The Maze Runner – James Dashner

I have a feeling that this review is going to come across more negatively than I intend.  I read this whole book on an 8 hour car ride and was really into most of it.  I enjoyed it and while I did have problems with The Maze Runner, let me just start off by saying that this book is one I can recommend.

The Maze Runner is about Thomas, a young boy, who wakes up one morning surrounded by other young boys (between 12-19) in a very strange place.  He can’t remember anything about his life, except for information about life in general (ex: what pancakes taste like, but not who made him pancakes).  He slowly begins to learn about this mysterious place he has been dropped into, most of it absolutely terrifying.  The most important thing he learns is that there is a maze, and every night the maze changes, and it is the goal of specific boys called runners to figure the maze out.

Unfortunately, since Thomas knows nothing and the boys decide to be mysteriously ambiguous about the maze, it makes for a slow start.  I had a really hard time getting into the book and even asked She who had read it if it was worth continuing.  Fortunately things picked up and the rest of the book kept my interest, but there were just some aspects that could have been fleshed out much better.

Some spoilers to follow.

The arrival of Teresa was when the book finally got exciting, but at the same time, the whole storyline of one girl in a community full of boys completely fell flat.  There could have been a lot of psychology explored here that was totally left behind in favor of action.  But it was not just the way the plot line about the girl was handled, but all the other missed opportunities to explore the psychology instead of action.  At first I was willing to chalk this up to the fact that it is a YA book that is mostly a thriller, not much else.  Then I remembered when Step Su compared The Maze Runner to Ship Breaker on Twitter.  In a lot of ways, they are similar, but while Ship Breaker had an unrelenting plot that was almost continuous action, it still took time to explore what exactly the main character was feeling.  Most of the time, in The Maze Runner, I just didn’t get that same connection with Thomas, Teresa or the other characters.

My other biggest concern is with the writing.  Take the following passages:

Why do I remember these animals? Thomas wondered. NOthing about them seemed new or interesting – he knew what they were called, what they normally ate, but not where he’d seen animals before, or with whom?  His memory loss was baffling in its complexity. (44)

He returned his gaze to the Deadheads, a glowing disk still floating in his vision.  Blinking to clear it away, he suddenly caught the red lights again, flickering and skittering about deep in the darkness of the woods.  What are those things? he wondered, irritated that Alby hadn’t answered him earlier.  The secrecy was very annoying.  (45)

Well yes, you just spent the last two sentences explaining how baffling it is, no need to explain.  And I too am annoyed by the secrecy, so please, don’t tell me about it.  Either Dashner got better about this or I was too absorbed in the plot to notice it later in the book.

But eventually, the plot won out for me.  I can still give this one a favorable review because I have read a lot of YA dystopian/futuristic society novels and this one still stood out for me.  No, it’s not the best and it has some serious flaws, but I still enjoyed reading it and I will be picking up The Scorch Trials when it finally arrives.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Other reviews: Books And Movies, Devourer of Books, My Friend Amy,  Rhapsody in Books, Reverie Book Reviews, Presenting Lenore, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Steph Su Reads, Fantasy Book Critics, Books By Their Cover, A Book Blog. Period., S. Krishna’s Books,  GalleySmith, Medieval Bookworm, Hey Lady!.

YA Reviews – Hate List, The Compound, Genesis

I have three very different reviews for today: Hate List by Jennifer Brown, The Compound by SA Bodeen and Genesis by Bernard Beckett

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

This book is told from Valerie’s perspective, the girlfriend of Nick who opened fire on the crowded high school cafeteria.  Valerie, shocked by what her boyfriend was doing, ran to stop him when he shot her in the leg and then shot himself.  Valerie is either vilified or declared a hero by her classmates and community, but she is neither.  She was terrified, and she didn’t set out to be a hero, but she never thought about killing the people on her Hate List.  She might have said she wished they were dead, but she didn’t mean it, no more than anyone means it when they say that kind of thing.  But Nick meant it.  I felt so bad for Valerie and I applaud Brown for not making Nick into a purely evil villain.  He did a horrible, evil thing, but he was kind to Valerie and he was a good boyfriend.  The bulk of this book is told in flashbacks, with Valerie remembering the morning of the shooting and trying to survive at school the next fall.

I admit, I almost put this book down when I saw the Nickelback song quote at the beginning, and I thought that it dipped into the cheesy at some points, but for the most part I thought this was a really great YA novel that deals with an unbelievably difficult topic.   We don’t often hear the people like Valerie’s story, the people that loved the murderers, before they were evil, before they crossed that line.  Try to not cry when you read this book, just try.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Also reviewed by: Steph  Su Reads, Early Word, A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, Presenting Lenore, GalleySmith, Life in the Thumb, My Friend Amy, Linus’s Blanket

Anax is preparing her final exam to enter the Academy, all about Jasper Forde.  The  entire book is this exam and we discover more and more with each question that the examiners ask her about her world, one that is very different from our own.  Plus, this book has an ending that will absolutely knock your socks off.  Overall, I thought it was successful, but I thought that there were some parts that just didn’t make enough sense in an effort to keep the secret.  When I first finished this book I was prepared to give it a slightly better review, but I’ve thought about it some more and I’m just not completely convinced.  I had really high hopes for this one, and though I still enjoyed reading it and was really surprised by the ending, it didn’t quite live up to them.  This might be one that I revisit in the future, though, to see if I like it better on a second reading.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Also reviewed by:  Steph Su Reads, A Chair, A Fireplace, A Tea Cozy, I was a Teenage Book Geek, Presenting Lenore.

Okay, I really thought this book was too ridiculous and totally unbelievable, but I had a ridiculously good time reading it, so they balance each other out.  Eli has been living in the compound with his family for the past 8 years after a nuclear fallout, but eventually things start to get a weirder and weirder as he realizes that his father is lying to him about something.  Dun dun duuuuuunnn!  Other than the complete implausibility, there was a lot to like here.  Eli is a very believable character, who’s just a little bit mean and really emotionally torn up about the loss of his twin brother in the war.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Also reviewed by: I Was a Teenage Book Geek, Becky’s Book Review

Did you read and review any of these books?  Let me know in the comments and I’ll link to your review!

Review – The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

adoration-of-jenna-fox“But with all the scenes, the birthdays, the lessons, the practices, the ordinary events that should have been left alone, what I remember most are Jenna’s eyes, flickering, hesitation, an urgent trying.  That’s what I remember most from the discs, a desperation to stay on the pedestal.  I see that in her eyes as much as I see their color.  And now, in the passing of just a few weeks, I see things in faces I didn’t see before.  I see Jenna, smiling, laughing, chattering.  And falling.  When you are perfect, is there anywhere else to go?  I ache for her like she is someone else.  She is.  I am not the perfect Jenna Fox anymore.”  (109)

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Review – The Silenced by James DeVita

the silenced The Silenced is a plausible dystopian YA novel set in the not-so-distant future, where dissenters are “disappeared”, there is no due process, children are sent to training camps instead of school, and people live in a closed compounds.  It’s fast-paced and exciting, but it is not the best dystopian novel I have read.  What it does have going for it are two things: 1) the White Rose, the covert group in the novel, was based off of an actual group of young people who called themselves the White Rose in Nazi Germany and 2) it’s much more plausible than some other dystopian novels.

You will see the modern world in this novel.  DeVita did an excellent job drawing from real life, both in the United States and abroad.  I wish I had known more about the White Rose before reading the novel because I think that would have enhanced reading the novel.  The book is over 500 pages, but the ending manages to feel forced and rushed.  The first half of the novel was great, but there were just some things that frustrated me.  There were times when the sentence structure completely confused me and there were a lot of acronyms that I had difficulty keeping straight.  There were also some things that were never explained and confusing.  I recommend other novels over this one, but it is a well-crafted world and I think this would be a good one to teach in schools for its historical connection.

So go read this!: So go read this!: now | tomorrow |next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Also read and reviewed by: Did you read and review The Silenced?  Leave a comment and I will link to your review here!

Review – The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go“And I turn my head a little and I listen some more.
There’s a hole in the Noise.
Which can’t be.

It’s weird , it is, out there, hiding somewhere, in the trees or somewhere outta sight, a spot where yer cars and yer mind are telling you there’s no Noise.  It’s like a shape you can’t see except by how everything else around it is touching it.  Like water in the shape of a cup, but with no cup.  It’s a hole and everything that falls into it stops being Noise, stops being anything, just stops altogether.  It’s not like the quiet of the swamp, which is never quiet, obviously, just less Noisy.  But this, this is a shape, a shape of nothing, a hole where all Noise stops.

Which isn’t possible.

There ain’t nothing but Noise in this world, nothing but the constant thoughts of men and things coming at you and at you and at you….” (page 13)

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