THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner


by James Dashner

published by Ember

Heads up: I'm writing this review in the wake of the third book, which was a massive disappointment, so I'm still a bit bitter.

The Maze Runner trilogy has, thus far, not been an enormous waste of my time. The first book wasn't too bad, in fact.

Let's get into what I liked before we talk about what was bad.

What I Liked: 

I appreciated the amount of action in The Maze Runner. And all of it contributed to a thorough plot, unlike in future books. The action was engaging, it was fresh, it was fun. A large part of this was Dashner's writing style. It's engaging and crisp without being dumbed down, descriptive without being too flowery. It's perfect for the action-y style Dashner was going for.

A lot of things were wrong/frustrating/flat-out dumb about this book and series, but I still view the first installment in an I-liked-it kind of way. Something was done right here to achieve this, and I think it's the engaging plot. (It certainly isn't anything else.)

I also appreciated the way everything felt resolved at the end, but then wasn't. Just when we thought the characters were going to find happiness at the end of the tunnel, everything was fucked up and we were left dangling at the mercy of the second installment. This was effective, and it kept me engaged in the second book.

A big shout-out to Dashner for the repetitive statements that Thomas is ugly. THANK YOU FOR FINALLY ACKNOWLEDGING THAT YES, UGLY PEOPLE DO EXIST AND, YES, THEY CAN BE PROTAGONISTS IN BOOKS. We appreciate your inclusion of our culture. So many protagonists in YA nowadays are fucking perfect looking, and it's getting on my nerves. I literally said "Thank you, James" when I read the first statement. (But fuck Hollywood for casting Dylan O'Brien. HE'S SUPPOSED TO BE UGLY, NOT A TEEN WOLF.)

Now, moving on to what I wasn't crazy about.

What I Didn't Like 

Too many questions, not enough answers. This can be effectively mysterious, but here, it was just overbearing and ridiculous. We had no answers for 90% of the book, and when we were finally informed of some things, it was in the form of the Antagonist Lecture trope that we in the reading community are all so tired of. In the second book as well, we are provided with startlingly few answers, just enough to get us to the next page with the slightest hint of plausibility.

Also, the romance made zero fucking sense. Insta-love to the max, and it didn't even make sense.

Maybe it would've made sense if it were clear we were reading about people, with distinct personalities, distinct differences and habits and favorite ice cream flavors. But alas, there were none to be found. The only distinct thing about the characters was their startling lack of character. When I began the book, I had an extremely difficult time differentiating between the characters, considering all of them were males/spoke with the same stupid slang (which I, surprisingly, got used to)/felt like the same person. They all blended together so much. (I was surprised they all fit in the blender. [Too dark?])

And although Thomas was established as ugly, he was still a total Gary Stu. Come on, guys--when are we going to get over the whole "the hero can do anything and get away with it/be perfect/never fuck up" thing? It's exhausting and should be done away with immediately.

In addition, the fact that the only female characters were love interests/villains kind of sucked. Women actually can be valuable to society and do cool things.


At this point, it may sound like I hated this book. I really din't, somehow. A lot of things confused/frustrated me, but I was really engaged the whole time, enough to willingly read the next ones. It was pretty mindlessly engaging (mindless being the key word here).

Verdict: If you're looking for the optimal Maze Runner reading experience, my advice would be to skip the last two chapters of this book and pretend everything ends nicely for the characters. You can live without the extremely-similar second book, and it only gets worse from there. Also, don't think too hard.

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