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It is possible to love fictional characters while simultaneously mourning the literary death of the quality of their series. This is an account of my immediate infatuation—and later disappointment—with the Maximum Ride series.
James Patterson, fiction writer extraordinaire, has written nearly countless books over his lifetime. Seriously. Check out the Patterson section at the library some time, the dude really knows how to crank ‘em out. Perhaps it is this tendency to write quickly in order to get more books out to his fans that has contributed to the decrease in quality that has been apparent recently. As any high class chef can tell you, it is the quality, and not the quantity, of a gourmet meal that makes it fantastic.
I first began following the adventures of Maximum Ride (yes, that is the main character’s name) about five years ago. I instantly fell in love with Max’s kick-butt attitude and leadership. Here was a respectable heroine who was just sassy enough to keep you interested. Her flock (more on that later) was full of equally respectable and unique kids; Fang was dark and mysterious, but also strangely caring, and Iggy was simply awesome due to his tendency to blow up anything within a twenty-mile radius.
The outline of the books is interesting too. Basically, Max and her flock are human-bird hybrids (teenagers with wings) who escaped from the facility where they were created and subjected to humiliating and painful tests by nameless scientists. Because Max is the oldest, she is in charge of keeping everyone alive. As if that weren’t hard enough, there is a voice inside of Max’s head telling her she has to save the world.
That sounds totally sweet, right?! There’s so much plotline that can be expanded there, so many interesting ways to go. Advanced genetics and teenage hormones and great characters and crazy voices should be more than enough for a great book series. So why, oh why, did James Patterson decide to go the environmental route?
After the third book in the series, Patterson attempted to switch the main enemy of the series from the scientists to people who were dumping waste in Antarctica. Pollution became the main villain. Seriously. While I am against pollution, this felt like a ploy to continue writing books for characters whose plot had run out.
From this point on, three more books were produced, and each one’s reason for existing became more and more questionable. Max became less of a badass heroine and more of a device for Patterson to spread his anti-pollution opinions.
With the eighth and final book of the series, Nevermore, set to be released August 12 of this year, let’s hope that Patterson can get his act together and bring back the characters from the first three books. Max and her friends deserve to end on a high note, despite their characters having been thoroughly muddied.
I would suggest this book to high schoolers looking for a quick, light read. Start with The Angel Experiment and go on to School’s Out—Forever and Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. After the first three books, though, don’t expect any works of genius.
The Redeyed Reader