Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.

And so begins Thomas’ journey in a metal elevator, stripped of his
memories, delivered to a place where boys are fighting for their survival.

I picked this one up because it is on the 2010 Lone Star List. A very big deal in our lovely state of Texas. It’s also made some best of 2009 lists (Kirkus for one). I can see why this book was chosen – fast paced, non-stop action, a mystery that keeps building upon itself little by little, terrifying odds, and teen boys who are incredibly resourceful and smart despite their shortcomings.

I enjoyed several things about this novel. I loved the way the author got around swearing by inventing new terminology. “ Klunk” and “Shuck” were satisfying alternatives and sounded believable. In fact, they even sounded rude and fun to say– exactly what curse words should sound like (because we all know there is nothing like a good swear to get a point across). I especially respected how the emotional life of the boys was portrayed. They were fearful and emotional; they cried quite a bit, and not just the wimpy ones that got killed off, all the boys were emotional. I was so impressed – we rarely get such a depiction – usually it is all macho tough-guy bullsh*t. So bravo for that!

However, I wouldn’t be Patti unless I had major issues with a book everyone else just loved to death. The book is very suspenseful, but I think it could have benefitted from some judicious editing. It was a bit repetitive, it tried too hard to ratchet up the anxiety level and so it sometimes felt manipulative and forced, and it did a lot of telling rather than showing. It clocks in at 374 pages and it could have easily told the same story just as effectively at 250 and been a tighter more effective piece of writing.

It isn’t until page 351 that they finally escape the Maze and come face to face with the “Creators.” That leaves 23 pages to explain what is outside of the maze and why they were put in it in the first place. Yes, this is the first in a series. Yes, I understand that it is meant to be a cliff-hanger. But after so many pages dedicated to lost memories and maze running, I thought the ending lacked the oomph it needed…like a good reason they are in the GD maze to begin with. No, I did not find the so-called “rationale” satisfying at all and found myself frustrated by the rushed ending.

I think there is much to commend this book, certainly many others have loved it. I do feel as though it will be popular with boys and even reluctant readers despite its size. I just can’t say that I loved it for myself. Which is too bad because I was fascinated by its premise.

Book Source: Publisher Review Copy


Madigan McGillicuddy said...

Oooh. Sounds so very similar to Sleator's House of Stairs.

How are you ladies in Texas doing?

Patti said...

We are doing well, thanks! And how is California?