Maximum Ride, Book 1: The Angel Experiment Book Poster Image

Maximum Ride, Book 1: The Angel Experiment

OK series launch about flock of mutants. Tweens.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Mutant tale has a message about the danger of scientific advancements, but it's muffled by mediocrity.

Positive role models

The heroes steal money and a car.

Violence

Lots, some pretty brutal, with blood, broken noses and bones, knocked-out teeth, and some deaths, guns, explosions, and car chases.

Sex

A kiss.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Some mentioned directly: soda, cookie, electronics, games. Some thinly disguised, such as AFO Schmidt instead of FAO Schwartz.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is a lot of violence here, some of it quite brutal, including serious injuries. There are broken noses and bones, knocked-out teeth, and some deaths, guns, explosions, and car chases. The marketing for this book is also pretty intense, including Blogspot and MySpace pages and a contest to put together a tie-in music CD.

What's the story?

Max and five other kids, "the flock," were created by evil scientists at a place called the School, by combining human and avian DNA. They can fly, are unusually strong, and have a variety of other talents, some just emerging. Before the book begins they have escaped from the School, where the scientists were keeping them in cages and torturing them with experiments, and have been living on their own.

The youngest of the flock, Angel, is recaptured, and the rest fly back to the school to rescue her. Now they are being hunted by Erasers, human/wolf mutants also created at the School, while they travel across the country, trying to discover the secrets of their origins and purposes.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

Author James Patterson, best known for adult suspense novels, makes a passable foray into the young adult market with this book about a group of human/bird hybrids. For teens who just want action and excitement and who don't much care about the niceties -- such as logic, character development, consistent voice, or plot -- this will be plenty of fun. There's lots of gritty violence, but no sex, drugs, or language problems to worry parents (at least those who don't worry about gritty violence). And there's the fantasy of winged flight, which is always a kid-pleaser.

The entire book amounts to little more than a prologue to the series: Despite more than 400 pages of chases, fights, break-ins, and almost non-stop action, practically nothing actually happens. The main characters are captured, they escape, they are cornered, they escape, they are wounded, they recover, they try to hide, they are found, over and over again. In truth, very little of it makes any kind of sense, though there are plenty of hints that it will eventually -- just not in this book.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the idea of human and animal experimentation and whether or not it's ethical.

  • In the book, the scientists are clearly the bad guys, but are these types of experiments ever justified?

  • You can also discuss the book's marketing. Why the tie-in CD and Web sites?

  • Are there different standards for book and movie marketing?

  • Could this kind of aggressive, movie-style marketing of a book actually be a good thing, or is it just manipulative?

Book details

Author:James Patterson
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:May 21, 2006
Number of pages:426

This review of Maximum Ride, Book 1: The Angel Experiment was written by

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Adult Written bynevadamistermom April 9, 2008

Definitely PG-13

Before I start, let me note that I'm writing this review primarily for parents, not the tweens/teens for whom Mr. Patterson has targeted with this series of novels. While there is nothing in my review unsuitable for young readers, the tone and substance of a portion of this review assumes a parental viewpoint. ************** PARENTAL PERSPECTIVE I picked up this paperback at my local grocery store, just in the mood for some relatively mindless pulp fiction reading, and this one looked intriguing. It wasn't until I finished the book that I realized it was intended for a juvenile audience. In fact, for the teen or tween, Patterson has concocted a recipe they'll find almost irresistible: no parents, no rules, a diet consisting of almost continual junk food, adults who are always out to get them, and a mission to save the world. Oh yeah, and the kids can fly (literally). Got the picture? It's the stuff of every teen's fantasy life: the adults really ARE out to get me, I can eat/say/do whatever I want, I can raise myself without the need for parents, and I can fly. What's not to like? Well, plenty...if you're a parent. But more on that in a moment. Essentially, this series of books is about kids who have been genetically engineered to have wings and other special super-powers (like reading minds, super-human strength, super-human endurance). By grafting avian DNA and human DNA, some renegade scientists have begun exploring a brave new world. While the majority of their experiments have turned out hideously deformed, the protagonists of our story turned out remarkably well (with the exception of Iggy...he's blind). They consist of half a dozen kids ranging in age from 6 years old to 17, led by our heroine, Miss Maximum (Max) Ride herself...the namesake of Patterson's series. In this book, the kids have "flown the coop" quite literally by escaping the lab (sarcastically called "The School") where they were created, forced to live in cages, and subjected to hideous experiments. One can't help but speculate that maybe Patterson has intentionally woven this into the plot to resonate with the juvenile angst of having to live under a parent's roof, submit to their rules, and go to school. Hmmm. The remainder of the book finds our protagonists running for their lives from those in The School who want to keep their dark secrets concealed at any cost. To accomplish this mission, The School has engineered some vicious little creations - part human, part wolf - that are aptly named "Erasers" since their mission is to snub out the lives of the escaped kids. Amidst breathless chases and narrow escapes, our protagonists muse about what life would be like with real parents, and express genuine longing for real families rather than the "family" they have formed amongst themselves. As the oldest, our heroine displays a number of admirable traits; most notably, she is selfless and makes sure the other members of her affectionately called "flock" are fed and taken care of before attending to her own needs. She genuinely loves her brood and it is clear that the weight of responsibility bears heavily upon her slim but not frail shoulders. She's a kid who never had her own childhood, hoping desperately to compensate by giving some semblance of a childhood to the others in her rag tag flock. It is a fun, fanciful read, but while *intended* for young readers, I would suggest that it isn't necessarily *suitable* for young readers. As I noted above, what Patterson gives us is a group of kids that can do/say/eat whatever they want, living parent-less (admittedly, not by choice) as they rebel against some monstrous injustices in their lives. But in Patterson's world, the ensuing chase makes it OK for the kids to steal, swear, and generally bend the rules. In a later installment, it's even OK for them to have sex with one another. Now, I don't consider myself a prude, but that isn't generally the worldview that I’m trying to impart to my children. And I don’t think most other parents are either. I know there will be some who say "lighten up...it's just a fantasy novel," and frankly, after I finished reading the book I actually briefly considered reading it aloud to my son (he's 11). But then as I reflected over the various direct and indirect messages in the book, I decided against it. The characters do display some admirable qualities: loyalty, selflessness, courage, compassion, and tenacity. They genuinely pine for the sense of belonging and rootedness that can only come from a nuclear family. Our primary protagonist (Max) accepts responsibility not only for her brood, but for the much larger mission of saving the world. All good stuff. But for me, there were an equal number of problems introduced along the way: Situational ethics. Foul mouths. A strong, “screw everybody else” rebellious undercurrent. And at least a few thinly veiled symbolic issues, one of which I addressed above, and that I doubt will escape most teens at least at a quasi-subconscious level. Patterson had the opportunity to give us an outstanding series of books that would appeal to teens without making parents have to think twice about the underlying messages being conveyed. Unfortunately, in Patterson’s attempt to be “hip” with his readers, he gave them a distinctly PG-13 diet that many parents would be wise to check before allowing their kids to partake. As such, I’m afraid I just can’t recommend these books for young readers. At minimum, if your tween/teen is going to read them, read them yourself as well and use them as an opportunity for a parent/child dialog about the moral issues of the characters in the book.
Teen, 17 years old Written byEliasador February 18, 2011

Worse than Twilight

I cannot believe that anybody would actually think this is a good book. It is an easy read (poorly written). It is a shallow book with no profound or original messages. The plot is all violence, and the violence is repetitive and gets the plot nowhere, so the book is a bore once you get past the blood and grime. The characters have little personality and are unoriginal. The romance is a joke. The plot does not fit together well. The whole storyline is lame. I mean, they are being chased by a band of genetically modified werewolves that shoot laser beams out of their eyes! The role models are horrible and reckless. If you want to read a book with a masterful plot and unforgettable characters, read Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, or the Underland Chronicles. Maximum Ride is not the way to go.
Teen, 15 years old Written byTrinly April 5, 2011

Maximum Ride, a fitting title for an epic series

This will forever be my favorite book series. When I first bought the books, I read them in one day each. The first three, however, were by far the best.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models