James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” was published in October of my high school sophomore year (2009) , and being a profound lover of all things YA, I set out to read it. But I couldn’t do it. That book would be marked on my school library account at least two more times before my high school career ended, once more at the public library near my college, and a final time at the local library near my home. Every time (every.single.time.) with the exception of the last time, I would try to read this book, maybe getting further than the last time, but never past page one hundred eleven. After freshmen year, I placed the book back on the shelf and never looked back.
Fast-forward to the past year, 2013, and my growing interest in the MTV cult-hit and not-at-all-based-on-the-Michael-J.-Fox-movie, Teen Wolf. My favorite character? The best friend of the title character, Stiles Stilinski as portrayed by Dylan O’Brien. During the summer of Dylan discovery, I watched a few of his other works, “The First Time”, a guest appearance on “New Girl”, and “The Internship.” When season 3 of Teen Wolf prepared for its mid-season break, not due back to television screens until January 2014, I searched for other roles the cast would be playing during that break time. A quick reference to Dylan O’Brien’s wikipedia page revealed that, oh no, not only was “The Maze Runner” being adapted to the silver screen, but also Dylan O’Brien would be playing the protagonist of the novel: Thomas.
Never been one to watch YA movie adaptations without first reading the book, I finally hunkered down and read “The Maze Runner.” And, at first, it was just as awful as I remembered. The combination of the characters’ odd vernacular (“klunk”, “shuck-face”, “deadheads”, “Grievers”, etc.) and Thomas’s constant questioning reminded me why I found the novel so agonizing to read in the first place.
Still, as the novel wears on and begins to pick up pace, the plot gets much better. The basic context of the novel stems a group of about forty to fifty boys who have been sent in a box to a place called “The Glade.” The boys don’t remember any part of their life before arriving in the box except for one thing–their first names. The Glade is an open place with a kitchen, garden, farm complete with livestock, outhouse, jailhouse, and cemetery, with each boy assigned a job to keep the place running in order. One more thing: The Glade is surrounded by an unsolvable maze. In addition to sending a boy once a month and supplies and medicine once a week, the “Creators” (The unknown people who sent the boys there) have kept the boys in The Glade for two years. Every day, a few select boys, called “Runners”, go out in the maze, then come back at the end of the day to map their section, figure out a pattern, find a way out but to no avail. At night, the walls of the maze close, keeping the boys in, and vicious mechanical creatures called “Grievers”, that can prick them with fatal venom, out.
That’s the order that the Gladers have followed, until Thomas arrives, and a day after him (Spoiler alert!), for the first time in two years, a girl. In the course of a week, Thomas manages to stay out all night in the maze without dying, become a runner (practically unheard of), recognize the girl, and figure out a way out of the Maze. He’s a regular “Maze Runner” (is the ah-ha moment clicking yet?).
“The Maze Runner” is just one of the many YA book to movie adaptations we will experience this upcoming year, including (but not limited to) Part One of Suzanne Collins’s “Mockingjay”, Richelle Mead’s “Vampire Academy”, Erica Roth’s break-out novel “Divergent”, and the John Green’s highly-anticipated “The Fault in Our Stars” starring Shailene Woodley (actually, “Divergent” is starring Woodley as well but that’s besides the point). While all these adaptations more than likely make Hollywood producers’ job easier, I’m hoping that in coming years, we will experience more original screenplays. As an avid reader, I am always very excited for book-adapted movies, but only before I actually see the movie. With the exception of a glowing few (*cough cough* Harry Potter), most movies do not stick true to the novels, and even when they do, because certain plot-points or characters are not how we pictured them, many of these movies are let-downs to those who have spent many-a late night, under covers and with a cramping flashlight hand reading the novel.
On the same accord, I have found that there is no way to predict which movie will flop on the novel front or do it justice (a lesson learned with “Twilight” and “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” the hard way). All the same, I look forward to viewing “The Maze Runner” in September. In addition to experiencing many young actors’ break-out roles, I am excited to see how the visual effects of the Grievers will be shot. To think. if it weren’t for my admiration of Teen Wolf, I would not have tried to read “The Maze Runner.” If nothing else, at least these book to movie projects will inspire more people to read books in addition to seeing movies.