"Now we were going to start finding out about our pasts, maybe the meaning of our lives, and I didn't know if that's what I wanted. And only partly because I had no idea who my mother and father were. But none of that mattered, right? These guys were my family, I owed it to them to try to help their dreams come true. Even if it killed me."
Title: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
Author: James Patterson
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Plot Summary: Maximum Ride and her makeshift family (Izzy, Gazzer, Fang, Nudge, and Angel) are a gang of winged adolescents living on an Eyre, having escaped from the horrific experiments of the School. Their peace is shattered as Erasers, half-wolf, half-human hybrids kidnap Angel. Fang, Nudge and Max chase after the Erasers while leaving Izzy and Gazzer at home. The family realizes that the Erasers are taking Angel back to the School and rush to rescue her. Against Fang's wishes, Max saves a girl from bullies and is shot in the process. She happens upon the girl again and her mother, who is a vet, treats her and gives her an x-ray. Max then discovers she has a tracker buried in her arm and quickly leaves to rejoin Fang and Nudge, who have been learning flying techniques from a family of hawks. Izzy and Gazzer rejoin them after being attacked by more Erasers at home, and together, the family manage to rescue Angel. However, they encounter their foster-father Jeb, who rescued them from the School in the first place and who they thought to be dead. While the family is reunited and on the run, Max has more questions than ever to handle: who are their parents, what is Jeb to them, and why is she supposed to save the world?
Critical Evaluation: The book Maximum Ride is rather simple and comical keeping in mind that the narrator Max (and her family) are teens. Following suit, the dialog is snappy, concise, and with the right amount of growing sarcasm. Even the description is written from the current narrator's point of view and is skewed into their own mannerisms, word usage, and sentence structure. For example, Max's narration differs greatly from Angel's chapters and allows the characters to become more concrete by showing how they are different. The symbolism behind winged humans is not very subtle and is linked to Max hearing a Voice within her mind that tells her that she will save the world. Even one of her family members is called Angel. That her family are genetically enhanced to be superior than humans is an interesting parallel, comparing Heavenly created Angels to avian-hybrids created by man to perhaps aspire to the level of angels. The theme of teens living on the edge of society and being pursed by ominous foes is not new and is quite reminiscent of the comic book series X-Men, mutant teens who have pledged themselves to saving the world and protecting those who hate and fear them. However, Patterson's distinct and very human characters ground the theme out of a super-hero genre, wings or no wings.
Graphic Novel Adaptation: Due to the simple writing style and imagery within the novel, the graphic novel adaptation of Maximum Ride is just as strong a piece of literature as the original. While volume one does not cover the entirety of book one (The Angel Experiment), what it does cover is done so in gorgeous detail, depicting not only the characters in a manner that sticks in the reader's mind's eye, but the landscapes and expanses of blue sky that excite the avian teens. As the novel is said to be written almost for a movie adaptation, it makes logical sense that it could easily be adapted into a graphic novel series. Many readers may actually prefer the graphic novel version for its ability to seamlessly combine visual elements with well-written dialog.
Reader's Annotation: At fourteen, Maximum Ride is not only the leader of her flock of half-human, half-avian teens, she is prophesied to save the world.
Information About the Author: James Patterson is one of the most prolific writers of the time, selling 220 million copies worldwide. He holds the Guinness Book of World Records for most hardcover fiction bestselling titles: 63.
While famous for his thrilling detective novels, Patterson has also written numerous series for teens and children. The previous information is taken from the author's website; read more about James Patterson here.
Genre: Fiction; Fantasy; Genetic Experimentation; Orphans; Action and Adventure
Curriculum Ties N/A
- How do Max, Izzy, and Fang differ? What characteristics does Max have that makes her an ideal leader other than her age?
- Who is the Voice within Max's head and why do you think it speaks only to her?
- Why do you think Patterson made Izzy blind, other than to portray the inhumanity of the scientists to caused it?
Reading Level: 14+
- While there is violence and death within Maximum Ride, it is treated in a grave and humane manner and not glorified.
- While the avian teens may appear to parallel (or parody) angels, they are not insulting religion or God. Instead, they are everyday teens in manner and personalities who happen to be winged.
- The persecution of Max's family within the novel can parallel the persecution and racism of people who are different.
Why This Book?: Staff Recommendation
Lee, N and Patterson, J. (2009) James Patterson's Maximum Ride (Vol. 1). New York: Yen Press.
Patterson, J. (2005). Maximum Ride: The angel experiment. New York: Little, Brown and Company.