James Patterson,
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
(Time Warner, 2005)

James Patterson's novels When the Wind Blows and The Lake House introduced the character Max, a winged girl who escaped from The School. Max, whose full name is Maximum Ride, is 98 percent human and 2 percent bird. Specifically, she looks human, except for the wings sticking out of her back. Her bones are lighter, yet stronger than a typical human's. She is the oldest member of a flock of winged children, which also includes Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman and Angel.

Angel is the youngest member of the flock. When Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment begins, Max is 14 and Angel is 6. For two years, the kids have been on their own. As this story begins, the chase is on. You see, The School also created Erasers, not-so-nice creatures that are mostly human, but also part wolf. Their purpose in life seems to be killing the flock.

Thus begins a 4-CD chase of the flock by the pack. Locations change, but the scenarios are very familiar by the third time around. The flock is surprised and cornered by a larger, stronger pack. A fight ensues. The flock barely escapes and thinks they are free. Repeat.

The reason for the title seems to be that during the first attack, Angel is nabbed by the Erasers. The flock knows she is being taken back to The School. Naturally, they mount a rescue operation. Not surprisingly, they are harassed along the way by the erasers who somehow always know their whereabouts. (The reason is revealed in the book, so I won't spoil that here). After breaking Angel free, they head off in search of a secret institute to find out more about their parents, constantly encountering the Erasers along the way.

During the course of the novel, members of the flock learn about some of the special powers each individual seems to have. Let me state I'm not sure whether the experiment referenced in the title refers to seeing if the flock would come to Angel's rescue, or just how far Angel explores her special power.

Max is constantly visited by a voice in her head that gives her hints on where to go and tells her that she is destined to "save the world." At the end of the 4th CD, the book ends, but you can tell the story does not. (Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever starts up where MR: The Angel Experiment leaves off.)

Actress Evan Rachel Wood narrates the audio version of this tale. You might recognize her from the movie Thirteen. I enjoyed her reading skills as far as sounding like a 14-year-old girl. I also thought she did a good job with the fast pace of the novel. Where she lost me is that many of her characters, especially males, sound too similar.

Patterson does not need an introduction. This man has more story ideas running around in his head than he has time to write. He releases multiple best sellers every year.

The Maximum Ride series is aimed at young adults. However, I think those of you who enjoyed the earlier winged children books still might want to continue the story line. If you haven't read those books, you can jump right in with MR: The Angel Experiment. You do not necessarily need the earlier background to follow this book. I realize there is not much depth to this novel compared to the adult books in the series, but I personally enjoyed it a little more. I wonder, though, is that because of the plot this time around, or because of the narrator?

by Wil Owen
7 April 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.