By James Dashner
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Reading Level: 7th grade
Interest Level: 9th grade +
Awards: Georgia Peach Book Award (2011), Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (RT Award) Nominee for Best Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy Novel (2009), Charlotte Award (2012),Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011),Evergreen Teen Book Award (2012), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2011), Kentucky Bluegrass Award for grades 9-12 (2011), Abraham Lincoln Award (2012), Missouri Truman Readers Award (2012)
Teaser: What if you woke and had no memory of anything? And the only way to the truth was through the world’s deadliest maze?
Summary: Thomas wakes up and finds himself in a place called “The Glade.” He cannot remember who he is or how he got into the elevator that brought him here. A group of guys stand around him; some older, some younger. Their leaders, Alby and Newt, step forward and explain the situation to Thomas. They are surrounded by a maze of concrete that shifts and moves and seems to never stay the same. The maze is full of deadly creatures who have a toxin that can kill you, but can also give you memories. The elevator brings up supplies and more guys. One day, a girl comes up from the elevator with a message that she is the last person that will be sent to them. The girl, Teresa, ends up remembering Thomas from before she woke up in the Glade. From there, everything starts going wrong and Thomas and the rest of the Gladers have to find a way out of the maze. Will they discover the truth of why they were put there?
Information about the Author: On the Georgia Center for Books website, James Dashner is described as, “an award-winning author of books for young adult readers who is a native of Georgia now living in the Rocky Mountains of Utah. In 2010, his novel “The Maze Runner” was chosen for inclusion on the Georgia Center for the Book’s list of “25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read.” James Dashner was born in 1972 in Austell and moved to Duluth when he was two years old. He was graduated from Duluth High School in 1991 and attended college in Brigham Young University in Utah where he met his wife and where he now lives. He initially worked in the field of finance before becoming a full-time writer. He has published books in three series beginning with a quartet of mid-grade reader novels: “The Jimmy Fincher Saga.” The novels are “A Door in the Woods” (2003), “A Gift of Ice” (2004), “The Tower of Air” (2004) and “War of the Black Curtain” (2005). His “13th Reality” trilogy features “The Journal of Curious Letters” (2009), “The Hunt for Dark Infinity” (2010) and “The Blade of Shattered Hope” (2010). His latest series, “The Maze Runner” trilogy, has been featured nationally by his publisher, Random House, which produced an award-winning video to promote the book. “The Maze Runner,” the first in the series, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim. It was a Barnes and Noble Discovery Pick, a Junior Literary Guild selection, and made many year-end best-of lists including those compiled by Kirkus, B&N and Indiebound.”
Critical Evaluation: The Maze Runner was an action-heavy story that kept me interested until the end. Because the plot was so action-heavy, it felt very fast-paced. There was always something new happening that made it hard for me to stop reading on to the next chapter. At the same time though, I think it would have been more interesting if all of the guys were involved in figuring out what was going on instead of just Thomas. There were moments that the other guys assisted, namely Alby, Newt, Minho, and Chuck. But the entire plot line is reliant on Thomas and I guess it bugs me a little that he is the sole reason that they get out. If he had not been there, there is no way that they would have found their way out of the maze.
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Booktalk Ideas: Write a 1-page story of you waking up in the Glade.
Challenge Issues: Violence, Death
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association
Why Did I Pick This: The Maze Runner is an action-packed story that is really fast-paced. Teen readers will empathize with the characters as they try to stay together and uncover the truth about their captivity. I think this is a great book for reluctant readers.
Dashner, J. (2009). The Maze Runner. New York City, NY: Delacorte Press.