Maximum Ride: A Lot of Hype, a Little Thrill

21 Aug

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Call me faint-hearted, but I don’t like roller coasters. Several summers ago, I caved in to my teenage son’s plea to join him on Dueling Dragons at Universal Studios. Everyone disembarking from the ride couldn’t stop raving about what they had just experienced. It must be enjoyable, I reasoned as I waited in the long, twisting lines. My son reassured me the ride would be fabulous, but after a nearly 2 ½ minute ride, I came to the conclusion that hurtling along at 55 mph and plunging 125 feet while zero-g-forces threatened to implode my skull was not for me. My risk taking son on the other hand, couldn’t get enough.

 

When I received my complimentary copy of James Patterson’s Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports in the mail, I was eager for the opportunity to read the latest and greatest in young adult science fiction. As an avid reader of young adult literature (but totally unfamiliar with James Patterson,) I had high expectations. The reviews were glowing, the praise almost exorbitant with the book jacket claiming “James Patterson has called Maximum Ride the best story he’s ever written.” A bit doubtful, I picked up the book, curious to see if indeed Patterson’s third book in the series, a fast-paced story about six bird kids fighting back against their evil-scientist creators, would sustain my interest.

It didn’t take me long to realize that 60-year-old Patterson is a “literary machine” who knows exactly how to effectively reach his intended audience. The author has sold more than 135 million books during his 30-year career and has recently turned to writing for young adults in the hope that he can turn them on to reading. In fact, the dedication page in this book reads: “for everybody out there who might love books, if they were given books that loved them back”—a worthy and admirable goal for any author.

Obviously, Patterson has taken great care to make sure that this series captures the interest of reluctant or non-readers. Although the book is just over 400 pages, his two-page chapters cater to those with short attention spans. The trendy, flippant, disrespectful, and sarcastic voices of his main characters echo the collective voice of contemporary teens. Maximum Ride’s characters are also hip techies who use laptops and wireless internet to communicate their plight to kids all over the world. In fact, Patterson has ingeniously given one of his characters a real blog and maintains a website where Maximum Ride fans can congregate on the web. The events in the story are eerily placed smack dab in the context of today’s cultural, biological, and technological challenges. The violent fighting scenes, written like a movie screenplay, are sure to satisfy those who crave action. Patterson’s “got a really good gut for what’s going to work…a feeling for things that are going to interest people.” And what kid hasn’t dreamed of flying or taking on the world? Patterson plays into this desire because he knows “when you’re a kid with wings, anything is possible.”

But even though I found the premise of the book interesting—the ethics surrounding the idea of recombinant life forms—I have to admit I found myself distracted and uninspired by the voice in this work. At times, my reading felt like a bumpy and uneven ride as I tried to hold onto the plot and dialogue through clumsy scene changes  and point of view. Bored with weak adjectives (such as “freaking”), the standard use of expletives, predictable plot, and lackluster characters, I truly wanted to care about Max and her flock, but after 400 pages devoid of sensory imagery and detail, I put the book down impassively.

 

Frankly, I have to voice my dissent. I believe there are better young adult science fiction books out there that are more compelling and more worthy of young people’s time. Jeanne DuPrau’s trilogy—The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, and The Prophet of Yonwood—come to mind as do Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time and Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Like Patterson, I want kids to find books that speak to them. Clearly, the Harry Potter craze has shown that our young people have it in them to stick with challenging reads and longer chapter books when they are mesmerized by excellent writing. Still, in spite of its faults, the Maximum Ride series will probably continue to attract readers who prefer ease, entertainment, and accessibility. And who knows? It may be the beckoning portal or nudge that leads some kids to venture further into the realm of literacy. 

Even if I don’t like roller coasters, I acknowledge that there are many who do. For those looking for a quick, action-packed read, Patterson’s Maximum Ride series just might be the ticket to “the best movie you’ll read all summer.”

This review is sponsored by Mother Talk.

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8 Responses to “Maximum Ride: A Lot of Hype, a Little Thrill”

  1. SassyQuilter August 21, 2007 at 5:31 pm #

    It is always a bit heart-wrenching when your child choses a book that you know won’t stretch their vocabulary or imagination, but on the other hand you are glad they are reading for enjoyment and not an assignment.

    Although I agree with the point of view that kids (and adults for that matter!) should read, not everything in print is enriching … By “enriching,” I mean a worthwhile outlet. It doesn’t have to be educational, per se, but is there really a place at all for bad language (no matter how lite) or disrespectful attitudes toward adults in children’s/teen’s books? An exciting story can be told without all the author playing into every stimulus that might snag another buyer … er, I mean reader.

    I am one of those adults who would rather read a novel written for teens. Many are filled with imaginary worlds and wonderful situations where the child is the hero — the one who has the outlook and bravery to carry forth what is necessary to save them all. Adult books have little imagination for my taste — with fillers such as inappropriate sexual situations, addiction, and offensive language.

    Maybe my expectations are higher because I am an adult, but with the minimal amount of leisure activity I have in my day, the book has to be worth my time.

  2. Smithers August 21, 2007 at 7:32 pm #

    Yes, indeed. The wings idea is very appealing to kids, and may be just the thing to grab those reluctant, restless “readers” (mostly they just pretend to read). I wonder if the vocabulary in the book is appropriate for public school use. It doesn’t sound like it from this excellently written review. Thanks.

  3. Shelb September 16, 2007 at 5:52 pm #

    Great review! I really enjoyed your comments.

  4. Allison King July 17, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    I found the book thrilling. Unlike most books, it doesnt drone on about what is around you. It’s fast paced, and keeps your attention. I am 17 and read it twice. Yes, i admit, that it doesn’t really spread your vocab, but that isn’t what people look for in a story. They look for something interesting. This is interesting. It shows you a different world, keeping you on the edge of your seat.

  5. stephanievanderslice August 29, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    This sounds like something my son would possibly enjoy, but I would probably be in your camp. When I think back on all the things I injudiciously read as a teen, I am more forgiving of what my kids read. Still I think it’s important to them to give them your opinion, in a somewhat disinterested way, and to keep making more meaty work available to them. I just hope that if I keep the good stuff on the table with the less nourishing stuff, eventually, they will reach for the good–and if they don’t, I fall back on the “at least they’re reading.” A cop-out, yes, but still. My oldest is still a tween and I’m having enough trouble just weaning him off Garfield comics. Patterson would be a step up.

    That said, I know little about Patterson but read somewhere a long time ago that he came up with the basic plots and ghost writers helped hiim fill in the rest. Never quite got over reading this.

    I really enjoyed your blog; I think we’re on the same wavelength.

  6. Orion McLawhorn October 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    This book was really incridible, most of the time i dont like reading books but this one got me started.I loved the action packed fighting book.My favorite thing was the how fastly paced it was and never ever had a boring part.I’ve only read the first three because thats all my library has.Also this was the biggest book that i have ever read.I think that ya should seriosly should try to get this book made into a movie,it would be an acadamy award wiiner.

    PS.Maximum Ride really made me jealous of the kids,not of all the bad stuff that happened just thier powers ecspecially thier wings

    PLEASE MAKE THESE BOOKS INTO MOVIES

  7. ThePuddingMonster October 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm #

    Yeah I agree. While the story is relatively interesting, it’s a bit too predictable. At first you get hooked, but when you get to the fourth book…well…
    The characters are funny, though, and I cracked up throughout the books. I still haven’t finished the fifth book, but I hear it’s good. The Fourth had it’s good moments, but kinda sucked. A lot.

    I hope the books do become movies eventually, but they’d probably have to combine the first two books together. Most likely the first series together.

    All in all, these books are really good, but they’re nothing to obsess over and get T-shirts and posters and stay up until midnight to get the next release. Besides, I already do/did that for the Twilight series. XD lol!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. mother-talk.com » Blog Archive » Blog Tour: “Maximum Ride 3: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports” - August 21, 2007

    […] stories about genetically enhanced kids with wings, I heartily recommend [Maximum Ride].” Brainy Mama doesn’t like roller-coaster rides or their literary equivalent, but she says, “For […]

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