So basically, PJ Hoover, Parker Peevyhouse, K. A. Holt, and Linda Joy Singleton read the book. And we figured we’d answer a few discussion questions.
THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD
1. To keep readers turning pages, an author must strike the right balance between withholding information and parsing it out. Do you think the author struck a good balance here?
LINDA: Yes–the suspense of information is woven in cleverly, telling just enough to make readers wonder what will be found in the maze and then later upping the danger with questions about what is beyond the maze.
PARKER: I thought it strange that the author couldn’t ground us in the storyworld right away by telling us more information at the start. So many of Thomas’ questions were answered with “We’ll tell you later,” and I kept wondering why not tell him now? I would have liked to know more about the maze right away so that I could dive into the heart of the story sooner.
K. A.: I enjoyed the suspense, but I felt like the reader needed more substantial reasoning for no one answering Thomas’ questions. Barring that, I think the other boys could have offered answers that were just as cryptic as no answers at all, and the suspense could have even been ratcheted up a bit. Having said that, though, I can see Dashner arguing that with a new kid every month for two years, the boys were probably sick and tired of answering questions. It still seems like, though, with the incredible organizational and society-building skills they had, the boys would have had some kind of “historian” or “record-keeper” to make notes on everyone’s flashes of memory and the problem at large.
P. J.: I found myself frustrated at time with the way information was withheld. It seemed that each month when a new kid arrived, he’d have in info dump. It definitely kept me turning the pages, but I was mainly focused on getting the information which I think could take away from becoming immersed in the story. That said, I love K. A.’s idea of a historian being a job, and that person would have answered questions.
2. Fantasy novels tend to put a spotlight on worldbuilding. Which aspects of the society within the maze did you enjoy? Which aspects would you like to see further developed?
LINDA: I really liked the maze and danger and especially how the hero figured out how to find a way out. I would have like to seen more with the girl, although I suspect she’ll be in the next book. What I didn’t like was the ending which suddenly switched to a different kind of book, seeming even more violent than the maze and tragically hopeless. And some of the logic about characters’ motives didn’t ring true at the very end. Still this was a powerful story and I was hooked all the way except the very end. I’ll read the next book.
PARKER: The society at the center of the maze was quite detailed, even down to the invented slang the boys use. But I wish we could have spent more time in the corridors of the maze–that’s where the interesting parts of the story really took place.
K. A.: I enjoyed the self-sufficiency of the group. You don’t often think of teenage boys cooking full dinners and slaughtering animals. Of course they’re capable, but they’re not often portrayed that way. I would have liked to see this go a little deeper, though, with older boys serving as caretakers for the younger boys. Not as a job, but as a softer role. Surely, those boys missed some mothering, and surely, an empathetic member of the group could have tried to offer it, even if he didn’t know that’s exactly what he was doing.
P. J.: I loved the society that the boys had set up. It felt like survival instinct had been combined with intelligence, and the world where they lived was the result. That said, I would have loved to have more of the story set in the maze. The maze, with its monsters, was a very unapproachable place, and thus didn’t lend itself to having much story set there.
3. What do you think the target audience for THE MAZE RUNNER is and why?
LINDA: The target audience is probably YA readers, especially boys, but it’s intriguing and would be a great book for adults, too.
PARKER: The premise of the novel struck me as being upper middle grade, so I was surprised it was labeled YA. Even as I was reading, I kept thinking that young boys would probably be more interested in this story than teens. Perhaps the publisher thought some scenes were too dark for a young audience.
K. A.: This is a book that seems middle grade, but is peppered with YA violence. I’m not sure it will have a wide YA audience, though. It may be one of those books that spans the bridge from middle grade to YA – sophisticated younger readers looking for something kind of scary and challenging.
P. J.: The target audience to me seems to be middle grade and up boys. Publishers talk about trying to hit the boy market, and I think this book succeeds. I am curious how many teen girls will enjoy the book. The lack of a central main female character (Theresa was not conscious for most of the novel), tends to definitely lean this book more toward the male audience.
4. Let’s talk about the sequel. Do you see the characters returning to another confined maze-type environment or do you see them interacting with the real world? Also, which would you rather see, and why?
LINDA: I’m guessing it’ll follow the “HUNGER GAMES” formula of returning to another captive situation. I hope so because the world building of the maze was brilliant. I’d hate for it to just be a “world at war” battle plot. I hope the characters evolve and grow and find a way to save the world.
PARKER: Like Linda, I was surprised by the wrenching twist at the end of the novel. Suddenly, we’re stepping into a whole new story. I can’t imagine how the sequel will play out. This first book was solely about escaping the maze–can that be done again with the sequel? It’s hard to imagine how that would work.
K. A.: I see the kids being in a similar confined societal construct, but I don’t know if it will be a literal confinement this time. At the end, the book really seemed to burst out of the maze, even while we saw the boys were still in a sort of sick game whether they knew it or not. I’d like to see them be in the real world, but agonizing over the realization that they are still being controlled by these puppetmasters.
P. J.: Tough question. I really hope the sequel does not return them to a maze but plants them in the real world. We saw so little of this real world, it seems that it may be important to understand more about it so we can care more about it. I have so many questions about the world. And I’m looking forward to getting them answered!
5. In a book dominated by male characters, the arrival of the female character seemed a hugely important plot point. What did you think about the girl’s role in the story?
PARKER: She certainly shook things up in the Glade, but it would have been nice to see her have a more direct role. She does provide some important information, but doesn’t get to really act in any important way. That’s the problem with being in a coma, I guess :)
K. A.: Theresa’s femininity didn’t seem all that applicable to the story. Sure she was a hot girl with a connection to Thomas, but ultimately, the reaction the boys had to her didn’t seem all that different than a reaction they would have had to another boy spouting crytic messages about an end game. I think her role will be much more defined in the sequel.
P. J.: I would have loved to have her never be unconscious. Her more active role could have really increased conflict and character interplay. That said, I expect to see her as a main character in the rest of the trilogy.
Thanks so much for joining our discussion! What (new) book would you like to see discussed in the future?