The Maze Runner: A Deep Look into the Weak First Person POV

Book review on The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Published by Delacorte Press.

The Maze Runner immediately jumps into action as the narrator, 16-year-old Thomas, awakens in a strange new place with all new people and no memories. He cannot remember his parents, friends, where he lived, nothing! He can’t even remember his last name. This is an interesting perspective to write a book from because the reader is learning everything at the exact same time as Thomas. There is no need for flashbacks because no memories exist to flashback to, creating a perfectly linear plot. We follow Thomas around for about a week’s time of constant action. As soon as the reader (and Thomas) begin to understand their surroundings, something happens that changes the pace and direction of the story.Image

Pacing

As in all novels, there is a period of time where the “typical” day-to-day activities of the world are established. In The Maze Runner, that period of time is very short. In a novel where the characters are living in a similar world to our own, you don’t need much time but because The Maze Runner is set in a unfamiliar setting, a lot of information has to be packed into that time period.

Positives of Point of View

Learning along with the main character is an excellent way to familiarize the reader with the unique surroundings. Stories often have an “ignorant character.” This allows the writer to explain pertinent information through a conversation between characters which is typically much more entertaining than reading a long description from a third person narrator.  Thomas is completely unfamiliar with this world he has been thrust into. He asks a lot of questions, allowing the reader to learn everything at the same time he does. This creates a connection between Thomas and the reader.  (Example: Think Harry Potter. The readers learn about the wizarding world at the same time as Harry.)

Although that is an excellent writing technique used by Dashner, the short time span he gave himself to work with causes a bit of information overload. At times, it seems the only thing

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Thomas can do is asking questions. It establishes Thomas as a curious, action-oriented character but it stresses the same point over and over and over. I think Dashner should have incorporated more internal dialogue from Thomas as well as having him learn things along the way.

Negatives of Point of View

Another problem I have with the novel is that Thomas adjusts to this scary, unfamiliar world he is thrown into much too quickly. Dashner specifically points out this oddity—which is a technique often used by writers to dull down the strangeness of something—but in this case it wasn’t enough for me. At the end of the novel, we also find out that there is a reason Thomas feels so comfortable in the new place but that still doesn’t explain why the other characters adapt to him so easily and quickly. In an environment of nearly 40 teenage boys, a structure of leadership has been set up. We understand that the leaders have been there for a long time and have earned their leadership positions. When Thomas enters the story, he is often side-by-side with the leaders and given exceptions allowing him access to information that boys who have been there for years don’t even know.

Dashner trapped himself with the first person POV. For the reader to know what was going on, Thomas had to know what was going on. The things Thomas was told and the privileges he was given as a new-comer didn’t seem realistic to me.

Another moment when the first person POV fails is when Thomas seems to miraculously make the discovery of what the Maze that surrounds his new world means. The idea seems to sprout out of nowhere, not triggered by anything specific, and is never clearly explained to the reader. After multiple people have been trying to discover what the Maze means for years, Thomas is hit with this unexplained inspiration that solves the puzzle just as time is running out. (Sound almost too convenient?) With a first person POV, the reader should be one with the narrator, understanding all their motives and being able to clearly see where inspirations come from. A third person POV allows the writer to be somewhat mysterious with the characters internal thoughts but when you choose to write in the first person, the reader should be able to understand everything the narrator understands and Dashner failed in that aspect.

Recommendation

Although I believe this is a suspenseful, entertaining Young Adult novel, I do not think it crosses over to adult readers. I would certainly recommend it to young teenage boys but not to any adult.

***Tomorrow’s blog will contain an extension of this book review, looking at the prose itself. I will edit a chapter of the book, cutting what I believe was wasted, unnecessary words.***

Interesting Tidbit from The Maze Runner:

**This may be a small SPOILER for people who plan to read the book!**  We learn at the end of the book that all the characters are named after famous men in history that showed signs of genius (see below). Although I don’t think the naming of characters requires a lot of attention during writing, this was a unique way to go about it and fit the novel very well. It also allowed Dashner to create some unique names which I think is important when creating a series.

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Thomas Edison held 1,093 U.S. patents in his name.

Thomas=Thomas Edison

Alby= Albert Einstein

Chuck= Charles Darwin

Gally= Galileo Galilei

Newt=Issac Newton

How I found this book: While stranded in Michigan because of several delayed flights back home, this book caught my eye in the airport bookstore. The book I brought with me (a collection of short stories) wasn’t cutting it for the long hours spent in the airport. I enjoy the fast-paced reading of Young Adult Fiction so I bought this book to pass the time on the extended vacation.

About Sarah JS

Aspiring writer, lover of words, book nerd, recent college grad and permanent student of the world

Posted on February 4, 2014, in Book Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. dog-eared & foxing

    I really liked this post! Definitely a unique look at information exchange, which was a huge problem for me throughout the trilogy.

    Did you find it at all frustrating that the Gladers avoided Thomas’s questions at all costs at first? He’s our source of information, but the Gladers rebuffed him at every turn saying he didn’t need to know yet. I don’t know if you read the final two books, but they are worse. More questions, even less answers. This trilogy was the most frustrating reading experience of my life. I know I’m not the target demo, but I imagine you want answers no matter how old you are.

    • I agree it was very frustrating. I have not read the other two books and I don’t plan to. I think a third person limited POV that stayed close to Thomas the entire time would have allowed for better information exchange. That would have allowed Dashner to give the reader information that Thomas didn’t necessarily know.

  2. you know, you try to write a book and see how it comes out! It is harder than it seems, and James Dashner is more successful than you will ever hope to be, so back off!

    • I am currently writing a book and I completely understand how difficult it is! The Maze Runner is without a doubt an excellent story but it was not written or edited well. Not every book that gets published (or even every book that becomes popular) deserves praise. I stand by my point that The Maze Runner is a poorly written and poorly edited book but I am not trying to demean it. As I am attempting to do with every book I read and every blog I write, I am trying to learn from the writing. I look at the negatives and try to avoid them and I look at the positives and try to absorb them.

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