“The Maze Runner” by James Dashner: a book review

So, another Young Adult Book. What can I say: It’s officially an obsession. And, no surprise, this one has ALSO been optioned for a film in the next two years just like two out of every three YA books I’ve been reading this year. Guess that’s where the money is. But now, on to the review:

If you want the one sentence version, here it is: It’s a great premise but weakly written, and while it’s not bad, it barely keeps the pages turning and you should just wait for the movie.

The big issues with its quality lie in the characters and the klunky writing. Some sentences are just not smooth, and it’s not a personal taste thing: it’s a literary, storytelling pillar. A staple of cohesive art. Consistant construction. The second act dragged. Certain diction and wording should have been changed.

Now, maybe it’s just one of those things that male authors do differently from women. The lyrical nature of some female writers is nonexistent here, and the dialogue can be overwhelming — not in the sense that there is slang used in their world, but in the sense that in a story that should be mostly action and mystery, there is too much yap-yap-yapping and every little, specific word of a conversation does not need to be shown. Show us the characters talking about the plot, throw in minor slice-of-life “asides”, and move on. The conversations could go on and on. Think Lord of the Flies with 50 more pages of Counsel meetings.

The characters, including the protagonist, came off as a bunch of pricks. Like, asses. Really: In each other’s face, unlikable, and not very empathetic. When the sad parts came, not a tear came from my eyeballs. It’s okay to have some ruffian characters like this in this type of hellish book: they’re living in terrible conditions and kids die violently. But some of the characters need to be likeable or have different levels of aggression. The only character I liked was the thirteen-year old Chuck, and he was chatty and obnoxious; charmingly bearable and an overachiever. And, yeah, that was the best one. Eek.

So, the good. The beginning and the end. While the rest of the book was being beaten in different ways by early 90s era Mike Tyson, what kept this book from having its ear bitten off was early chapters that make you salivate for details and rules of the maze. Throughout the middle, you just want to find out the ending. You don’t keep reading it because it’s good. In fact, it’s 50 pages too long. You get to the last 50 pages and are rewarded with a unique dystopian twist that will have people talking in the movie theaters. How this book ends, what the fictitious world is like, and what may come next for our gang of survivors will get people buzzing who haven’t read the book.

All in all, a 3/5 is about right. I liked it, sure. But I can’t fully recommend it to everyone. The movie could rule or could be lackluster. It’s all about the director. The trilogy could take us to great places, but it’s not at the top of the list of “Sequels I Must read in the Next Three Months.”

Often, a book’s ending doesn’t make me happy when the middle was so weak. It takes a lot to flush out a sour taste. This one did and with great intrigue. Recommended for teens 13-17 without a second thought. Everyone else, wait for the movie. You’re not missing out.

If you want dystopia, read “Legend” by Marie Lu and “Divergent” by Veronica Roth first. Then do this bad boy.

3/5

MH

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