REVIEW: The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner #1) by James Dashner

Maze RunnerRating: 4 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian, Apocalyptic, Pages: 374, Level: Easy

Description from Goodreads:

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers- boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out- and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

With the current popularity of dystopian fiction in young adult literature and cinema, it is no surprise that not only has The Maze Runner enjoyed phenomenal success as a novel but has also been made into a movie. While The Giver laid the groundwork for the abundance of young adult novels, The Hunger Games really sparked this wave that has hit the box office. Although The Maze Runner is not quite at the same level as either of the aforementioned novels, it is definitely deserving of its seat at the table and sure to entertain adult and young adult readers alike.

The recommended age level is a little tricky. I like to check things on, which is a great site. It reviews all kinds of things, movies, books, games, etc. and gives a separate rating based on parents’ reviews and young readers’ reviews. In addition, it gives individual ratings on specific aspects such as educational value, violence, drug usage, positive messages and role models, etc. Then it gives you a scale of ages in red for not age appropriate, yellow for parental discretion and green for age appropriate. Obviously it is up to the parents to ultimately decide what is appropriate for their child; Common Sense Media is a very useful tool that can aid parents with the decision making process.

The Maze Runner received an age appropriate level of 13. The tricky part is the yellow range. That category is ‘know your child.’ Is your child easily scared? Will they have nightmares? If your child is in the yellow range or even the lower green range, you may want to read the book first. There is a lot of violence in this book. While most of the violence is implied or happens ‘off screen’ with the results visible, i.e. blood or bloody clothing, some is ‘on screen.’ In addition, the monsters of the story are scary. Finally, there is a lot of made up profanity, i.e. shuck, klunk, slinthead, as well as some light profanity, crappy, sucks. There is no drug use, one scene with possible underage drinking and only one or two light sexual innuendos, i.e. staking claim to the only girl, saying the girl is hot.

Onto the story… if you have read any of my other reviews, you know I like to include favorite or profound quotes; you’ll notice there are none here. While I could come up with some non-superficial discussion questions, this book is not likely to be used as a catalyst for philosophical discussion and debate. That doesn’t mean it is not a good story, because it is.

My favorite thing about The Maze Runner is that the reader has no idea what is going on. There is a surprise out there somewhere and you’ll get a few pieces of the puzzle at a time. If you think you may want to read this series, I highly recommend not reading any reviews that include spoilers. In my humble opinion, it is more entertaining that way. I spent a lot of time trying to restrain myself from reading too fast because I was dying to know what was going on. I love books like that and The Maze Runner does not disappoint.

In addition, this book taps into what I think is a common fear- being trapped somewhere and not being able to find your way out, feeling like it is all a game but the rules continuously change, not being smart enough to solve a riddle that will save your life. Psychologically it’s terrifying. Are you intelligent enough to solve the maze? If not, the punishment is death. I don’t know about you, but that is high up on my list of things that keep me up at night. If you are anything like me, you may end up in bed, thinking about what you would do if you ever found yourself in that situation. And if you are as nerdy as I am, you’ll actually be keeping mental notes to use in the unlikely event that you do end up in that situation. Yes I actually do that. It might come in handy in the zombie apocalypse.

I will finish my review by telling you that both my eleven year old daughter and I are reading this series, on our own. We enjoy it enough that we are competing to see who will finish first. I am currently ahead, although I have no doubt she will catch up tonight when she pretends she is sleeping; she keeps books under her pillow and then gets up and reads them after my husband and I have fallen asleep. What’s funny is that she thinks I don’t know this. However, she has to go to school tomorrow. Ha ha. And because she got to the second in the series before I did, she claimed the hardcover, which is totally not right. I am the adult; I should get the hardcover.

Anyway, if you enjoy dystopian, apocalyptic fiction, I definitely recommend The Maze Runner.

Reviewed by Christina
November 11, 2014

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