The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, Book 1)
By James Patterson
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2005, Grand Central Publishing
Paperback, 413 pages
In James Patterson's blockbuster series, fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it's like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the "flock"--Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel--are just like ordinary kids--only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time...like when Angel, the youngest member of the flock, is kidnapped and taken back to the "School" where she and the others were experimented on by a crew of wack jobs. Her friends brave a journey to blazing hot Death Valley, CA, to save Angel, but soon enough, they find themselves in yet another nightmare--this one involving fighting off the half-human, half-wolf "Erasers" in New York City. Whether in the treetops of Central Park or in the bowels of the Manhattan subway system, Max and her adopted family take the ride of their lives. Along the way Max discovers from her old friend and father-figure Jeb--now her betrayed and greatest enemy--that her purpose is save the world--but can she?Right from the beginning, this book was like one high-intensity climax after another. After less than 100 pages in, all I wanted the characters to do is sit around and stare at each other for awhile, let me breathe. The basic premise of the plot was hide from the bad guys, run when they found you, escape and retaliate when they caught you... and repeat. Things did not seem to get really interesting until after page 200, when the group of winged kids started discovering new abilities.
There are lots of things that don't get explained - which I understand some lack of explanation is necessary to draw out a series - but these kids don't know anything about themselves or even why they exist. The oldest one, Max, is 14, and she can't even deduce that the chip in her arm is how to Erasers keep finding them. I probably would have enjoyed this book much more if the reader could have been privy to the mind of Jeb Batchelder, who was once-acting father of this group of kids and keeps claiming throughout the book that he is one of the good guys. By the end of the book, the kids have cross the U.S. in flying distance, but have yet to really solve any of their problems or get any significant question answered, unless you count parentage.
Another thing that really annoyed me was the length of the chapters, which were no more than 4 pages in length. I get that this is a YA novel, but a 400 page book with 134 chapters is kind of absurd. Mostly, the chapter breaks were used to switch viewpoints between the various characters, and lengthening the chapters in favor of cutting the quantity of chapters would not have harmed this.
There were some touching moments in the book that I wish could have been drawn out, such as Max being with the Rodriguez family, Fang and Nudge interacting with the birds, or the kids being in the New York City toy store, but these moments seemed to be grossly overshadowed by the action and suspense.
Normally, I am a big fan of YA literature, but I think this one is a bit too young even for me.
The Cover: The cover is mostly taken up by the title of the book, with a small silhouette of Max at the top - sans wings. I don't find this style of cover particularly appealing.
First Line: Congratulations. The fact that youre reading this means that youve taken one giant step closer to surviving till your next birthday.
I've seen books that start out directly addressing the reader with some sort of fear-based threat or warning, and they have always struck me as childish. This opening is no different, in my opinion.
Favorite Quote: "Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It's a grain. It's like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem."
Read For: Support Your Local Library Challenge, Speculative Fiction Challenge, Celebrate the Author Challenge