#19 “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

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  1. City of Heavenly Fire – Cassandra Clare
  2. Every Word – Ellie Marney
  3. Skinjob – Bruce McCabe
    i.     Bloodlines – Richelle Mead
    ii.   The Golden Lily – Richelle Mead
    iii. The Indigo Spell – Richelle Mead
    iv. The Fiery Heart – Richelle Mead
  4. Silver Shadows – Richelle Mead
  5. Looking For Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
  6. Goose – Dawn O’Porter
  7. Run – Gregg Olsen
  8. Love Letters to the Dead – Ava Dellaira
  9. Stoner – John Williams
  10. The Wrong Girl – Zoë Foster
  11. A Fatal Tide – Steve Sailah
  12. Murder in Mississippi – John Safran
  13. Elianne – Judy Nunn
  14. Being Jade – Kate Belle
  15. Martha in the Mirror – Justin Richards
  16. Shining Darkness – Mark Michalowski
  17. The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  18. Divergent – Veronica Roth
  19. Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  20. Allegiant – Veronica Roth
  21. The Messenger – Markus Zusak
  22. Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
  23. The Mammoth Book of Angels and Demons
  24. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
  25. NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
  26. The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris
  27. Hades – Candice Fox
  28. Last Night at Chateau Marmont – Lauren Weisberger
  29. Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher
  30. Are You Seeing Me? – Darren Groth
  31. Masquerade – Kylie Fornasier
  32. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  33. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner
  34. The Death Cure – James Dashner
  35. A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby

If you guys are anything like me than you pay no attention to the list above this paragraph. And why would you? It looks exactly the same every time except for a new book scratched off with every new post. Hell, if I’m being honest it’s more for me than for you. Makes me feel like I’m getting somewhere with the enormous pile of books I have next to my bed. But, if you do pay attention to the list, you’ll have noticed that the Maze Runner trilogy hasn’t actually been on there. I should have added it ages ago, but the numbers are just getting scary now. Maybe I’ll clear out the ones I’ve read and make the list a bit shorter.

Anyway, funny story: I was never going to read The Maze Runner. It sounded way too much like The Hunger Games for my liking. Kids locked in an enclosed outdoor space, left to fend for themselves? Sounded a little too familiar. But after seeing the trailer for The Maze Runner movie I thought I might give it a go. The series, that is. So I took to Twitter, asking my fellow Tweeters if the books were worth my time. I only got the one reply, but it was a good one: a recommendation from one of my favourite Aussie YA authors, Ellie Marney (if you haven’t read the first two books in her Every series, I suggest you do so). There isn’t really any higher authority in the YA community than a YA author, so that night I bought the entire trilogy for just under $27. Bargain!

Did the series live up to my, now very high, expectations? Mostly yes. The plot was fast-paced and kept you reading. With every page there were nuggets of information that left you wanting more. There’s nothing worse than a mystery in a book that is too mysterious. You don’t get that problem with The Maze Runner.

Dashner is the master of dialogue. There was no mistaking any of the characters for one another when they opened their mouths. Somehow, a bunch of boys who all come from the exact same background, given that they all had their memories wiped before arriving in the Glade, managed to have their own vocal idiosyncrasies. Well done, Mr. Dashner.

I’d be highly surprised if this book didn’t raise some feminist alarm bells. The cast is 99% male, with the one female character being comatose for 2/3 of the story. But let’s be real, here. A bunch of boys and girls locked into an enclosed area together? There would be a bit of rape going on, really. Plus, I think Dashner was trying to keep the story PG.

As with most of the YA authors I read, Dashner is American. Nothing wrong with that, except I feel a little guilty that I don’t read more Aussie authors. But here’s the thing, the spelling in my edition of The Maze Runner was Australian English. It was “mum” instead of “mom” and I’m pretty sure it was “realise” not “realize”. Took me a while to notice that one. See, when Aussie authors’ stories go overseas, or British stories for that matter, a lot of the time our language is “translated” into American English. It totally sucks. You lose a lot of a novel when you take out the language. But this was the very first time I’d seen an American author’s words be changed into Australian English. Not going to lie, I did a bit of a happy dance.

One of the reasons YA is so popular, in my opinion, is because the stories are so easy to read. The language is simple and the plots get their hooks in you from the get go. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity. But sometimes it can feel awfully contrived. The Grievers, terrifying half-machine, half-biological monsters that live in the Maze surrounding the Glade, sometimes felt like a very easy plot device. They added all sorts of drama and emotion and tension, all that good literary stuff, but the part where getting stung by them gave the boys some of their memories back? Come on now. I guess there wouldn’t really be a way for the story to progress unless the boys got their memories back somehow, but that felt a little convenient for my liking.

And then there was the fact that when Thomas, our protagonist, got his memories back he was far more coherent in his recollections than the other boys who went through the same process. The other boys were all over the place, looking and acting crazy, barely making sense. But with Thomas, he was able to call a Gathering (a meeting with the leaders of the Glade), and explain his memories in a beautifully logical way that felt so contrived I wanted to tear my eyes out. The only reason I kept reading was because what Thomas had to say was so interesting. Why could Thomas remember more than the others? This was never explained and if left me feeling like Dashner had no other ideas than to have Thomas remember everything perfectly.

The major drawback, for me, was the overwriting of emotion at the beginning of the book. It made me think of that Harry Potter quote:

Ron: One person couldn’t feel all that. They’d explode!
Hermione: Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon…

Seriously, in the early stages of the book we got so many paragraphs of how Thomas was feeling that I got sick of it. Sure it would have been a traumatic experience, waking up with no memories in a strange community that feels like a lab experiment, but do we have to listen to Thomas go on and on about his confusion, terror, and random longings? (He decides very early on that he wants to be a Maze Runner – one of the boys who explore the Maze looking for a way out – for some unknown reason). It’s boring! And there’s only so many ways you can express “fear” before you start repeating yourself. Maybe Dashner was trying to appeal to a female audience by talking about feelings. Or maybe he forgot the golden rule of writing: Show, don’t tell.

 Overall, this was a brilliant story. Easy to read, and the ending was wonderfully pulled off. I kind of saw it coming, but that’s not the point. The way Dashner wrote the ending was what made it great. Plus, that epilogue? Beautiful touch. That definitely would have had me impatient for the next instalment if I were reading the books in real time (you know, waiting for months for each new book).

★★★ ½

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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7 Responses to #19 “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

  1. Deborah says:

    I’ve been reading reviews for the movie – which I think have been positive haven’t they?

  2. Bec Graham says:

    I tend to shy away from movie reviews. I find them to be a little more subjective than book reviews. But the trailer looks awesome and I hope the movie is just as good as it looks!!!

  3. Lovely and very accurate review as always! I think we picked up on pretty much the exact same things – the convenient plot points and the overwriting were very frustrating but luckily I was able to overlook most of it because I enjoyed the story so much. 🙂 The epilogue blew my blind. Even though I was kind of expecting it I still got a DUN DUN DUUUUNNNN look on my face.

    Really happy that you enjoyed the book and it’s funny that we were both thinking of skipping it but then got converted. 😛

  4. Sharna Walker says:

    Ive just been doing some research into why the spellings in my book were the English version (with colour, mum etc.) even though the author is American, and I completely agree that its so nice to have books that dont have all of the American spellings for a change (I am British myself).
    Really enjoyed reading your review by the way 🙂

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