Ellen’s Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Ellen’s Review: The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2009-10-06
Genres: Boys & Men, Friendship, Social Issues, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-stars
Read the first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Maze Runner is now a major motion picture featuring the star of MTV's Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and the second book, The Scorch Trials, is soon to be a movie, hitting theaters September 18, 2015! Also look for James Dashner’s newest novels, The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts, the first two books in the Mortality Doctrine series.   If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.   When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.   Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.   Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.   Everything is going to change.   Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.   Remember. Survive. Run. Praise for the Maze Runner series:

In simplest terms, a maze is a puzzle.  There might be obstacles along the way, but every maze has an entry point and an exit.  Imagine being sixteen and waking up in the center of monstrous man-made maze.  Not only do you have no idea where you are, but you also have no idea who you are.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner follows the life of Thomas, a teenager who finds himself trapped with other teenage boys in a maze.  Thomas learns that several of the oldest boys have lived within the maze for two years.  They made a home in the Glade, the center of the puzzle, and have built a society run by the laws of order.  Gladers, as they call themselves, work a variety of jobs to maintain this order.  The Runners run each day through the maze to search for an exit and map their findings; the Med-jacks provide medical care; the Cooks prepare food; the Slicers slaughter livestock; and others work in typical farming occupations.

The boys do not live in a normal maze.  Every day the structure changes; the walls move.  Thomas learns quickly after arriving about the Creators, the people who built the maze and observe the boys’ actions.  Gladers hate the Creators.  They provide supplies each week, but also unleash the deadly Grievers, a mechanical, weaponized creature that hunts and attacks Gladers.

After Thomas’s arrival, life as the Gladers know it begins to change.  No one remembers anything before the Glade, but several boys who survived hallucinogenic Griever attacks recognize Thomas.  The Glade also provides a strange sense of comfort and familiarity to Thomas, which was not a sensation the other boys felt upon arrival.  The day after Thomas arrives, the Glade receives its first female inhabitant who carries an unnerving message.  The Gladers soon find themselves forced to solve the puzzle or risk being killed by Grievers.

The Maze Runner reminded me of a cross between Ender’s Game and Lord of the Flies, both books that I also recommend.  I found it interesting how such an innocent game was turned into a fearful habitat.  This is not a new concept – the Triwizard Maze in Harry Potter is another example – but the main difference is that the characters have built a society within their nightmare.

The maze becomes a symbol for all the Gladers.  It represents life and death, identity, bravery, freedom, and manipulation.

  • Life and Death: Runners risk their lives each day to map a way out of the maze.  Gladers fear the maze, and their number one rule is never to enter the maze if you are not a Runner.  The worst punishment a Glader can receive is banishment.  When banished, you are forced to survive outside of the protective Glade walls against Grievers.  Banishment is a death sentence.  No one survives being trapped in the maze after dark.
  • Courage: Entering the maze is a choice.  The Glade, with its moving walls, protects the Gladers each night from Grievers.  When their daily routine changes, the Gladers must find it in themselves to face their fears and fight back.  The maze is fear, but it is also courage.  When Gladers enter the maze, they become a symbol of bravery and hope for each other.
  • Identity:  Solving the maze represents the simplest of questions: why.  Why were they sent there?  Why are they being watched?  Why can’t they remember their lives, parents, and childhood?  The maze has become their identity, and solving it is the only way they believe they can regain all of their memories.
  • Freedom and Manipulation: The maze is manipulated by the Creators, who can control and set new variables.  The Gladers know that they are not in control of their environment, and the maze is a constant reminder of this.  To battle manipulation, the maze becomes a sign of freedom.  If it can be solved, everyone can return to their families and live the lives of their own choosing.  Freedom of choice does not fully exist within the maze, but it represents the freedom beyond its walls.

The Maze Runner is a quick read and recommended for anyone interested in science fiction, dystopias, and puzzles.  I enjoyed the book and plan on reading the rest of the series.  My only complaint is that I believe the ending happened too quickly.  Dashner builds up to an exciting finish, but the events become so confusing and are left unexplained.  I hope that the second installment, The Scorch Trials, will answer my remaining questions.

Christina also reviewed “The Maze Runner” by James Dashner. See her review here.

Ellen

Christina’s Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Christina’s Review: The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe Maze Runner by James Dashner
Published by Random House Children's Books on 2009-10-06
Genres: Boys & Men, Friendship, Social Issues, Visionary & Metaphysical, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Read the first book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The Maze Runner is now a major motion picture featuring the star of MTV's Teen Wolf, Dylan O’Brien; Kaya Scodelario; Aml Ameen; Will Poulter; and Thomas Brodie-Sangster and the second book, The Scorch Trials, is soon to be a movie, hitting theaters September 18, 2015! Also look for James Dashner’s newest novels, The Eye of Minds and The Rule of Thoughts, the first two books in the Mortality Doctrine series.   If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.   When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.   Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.   Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.   Everything is going to change.   Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.   Remember. Survive. Run. Praise for the Maze Runner series:

The Maze Runner was our book club read for March. I was not too excited to read the book (not my genre) but I was shockingly surprised and so glad I read it because I LOVED it.

The author did a brilliant job keeping readers engaged from the start. Reading chapter one I was instantly hooked and my brain was working to piece together everything and try to figure out what was going on. It was a mysterious adventure, and I felt as though I was finding answers and making the discoveries with the characters.

The story follows a teenage boy, Thomas, who is brought up in the box to the Glade. The other boys in the Glade, like Thomas, have no memory of their past. They live in this home-environment they created and have assigned jobs and rules to make life run efficiently and keep order. Thomas sets his eyes on the “Runners” – a group of the fittest guys who are quick at decision making as they run the maze outside of the Glade every day searching for answers and a way out. There are some catches: the Maze changes every night; the door to the Glade shuts every day at the same time; and outside of these doors at night the Grievers come out… nobody outside of the great doors during the night have ever survived the Grievers. What is this place? Why are these boys all here? Why can they not remember their past? Are they in prison?

And then, everything changes…

Something about the book made me think of past reads and movies I have seen, including: The Shining, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and The Village. This book was a serious page-turner. My thoughts and questions aligned with Thomas’… there were so many mysteries, I could not wait to get the answers and solve them.

This book was a great science fiction read… typically, not my style with the mechanics and apocalyptic style. However, I very much enjoyed the book Lexicon, and this book reminded of the read and kept my attention. I highly recommend it, even for the reader not so into sci-fi. The author’s writing style and mysterious nature of everything kept me hooked. I give the book a 4.5 out of 5 stars (although closer to the 5 star side than 4). I cannot wait to read the second book of the series, hopefully soon.

Now, onto the movie… I was so into the book I finished it in less than two days. We went out to rent the movie and watched it immediately after. Boy oh boy was I disappointed after finishing such a great read. I had so many images in my head and could not wait to see how they would portray them in the movie. I did not mind at all how they portrayed the maze, the Glade, the Gladers, the Greavers, or even the actors… all that was fine. It was the details they left out or just totally changed. There were too many liberties taken and caused the story and whole mystery and suspense to change for me. I wish I could vent a little more on the details missing, but I am afraid that would ruin the book for others who have not read it. Feel free to email me: playingjokersblog@gmail.com to chat more.

Back to the book, again, I highly recommend it. I have a feeling it will be a great read for our book club with so many questions and probably different interpretations that developed. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

pj - christina

Michelle’s Review: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer


I received this book for free from BEA 2013 in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia SpencerThe Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit by Octavia Spencer
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2013-10-15
Genres: Action & Adventure, Childrens, Friendship, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Social Issues
Pages: 214
Format: ARC
Source: BEA 2013
Goodreads
three-stars
Meet Randi Rhodes, the world’s first ninja detective! Mystery abounds in this delightful new middle grade series from Academy Award–winning actress Octavia Spencer.Deer Creek is a small town whose only hope for survival is the success of their Founder’s Day Festival. But the festival’s main attraction, a time capsule that many people believe hold the town’s treasure, has gone missing. Randi Rhodes and her best friend, D.C., are Bruce Lee–inspired ninjas and local detectives determined to solve the case. Even if it means investigating in a haunted cabin and facing mean old Angus McCarthy, prime suspect. They have three days to find the treasure…the future of their whole town is at stake! Will these kids be able to save the day?

When Octavia Spencer spoke during the BookExpo America Children’s Author Breakfast, she introduced us to her new book as one where she strived for diverse characters. Given the latest push for diverse books, I would definitely place this book on a list of those that feature diverse characters. With a red-haired heroine with a single parent, (an Hispanic?) side-kick with hearing aids, an Asian housekeeper/nanny, a female sheriff, and an African American new friend, there is diversity everywhere.

Randi Rhodes is the Harriet the Spy of the latest generation. She is grappling with the loss of her mother and her family’s move to a sleepy mountain town. But there are mysteries everywhere and Randi embarks on one that allows her to make new friends and perhaps find her footing.

It’s an adorable book with a few pictures and creative activities for children to play along with. Depending on the age of the kid, I would venture to say that adult supervision should be required for all the tasks. I can only imagine the kinds of messes that could be made otherwise!

It’s a Scooby Doo type story. “If it weren’t for you meddlin’ kids…!” (Really, all Randi needs is a furry companion!) If that’s the type of story you (or really, your children) are looking for, this is definitely a good option.

pj - michelle