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Book Reviews, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Lovelace Award Nominee, Middle Grade Readers, Young Adult Readers

THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner……a LOVELACE nominee Division II

The Maze Runner is a science fiction novel that reads like a thriller.  Thomas, a young boy, having had his memory wiped, finds himself transported via a dark metal box into a compound called “The Glade” which is entirely populated by young boys of approximately the same age.  Thomas gradually learns that The Glade is at the center of a huge maze from which the boys are trying to find an exit.  They have been trying to find the exit for two years without success.

As a reader, I felt completely at one with Thomas in his initial confusion and frustration as he tries to understand what has happened to him, what his current situation really is and what his plan of action should be in the ensuing days.  I, too, struggled to grasp the larger picture of what was happening to these boys.

The walls around The Glade close at night, sealing it off from the rest of the maze where Grievers–hideous, deadly monsters of flesh and metal–stalk the corridors at night, killing any boy remaining outside The Glade.  The thriller aspect of the book really comes to the forefront as Thomas’ understanding of pieces of his situation increase, as do his choices to take some sort of action to change it.

I was increasingly captivated by this book the further I read.  It took me 2 days to read the first 100 pages and only 1 day to read the final 200 pages.  Thomas’ emotions from terror to fustration to moments of annoyance and fondness for certain friends are palpable in every word.

It is a Division II nominee for good reason:  the plot is complicated and devastating in both its scope of evil and that of community and friendship. There is violence and death and strong emotional and psychological content.  One of Dashner’s most brilliant strokes is the language used by the boys in The Glade.  They have developed their own vocabulary to express frustration, insult and vulgarity using words like “shank,” “shuck-faced” and “klunk.”  This allows the Gladers to speak in the rough, sometimes angry, sometimes irreverent way teenage boys would without the distractions to the readers of familiar obscenities.  Absolutely nothing is lost in the vehemence of the Gladers’ expressions; for me it was almost more potent than familiar curse words.  The specific language of the Gladers brings their isolation and frustration more sharply into focus for the reader.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys science fiction or thriller novels.  I would also recommend it as an excellent choice for someone looking to experience science fiction for the first time if adventure and mystery also appeal to him or her.

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