Maximum Ride. Stay alive, save the world.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.

maximum_ride.jpg “Congratulations. The fact that you’re reading this book means you’ve taken one giant step closer to surviving till your next birthday. Yes, you standing there leafing through these pages. Do not put this book down. I’m dead serious-your life could depend on it” (1). With these words, 14 year old Maximum Ride welcomes you to the quintessential nonstop action thrill ride of young adult literature. Max and her family consisting of Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel are products of a secret experiment that has successfully grafted human and avian DNA together to create winged people. That’s right, these kids can fly. However, as Max herself would tell you, being a mutant is not all it’s cracked up to be. Constantly hunted by resourceful killers bent upon their capture and extermination, and having no parents, guardians, or safe place to call home, Max and the flock would like to say, “welcome to our nightmare” (2).

The story begins in a mountaintop retreat where through a series of inner dialogues provided by Max herself we meet the Flock: Fang, a gothic 14 year old who is “like a dark shadow come to life” (11). The 14 year old Iggy, blind from a failed experiment aimed at increasing his night vision. Nudge, the 11 year old motor mouth who never stops unless she’s sleeping. The 8 year old Gasman, named for his talent for breaking serious wind, and his 6 year old sister Angel who happens to be able to read minds. We learn that the Flock had been created in a top secret lab called the School, where they spent their entire childhood living in cages and subjected to repeated painful testing and experimentation. That is until a scientist named Jeb breaks the children out and delivers them safely to the mountaintop retreat where they live unharmed, learning to fly, and learning how to survive. Then one day Jeb disappears, leaving the flock alone for over two years.

Immediately after the opening chapter, the Flock is attacked by an armed group of Erasers, half man-half wolf mutants with the annoying ability to charm as well as kill. Angel is kidnapped, and their home is destroyed. With their only place of safety removed, the members of the Flock have nothing left but each other and determinedly set forth to save their sister. Knowing where Angel was taken, the Flock lay plans to break into the last place on earth they ever wanted to see again, the School. Their journey to reunite their family leads them through a maze of misdirection, harrowing encounters, and tantalizing clues about their own origins and abilities. Through it all the Flock discovers that even though they can fly, the strongest weapon in their arsenal is the power of family.

James Patterson’s first foray into the worlds of young adult literature is a fast paced, deadly serious, and sometimes humorous example of the X-Men meet the Box Car Children. His writing style is quick, easy, with attempts at capturing teenage language and emotion with sometimes mixed yet overall satisfying results. Each one to two page chapter ends with a cliffhanger keeping readers turning the pages. The work is reminiscent of a high interest low vocabulary format without using a drastically lower vocabulary. The story is highly engaging, extremely visual, and emotionally appealing leaving the reader wanting more right up to the last page.

Recommendations for Teachers

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment would fit nicely in a classroom setting. Themes such as teamwork, leadership, the importance of family, and loyalty are quite prominent and could be explored. Students can discuss what makes a good leader, why Max is considered the leader of the flock. They may connect these traits to leaders in the real world. Another option is that students can discuss different types of families, and why togetherness is important. Also, teens will most likely find a character or two that are their favorite, as the members of the flock have unique personalities and strengths. What comparisons and contrasts can be made between the reader’s life and the flock’s life? By identifying themselves with one of the members of the flock, the reader becomes immersed into the text, having a more enjoyable read.

A lot of activities can be done to connect the reader with the character. Students could, for example, create blogs or journals while taking the role of their favorite character.
The use of accessible and exciting language by Patterson makes it easy for the reader to become engaged in the text. Having students take a stance on the practice of genetic engineering may spark a lively debate as well.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment can be taught as a whole classroom book, but it would also fit well as an option on a book list for those interested in an action-packed read. By using a plot with many twists and surprises, Patterson forces the reader into asking “What happens next?

About James Patterson

If there is one thing James Patterson loves, it is writing about his characters. His favorite character from the many, many young adult books he has written is Max, short for Maximum Ride. You guessed it, the main character from his popular Maximum Ride series. Some have mistaken her for a spin off from some of his other series, but he assures readers that this is not the case.
Patterson began writing for young adults with Maximum Ride. The book spent weeks at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list and has since ensured that Patterson’s name is well known in the world of young adult literature. Aside from YA literature, Patterson writes other best selling series such as Alex Cross and The Women’s Murder Club. His writing has met with wide success in every category he writes; his books have sold more than 150 million across the world. People love to read what he has to say!
Outside of book writing, several of Patterson’s works have been turning into video. His Women’s Club series was turned into a television series for ABC-TV, and some of his books have been turned into movies for TV. His YA hit Maximum Ride is currently being made into a cinema-ready movie! The movie is planned for release in 2010 and, if his books were any indication, should be a hit!
Patterson is 62 years old and lives with his wife and son in Palm Beach, Florida. He shows no signs of slowing down with his writing, nor does he give any indication of letting the quality of his work slip.


James Patterson talks about Maximum Ride.

Our Podcast:

Maximum Ride:
Manga Max First Look: James Patterson's Maximum Ride Manga.
Maximum Read Educator Resources for Teaching the Maximum Ride books in your classroom.
''Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment'' Debuts at #1 on the NEW YORK TIMES Bestsellers List Article about the debut of the novel.

James Patterson:
Going along for the (maximum) ride. Reading Today article with Patterson discussing his decision to write Young Adult Literature.
James Patterson Check out the author's official website!
Other Works by James Patterson All of James Patterson's published works, includes adult and young adult titles. James Patterson's website dedicated to making kids readers for life.

For Teens:
Genetic Engineering We may not be grafting avian and human DNA, but genetic engineering is reality. Click here to learn more, and to decide where you stand.
Maximim Ride: Join The Flock Website for The Institure of Higher Living, where you can sign up to join the flock!
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment review of the novel.

Reviewed by:
Kelly Boston
Casey Heath
Greg Heisenfeldt
Shelby Lincoln

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