Dashner, James. The Maze Runner. Delacorte Press, 2009. 375 pages. Tr. $14.49, ISBN: 978-0-385-73794-4
Plot: A boy named Thomas arrives in a strange place in a lift. The landscape is green and there is a crowd of boys around him, and he has absolutely no idea how he got here, to this place that the boys call the Glades. He knows his name, but he doesn’t remember anything else. The Glades is a strange place, with a huge rock gateway that opens and closes on a maze, and all of the boys here had the same experience that Thomas is having now. Supplies are delivered up from below in the lift, but none of the kids knows the source of the provisions. The next day, a girl is delivered up in the lift – the first girl and she brings a message, which changes everything. Every day, the boys must run the maze, trying to figure it out and escape, but they must return by nightfall. Inside the maze are Grievers, mechanical insect-slug creatures that can be fatal. As time goes on, things get more and more dangerous as the Grievers creep into the boys’ former safety zone of the Glades.
Critical Evaluation: This is an extremely well-conceived read that is full of mystery. The challenge of getting out of the maze fills the book with suspense and the Grievers are sufficiently creepy characters to imbue the novel with a sense of heart-wrenching dread. The setting has a dark, creepy, otherworldly aspect to it – there’s a little bit of Stonehenge in rock edifices -- and the pacing of the plot makes this a great series for the post-Hunger Games crowd. What Dashner does best here is create a sense of confusion and a suspenseful urgency, both by the time limit, the possibility of death, and by the rushing to get out. Because of these factors, and because they will identity with the main character, Thomas, this is a fast-paced read for teens looking for an adrenaline rush.
Author bio: Born in Georgia, James Dashner went to Brigham Young University before becoming an accountant. After leaving the world of number crunching (quite happily), he became the author of adult books and several fantasy books for children before writing the Maze Runner trilogy, including Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.
He lives in Utah with his wife and four children. Dashner is currently at work on a prequel to the Maze Runner.
Genre: Science Fiction/Adventure.
Curriculum Ties: English – suspense, tone
Booktalking Ideas: Focus on the dangerous robotic monsters.
Talk about the setting and sense of mystery – describing that they are all boys and then use the arrival of the girl as the kicker.
Reading Level/Interest Age: 12 and up
Challenge Issues: Violence, cryptic setting.
There are some possibilities of a challenge because of the violence and the title of the last book in the series, The Death Cure, might call attention to this book, but the possibility is pretty slim. Keep positive reviews in a file and know the content of this book, but a challenge probably won’t be an issue.
Why Included: This is an action-packed book for teens looking for Hunger Games-like adventure and suspense.