When I think about what a Young Adult novel is, The Maze Runner is one of the titles that comes to mind. I had never read it before but I had heard back then how popular it was at the time of its publication. Now that I’ve read it, I can understand why people liked it so much.
The idea of an amnesiac character is one I’m quite familiar with as I’ve written that archetype before. Thomas, like the rest of the denizens of the Glade, has no idea who they were before they were trapped within the maze. As the protagonist of the story, Thomas handles his loss of memory very different than the rest of the boys. Hints at his past pop up here and there to drive him forward as a decent motivation. Feelings of familiarity guide his actions which is a common but understandable drive to push him forward. Despite being a newcomer and lowest on the totem pole, he proves he values his own agency and motivations which makes him a more compelling protagonist. The issue however is that this is rather inconsistent throughout the story. There are moments where he’s rebellious and defiant, standing up for what he believes is right but then there are moments where he’s quiet, timid and silent. Now contrasting behaviours are fine as it can show character depth and growth, but here Thomas is inconsistent when it comes to Alby, Newt and the Keepers
The Glade society comes up as a very well designed and thought out community considering what it is. It’s a group of teenagers trying to survive and how it’s portrayed comes off as quite logical. The power structure is sound and the mystery of the maze is kept alive as the survivors are constantly trying to understand and escape it. It’s great to see the background characters and what they’ve been doing this whole time as it helps to realize the sense of hopelessness they have to endure. The mannerisms and how they talk do take some time getting used to as there’s a lot of made up words to get used to as the story progresses. However I found myself becoming comfortable with the terminology as the story progressed.
The story starts off rather slow and confusing, but ramps up in engagement about a quarter of the way in. Once the plot starts moving, the action keeps at a reasonable pace. It slows down at the right moments without becoming plodding or worse, boring. While the plot is mostly character driven, there are some plot points that just seemingly happen so as to move the story forward. While it’s not exactly what I would call the best progression, considering the background of the situation they’re in its understandable. Thankfully everything else that does occur feels like it has sufficient build up and not just coincidental. The climax and ending are a bit chaotic but it adds to the desperation so it doesn’t harm the experience.
The pace of the story is pretty quick and easy to dive into as there are none of those dreadful exposition dumps. Part of that might be because of the amnesiac quality of the story, but what is consistent is that any explanation of the Maze and the Glade are all explained in conversation that’s filled with characterful verbage that keeps the information fun and enjoyable. The chapter lengths never feel long or overdrawn and flow seamlessly into each other without breaking any tension or action. It’s very easy to dive into and keeps the reader’s attention throughout the book.
What Writers can learn from this book
The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a very simple and straight forward story at first. It serves as a great introduction to the series as it’s easier to feel attached to the characters. Newt is easily one of my favorite characters. Nothing is ever quite complicated which helps to focus more on the cast of characters rather than trying to comprehend the world or any complicated background mechanic that could be driving the plot. Everything is kept in mystery which helps to direct focus to the character development.