Top Five Fiction Books I Read This Year

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It’s the end of 2009, and journalists, critics, and news reporters are making lists. Here’s my own list of favorite books I read for the first time this year. Apparently this was my year to read dystopian fiction.

Top Five Fiction Books I Read This Year

5. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Very good young adult science fiction that discusses the ethical boundaries of science. I especially loved the experimental forms of prose and poetry Pearson used to illustrate Jenna’s state of mind. I reviewed it here.

4. The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
Yes, I’m cheating, but these four books, Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras, are absolutely captivating. The first three explore what could happen if society’s obsession with beauty was taken to the extreme. The fourth novel in the series, Extras, describes a society built on social networking, blogging, and the paparazzi. I stole the series from a young friend of mine and had a hard time giving them back. I didn’t write a review because the series has been around for awhile, but I do recommend it with no reservations.

3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
It was difficult to rank this one third.  The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games rank equally in my head, but I chose to put it in third because I prefer third-person narration style over first-person. Yes, it actually came down to narrative style. I reviewed this book this morning, so it made the list just under the wire. You can read my full review here.

2. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
I loved this book! The Maze Runner grabs onto you with the mystery of the maze and keeps you reading with the deeper mysteries of the characters and their histories. Dashner makes you hate the Maze creators, and by the end, you’ll demand an explanation for their crimes against the Gladers. You can read my full review here.

1. World War Z: An Oral History of  the Zombie War by Max Brooks
One of the few novels that makes me wax eloquent about its virtues. Brooks made me love the zombie genre, a feat I previously thought impossible. I reviewed it here.

What I’m Reading: The Maze Runner

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I’ve been curious about this book for several months, and I picked it up just before Christmas break. I read it in roughly two days. It is technically YA fiction (I’ve been reading quite a bit of that lately…), but I’d recommend it for adults who like science fiction as well.

The story begins with a boy in an elevator. All he remembers is his own name: Thomas. The elevator opens on the Glade, an artificial farm-like area surrounded by high stone walls and populated by teenage boys who also don’t remember where they came from. All they know is that every month the elevator sends a new boy to the Glade and that this month Thomas is the “Greenbean” or newbie.

The Glade is surrounded on all sides by the Maze, a huge labyrinth with no known solution. Thomas decides he wants to become a maze-runner, part of an elite group who explores the maze every day. He’s probably crazy since the maze happens to be populated by hideous monsters, but he feels born for the job. Then the elevator sends up the first girl they’ve ever seen, and she brings a message that everything is about to change. As if a bunch of amnesiac boys living in a maze wasn’t weird enough already?

The concept of boys creating a society in a maze initially drew me to this book. A bunch of kids running around in a maze with monsters reminded me of the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. I watched an interview with the author, James Dashner, and he said he was inspired by Lord of the Flies and Ender’s Game. How could I resist?

One of my favorite parts of this book was the funny slang the Gladers used. The slang emphasizes their isolation but also serves as a reminder that these are just teenage boys. Also the character of Chuck, the newbie just before Thomas, succeeded in being both funny and annoying, and I loved him even when Thomas didn’t. Most of all, the mystery of the maze and its creators kept me racing through the pages.  When I reached the end of the book, I instantly googled the sequel. I can’t believe I have to wait until October 2010! I don’t know how I’m going to survive.

I highly recommend The Maze Runner. Be prepared to be glued to the pages. My in-laws teased me during Christmas about ignoring them so I could finish the next chapter.