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Reviewed by:
  • The Maze Runner
  • Karen Coats
Dashner, James . The Maze Runner. Delacorte, 2009 [384 p]. Library ed. ISBN 978-0-385-90702-6 $19.99 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-385-73794-4 $16.99 E-Book ed. ISBN 978-0-375-89377-3 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10

Thomas has no memories of his past or any of the people or events in it, including how he ended up in a box being delivered into the hands of a group of boys who live in a strange sort of compound. There is a farm, a homestead, and a forest, enclosed on all sides by enormous walls that seal shut at dusk. Outside the walls, there is a maze populated by what the boys call Grievers—horrific creatures, half organic, half mechanical, with lethal stings and the power to dismember and consume human flesh. The Grievers are most active at night, and hence the boys figure the walls are shut to protect them, but they have no idea who has sentenced them to this life; they only believe that if they can solve the maze, they can escape and return home. When a girl is unexpectedly delivered the day after Thomas arrives, the boys sense that something is changing and grow suspicious of Thomas. Thomas has his own suspicions, but they are so vague because of his memory loss that they will do him no good unless he figures out a way to unlock his memories, defeat the Grievers, and solve the maze once and for all. The unraveling mystery reveals a sinister experimental vibe that recalls Sleator's classic House of Stairs, with nefarious scientists in a post-cataclysmic world pulling the strings of gifted children to see which ones hold and which snap, and ultimately setting the stage for a sequel or two where the well-honed survivors save the world. The community of boys contains a few well-developed, appealing characters, and some not so appealing, which will create emotional investment and identification from a range of readers; Thomas himself is smart, sensitive, astonishingly brave, and troubled enough to be interesting. Readers will wonder what's to come after this exciting and readable set-up. [End Page 107]