Book Learning: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls. Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift. Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.


Overall Impressions: I really, really enjoyed The Maze Runner. I thought James Dashner did a great job of understanding his audience and delivering a quick story that, even at 400 pages, never stopped being exciting. I've owned this book for over a year and I don't know why I put off reading it for so long. 
Why I Read This Book: This is part of my challenge to read more books I currently own and stop buying books (except that, while reading The Maze Runner, I bought three new books. Oopsies...).  
Recommended for Writers Researching: Young adult dystopian fiction, sci-fi monsters, action-driven stories, short chapters, protagonist with memory loss, teenage societies, trilogies. 

Lessons Learned:

Write short chapters
I absolutely loved the short chapters in The Maze Runner. They really kept me reading, and every chapter contained the right balance of exposition, dialogue, and action. I think this would be a fabulous storytelling technique for a beginning novelist to try because it forces the story forward at a nice clip. 

Action in every chapter
Every single one of the short chapters has some kind of action, not all of it life-threatening but still exciting and purposeful. The action in The Maze Runner is generally quick and resolved in a page or two. There are few scenes of the drawn-out, epic variety. Do you notice how some books have only a few action scenes, but they're gigantic (think Lord of the Rings)? While other books, like The Maze Runner, are filled with action that's less grand in scope, but still exciting as heck. I'm not sure which I enjoy most, because each serves a different story-telling purpose. 

Withhold information
This one has some positives and negatives built in. In the beginning, the reader has exactly the same amount of information Thomas has: none. We have to learn the secrets of the Glade alongside Thomas. And the other Gladers aren't exactly forthcoming with the details that Thomas and the reader crave. I still don't totally understand why they were so reticent to talk about it, and I was occasionally annoyed in the first fifty pages that the details trickled in so slowly. But, from a storytelling perspective, I completely understand why Dashner did this. He hands out a few new pieces of information every chapter, rather than doing a whole info-dump in Chapter 1, because the slow culmination of information ends up being a really cool experience for the reader. This is the kind of stuff that makes your heart race a little as you uncover more alongside Thomas. 

What do you think? If you've read The Maze Runner, what lessons did you take away from the experience?