Dystopian novels are one of the latest rages in the literary world. “Utopia” means a place where everything is perfect, and “dystopia” is the exact opposite. A dystopian novel features characters and places that are not at their most ideal, but hopefully the reader sees those characters making the best of the circumstances in which they find themselves. This is the case with the new release from James Dashner, titled “The Maze Runner.”
When Thomas wakes up inside the big box, he has no memory of how he got there. His previous life is a blur, except for one important thing—his name. As he emerges from the box, he finds himself surrounded by boys who range in age from early teen to older teen, and none of them know where they came from, either. They live in a place called The Glade, and have created their own little world within it. They each have a job to do to help keep their community alive and well, and they depend on each other for their survival. There are no adults, and so they have elected leaders to watch over them.
Although Thomas doesn’t remember anything from before, he senses that there must be more, that this can’t be all there is. He wants out. But the only way out is through a maze that borders The Glade, and no one has been able to navigate the maze, not even the boys, called runners, who have been trained to spend their days scouting along the walls, seeking escape for all of them. Some of these boys have even lost their lives to the creatures that patrol the maze, blocking their hopes of success.
Many of the boys have given up and are content to simply do their jobs from day to day, grateful for what they have. But from the moment Thomas learns about the maze, he can’t let it go. He wants to be a runner. He wants to get out there and learn the secrets of the maze, to find a way home for himself and for all the boys. It eats at him, this desire to be free, to have control over his own destiny. As he gets closer to finding the answer, he learns more about his past, and his true identity, When the other boys start to question his reasons for being there, he has more to prove than ever before, not only to himself, but to them.
James Dashner has taken an unusual premise, created a world and characters that pull you in and don’t let go, and tells the story in his own language—literally. The characters have their own slang unique to the book, which you can easily understand through context clues. You might even find yourself using this slang in your thoughts for a while after you complete the book. In fact, this is definitely one of those stories that sticks in your head long after you read it.
This book is marketed to the young adult audience. I have to say, I’d feel more comfortable recommending it to the older teen reader, or one who is a little more savvy—I felt it was just a bit too dark for a younger or less emotionally mature reader. That said, adults will love it too. As for me personally, I can’t wait for the sequel.
Tristi Pinkston is an avid reader, compulsive blogger, and new Farmville addict, although she’ll deny that last bit if asked. You can read more about her crazy life here.