A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
For kids who love adventure
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.