Thursday, August 23, 2007

Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

Several weeks ago, I was driving my babysitter home and we were discussing the books that SugarPlum likes to read. She and SugarPlum have similar tastes - Harry Potter, Eragon, Narnia and various other fantasy books. She mentioned that she had gotten hooked on James Patterson's Maximum Ride books. She said that she thought that SugarPlum might enjoy them and that she would loan them to her.

Shortly thereafter, Mother Talk sent out a request for people to review the third installment in the series, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. My initial inclination was to have SugarPlum read it and write the review here and on her blog for her friends. Then I realized that perhaps it would be a good idea to read it before I gave it to SP so that I could make sure it was okay. I'm picky that way.

(Of course that was a moot point because SP and her bestfriendinthewholewideworld, the Princess went to the big Harry Potter party the night of the debut of book seven. After that she was sucked back into all things Harry. She's still not quite over it, even though she's read it seven times now.)

After we got back from the beach, I saw the book and, honestly, I wasn't that excited about reading it. Not my genre, and not my age. But I promised, so, eventually anyway, I got busy reading. And? I was hooked.

It was a little awkward at first, starting on the third book. But Patterson does a great job catching you up if you missed the first two. The books main protagonist, Max, is a fourteen year old human-bird hybrid (yes, really) - the result of recombinant DNA experiments by some mad scientists who are now planning on taking out half the world's population. The scientists, not the bird kids. Max leads her "flock" of other bird kids, ranging in age from six to fourteen, after they have escaped from the headquarters of the mad scientists' ("whitecoats") union.

Patterson captures the snark, attitude and insecurities of a fourteen-year-old girl perfectly. Honestly this is what made the book most enjoyable for me. The story switches voices between characters several times throughout the book, which is a little hard to follow at first. However, I really think that for teens, who are used to that sort of storytelling on the TV shows they watch, it probably flows and makes perfect sense. The characters are fairly well developed, but, again, I'm certain that some things would likely have made more sense had I read the first two books. One fun thing is that Max's best friend, Fang has a blog that does exist and that you can read comments from readers and "supporters" of the flock. Welcome to the 21st Century!

The plot was exciting enough to hold my interest and make the book enjoyable. There were a few "yeah rights" in there as I read along (you know, beyond the whole DNA hybrid/mad scientists business), like how the kids were broke at some times, yet had the money to get into a Dallas Cowboys football game and later purchase four transatlantic plane tickets. That aside, it was fun to read.

I believe that I will let SugarPlum read this series. Many of the situations are a little mature, but then so is she. I found no terribly objectionable language (at least nothing worse than I have found in the HP books) and no drinking/drugs or sexual situations. I know that SP will enjoy these books if she can tear herself away from those "other ones."

For more information, you can visit the book's website

It includes a cool CGI TV commercial, plus nearly 2 million message board
posts from kids who love Max and the flock. Also, the publisher had two separate
“clicking” contests here. The first was to garner 1 million clicks to keep the series going (into a fourth book), and they garnered the first million clicks in just one week. The second was to garner 5 million clicks to tell Hollywood there should be a Max movie. That 5 million was garnered within the next two weeks.

(Info from MotherTalk)

There has been talk of this series "replacing Harry Potter." Honestly I can't see anything replacing Harry. But is this a series that might get young adults excited about reading much the same way that Harry did? Yes, I think it might be. And so does the author of this article. Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports has the cynicism that appeals to teens as well as the kids vs. the evil adults theme that is fuels the healthy rebellion that all teens must express. These kids are out to save the world from the thoughtless, power-hungry, environment-polluting adults. How much better can you get?!

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