Well, if you like "The Hunger Games" (movie coming out next March, squee!!), then "The Maze Runner" is something you'll like. It has the same types of themes, excitement, and action throughout. So, there's my endorsement, now on to the review:
The Point of the Plot
Thomas starts his new life in The Glade without any personal memories or any idea why he's there. Life there is eerie. None of the fifty or so boys know why they're there or worse how to get out. Especially since an unsolvable maze lies outside the glade, full of creatures bent on destroying the Gladers. And when Thomas arrives, everything changes.
Basically Believable: ***
When you write about in the dystopian genre, a fog of mystery almost always settles over the story. The trick is to work the unknown or unmentionable so it doesn't frustrate your readers. I'd say "The Maze Runner" accomplishes that at about 75%. It didn't bother me not to know why the Glade was there, who created it, why the boys were there, or how do they get out because none of the characters knew either and they were constantly working to finding out, so I got to discover it along with them. No frustration. The other 25% belongs to the little questions that could be answered but weren't. When Thomas wanted answers for smaller matters about the workings of the Glade (things the kids already there definitely knew about), everyone just answered with mysterious half-answers-half-warnings and sly looks, which drove me crazy to no end.
Charismatic Characters: **
Most of the characters in "The Maze Runner" definitely worked. Newt was my favorite by far. He was a perfect combination of wisdom, kindness, and leadership. The villains were excellently villainous. Gallie is so easily hated and the unapproachability works because it prevents Thomas from getting answers he needs without causing annoyance.
So it could be prejudice coloring my take on Thomas, the main character. I had the same problem with him that I had with Dashner's other lead character in "The Journal of the Curious Letters." Sometimes Thomas is just plain stupid--and for a character that's hailed in the book by other characters as being smart, it jars for me. Let me defend my stance with some specific examples, which means SPOLIERS AHEAD. ** Four different characters say pretty explicit things about Thomas being in league with the creators of the maze, Theresa even going so far as to say "We did this to them," talking about her and Thomas actions toward the Gladers. Yet Thomas never addresses this, except to be angry that Gallie accuses him and frightened of Ben's attack. Thomas even goes so far as to seek revenge on the creators and to hate the people who put them here. Perhaps it's because I guessed early on that Thomas' underlying sense of familiarity and ease in the maze meant he was part of the creators somehow. ** There are definitely unlikable characters in great books: like Katniss in "The Hunger Games" or Bella Swan of "Twilight." I've praised both those authors for creating almost unrelatable leads in their books while still crafting great stories. There's a difference between Katniss and Bella's characters and Thomas. Katniss is selfish because of her circumstances; Bella is silly, dramatic and has a really off decision making process--logical reasons I don't like them. But Thomas is a likable, heroic guy who just does really dumb things. It clashes for me.
Yay or Yuck, The Final Word: ***
As I expected from Dashner, the book is sprinkled with "had," "was," and "felt" at least every other sentence, which is VERY distracting for me. But that and Thomas' super-dumb decisions aside, "The Maze Runner" is definitely worth reading. Unlike "The Journal of Curious Letters," I'm driven to know what happens in the second book of the series, which says to me that this book is good. :) There's tons of action and adventure, and it keeps your mind buzzing all the way through. I listened to it on audiobook, and it made seemingly endless afternoons of hiking very bearable.
A Cautionary Tale: There is definitely some blood and violence in this book, which some pretty detailed and accurate descriptions.
Buy "The Maze Runner" here.
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I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.