Wednesday, April 23, 2014

what we're reading wednesday: the maze runner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner was an interesting variation on the "future dystopian teen novel" theme, starting from scratch with the main character in a brand new environment with no memory of his past. He and the reader have to learn everything together. The plot was fast-paced and interesting enough to make me want to keep reading.

The biggest negative for me was that I just didn't feel much connection to the characters. I feel like I barely know what kind of person the main character is, except that (based on his actions) he's pretty brave and willing to risk his life for others. That's basically it. I don't have a clear idea of whether he's friendly or shy, kind or gruff, patient or impatient, clever or not. Supposedly (the book tells me) he's extremely smart, though I didn't see much evidence of it. There were lines like "Thomas didn't know what he meant by Banishment, but it sounded bad," and I'd want to yell at the book, "They just said a few pages ago that being Banished means you're left outside the walls at night, dummy!!"

A related complaint: I've rarely read a book that describes so many emotions while making me feel so few. It was full of lines like these: "Thomas felt a sudden surge of rage." "Thomas was happy with the conversation." Thomas couldn't help feeling a shot of pure elation at the thought." "Thomas was overwhelmed with sadness." To quote my 7th grade English teacher-- show it, don't tell it!

One last gripe: the narration was written in a strange style. On the one hand it was full of teenage-boy-isms (which I assume was deliberate) like "Dinner was awesome" and "Thomas was pumped"-- meant, I suspect, to reflect what Thomas would have said, since it was a third-person subjective narration. But at the same time, it never felt like we were really inside Thomas' head (see above complaints) so it came across as just feeling like... just immature writing, like a high schooler's short story. At least that's how I felt when reading it.

All of these complaints make it sound as if I didn't enjoy the book. I did-- I read it over the course of less than 3 days, after all! But it's a book that I wanted to keep reading because I was curious about what was going on, not so much because I cared what happened to the characters. 

If you like young adult dystopian novels, you'll enjoy it. But it probably won't become one of your all-time favorites or blow your mind or change your life. (But what am I saying-- if you like young adult dystopian novels, you've probably already read it. I guess I'm kind of late to the game on this one.) I'll probably get around to reading the sequels, but I'm not in a rush to do so.

Linking up with Jessica at Housewifespice


  1. I like dystopian novels, but also did not connect with The Maze Runner. I just didn't get it. There wasn't enough resolution for me. It started out dark, hopeless, and bewildering, and I felt that it ended the same way. You might like the series I reviewed today though! The Lunar Chronicles are more sci-fi than dystopian, but there is some of that too. Thanks for linking up!

    1. Yeah, I kept waiting for the "aha!" moment and it never came.

      I'll have to check out the Lunar Chronicles-- they sound interesting! Have you read the Divergent and Under The Never Sky trilogies? (I'm guessing yes, but you never know.) They were my favorite dystopian books last year.