THE MAZE RUNNER Book Discussion

So if you’ve read THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner, we’d love for you to join in our discussion. If you haven’t but think you might, then please stop reading! There are spoilers ahead.

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.

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THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Thanks so much for joining our discussion! What (new) book would you like to see discussed in the future?

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10 Comments

Filed under K. A. Holt, Linda Joy Singleton, P. J. Hoover, Parker Peevyhouse

10 responses to “THE MAZE RUNNER Book Discussion

  1. I was really interested in the premise of the book and I wanted it to win me over, but there were several elements that kept me feeling distanced from it.

    For one, as you mentioned, was the lack of information revealed at the beginning; I think we were supposed to feel as frustrated as Thomas, but it didn’t feel like there was a concrete reason the other boys weren’t telling him what they knew.

    Also, I would have loved to see Thomas do something really extraordinary in the maze. The other boys said they’d never seen anyone do what he could do, but were his actions really that amazing?

    Finally, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the logic of the maze test. Why would being stung by the Grievers make you remember the past? Why would the makers of the maze make that happen? And if they just wanted the test to end, why send Thomas back without his memory? It was frustrating not to have so many questions answered and then have the book wildly shift focus at the end.

    Because I found the premise and setting so interesting, I really wanted the logic and the world-building to be equally strong. But they felt a bit inconsistent to me – I hope this will prove to be untrue in the future books.

    • Parker Peevyhouse

      It’s a tricky thing to keep your readers in suspense rather than in frustration. It must be pretty hard to accomplish.

      Maybe we should have had a question about the Grievers. They were a key element in the book and yet their effects were a bit mysterious.

  2. I was really looking forward to reading this and I definitely enjoyed it. The premise engaged me from the start, which is all that matters I suppose.

    Having said that, I agree that the constant, “we’ll tell you later,” thing drove me nuts. At times it almost felt artificial, like it was done mostly to keep us reading instead of what was the slightest bit realistic.

    Along the way, I really developed a liking and appreciation for each character, but because Thomas had only been there a short time, I had a hard time with the gravity of certain relationships. I just could not buy into the depth of feeling Thomas felt at Chuck’s demise. The whole Thomas/Chuck relationship seemed way too forced, probably because they’d known each other for such a brief time.

    The end? Yeesh. I can’t say I was surprised at how it unfolded, although I can’t begin to guess what the follow up will be. Did everyone know this was going to be the first of a series of books? I must be dense because it kind of surprised me, and I agree with the sentiment that the next book might be entirely different – not a maze, but something worse.

    • Parker Peevyhouse

      I had heard it would be a series, but I’m still completely lost on how the next book will relate to the first.

      And I agree that it was a little hard to buy into Thomas’ relationship with Chuck. I think for me it was mostly a matter of really wanting to see the plot unfold and not being patient enough to read about the characters.

  3. Leigh

    I read this book, and completely fell in love with it. I was given this book by our librarian, with whom I have a good relationship (friendship) with.

    As soon as I opened the book, I never put it down, I was sucked into the story that Dashner had created. I sat down and read it all day, seven hours, without even getting up except for the restroom at which point I was still so into it, I brought it with me and read it on the way.

    It keeps you interested the whole time, the suspense just about killed me in some parts, but to be honest, I did not love the ending. I don’t know how it could have changed, but I just didn’t love it all that much. I also did not like the “I’ll answer later.” all the time, or the “WICKED” thing. I couldn’t understand why the creators would do that…

    Overall, however, I rate it 6/5 stars! Absolutely phenomenal book, highly recommend it.

  4. Anonymous

    great googley moogley

  5. Emaly

    My school book club actually chose this to read and I must say that it was a wonderful read. While it was frustrating not having some of the information, I kind of felt as if I was being introduced into living in the Glade myself! I agree with many of the comments above about the suspense killing me, but I think that overall, it made for a great ending. I highly recommend this. :D

  6. Tom

    This book was incredible, I know that theirs a prequel coming out, but after that I would go down on my hands and knees begging James dasher to write a 5th of what happens right after they go through the flat trans going to paradise, and Teresa’s alive, I think she would of survived a couple bricks

  7. Tom

    Does any one know if theirs way to contact James dasher? I really need to talk to him

  8. Anonymous

    Great book, and the reason why he didnt give you the informations right away, is that you can then discover it and unvail the secrets that kept you reading, what is the next book? the scorch trials or the kill order??? i want the order not the one eople want, is prequel before the book or after, and is sequel after or before? I absolutely loved this book, and i miss chuck! lol but he played such an interesting part in this book, friendship, and other ways that keep you wanting more. i love this book and will never ever forget it, and also check out the 11th plague, great book too, and cant wait to get the scorch trials!! and the rest of them!!

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