I picked up MAX – A Maximum Ride Novel in an airport for two reasons. 1) Seemed like a cool concept – human children grafted with avian DNA fighting against various villains, and 2) I wanted to see how James Patterson wrote for Young Adult.
The flavor I felt was definitely James Patterson and I’ve read a few of his adult novels (you will probably know him from the Alex Cross books, Kiss the Girls, and Along Came a Spider, or The Lakehouse). His chapter format is definitely similar to his adult novels, and while the language was very teen-oriented, I still felt the James Patterson vibe throughout.
The book itself was a light, quick read with a lot of sarcastic, witty teenage humor written from the perspective of the female leader of the flock, Max. I’m not sure whether this was the first installment of the series but it read pretty well on its own as a standalone.
So briefly, Max and her flock, a hodge-podge group of 5 kids ranging from 6 to 17 (oh, and one more flying dog, Total, making the flock count 6), were genetically created from merging human DNA with avian DNA. Apart from various other skills like super sight and super strength, they have wings, as in real bird wings with a 14 -foot wingspan. In this book, they team up with the US Navy against the mysterious Mr. Chu who has captured Max’s mother. Add in some romance between Max and Fang, the love of her life and one of the flock, and you’ve got the requisite teenage angst for any YA novel. During the search for Max’s mom, 3 of the flock learns to swim under water – they develop gills, and they meet some sea-creatures who have been mutated from radiation who help them rescue her. Angel, one of the flock, can read minds and speak to fish.
I know, I know. It all sounds a little far-fetched, right? The neat thing about it though was I didn’t feel while reading the novel that it was far-fetched at all. It just felt like part of the story, like a natural progression of the flock’s talents. And I guess that is all due to the author’s ability to spin his story in such a way that it’s entirely believable while you’re reading it.
Kudos Mr. Patterson. Not that the man needs it – he is a genius. There was a recent article in the NY Times Magazine about him a few weeks ago, “Patterson may lack the name recognition of a Stephen King or a John Grisham or a Dan Brown, but he outsells them all. Really, it’s not even close.” He is a novel-writing machine as well as a business and marketing genius in every single genre. As far as young adult titles, add Witch and Wizard to the bookshelf as well as graphic novels like Daniel X. I haven’t read either of these series but that’s not to say I won’t. Let me know what you think if you have. Check out the NY Times Magazine article if you can, it’s pretty awesome (and inspiring for all you would-be writers).
Overall, I’d say not bad for MAX – A Maximum Ride Novel. Fun, light read. Love the language and the witty dialogue between the characters as well as Max’s humorous internal monologues. I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.