in fifteen minutes. For me, I liked this aspect. Unlike my friend, I’m not a binge reader. I’m an in-between reader. I read in small chunks, when I can find time. While dinner is cooking, or while I’m waiting in the car to pick up the kids from school. I read in ten minute increments, so the short chapters work for me.

It really wasn’t until about halfway through The Maze Runner that I really started to get attached to the characters. About halfway is when things really start to get serious. You get more insight into the maze, the monster that live there, and what the Runners are doing when they dare to venture out into the maze each day to try and solve it. You get personal with a handful of characters rather than being bombarded by so many, and for me that was huge. Suddenly Newt, Thomas, Chuck, and Minho were becoming real people in my mind and not just names on a page that I couldn’t keep straight.

By the time I got to the last third of the book, I was hooked. I wanted to know what would happen and I worried for the boys and the impending doom that always seemed to be stocking them. I almost cried at the end. I won’t tell you why.

The Maze Runner has since been turned into a movie, and the movie turned out well. It followed the book, more or less, and the actors did a great job representing their characters. The second book in the series (The Scorch Trials) is already being made into a film to follow up the first one. It’s exciting. I started reading The Scorch Trials a day or two ago. I’m not that far into it yet, only about eight pages or so, but it’s already proving to run in the same vein as the first book.

Lord help those boys.

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