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STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.

PARALLEL VISIONS book cover

Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Teen Books That Have Something to Say


Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Review

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
by James Patterson
Little, Brown,(April 2005)
ISBN-10: 031615556X

My rating:



The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective. Take right now, for instance.
Run! Come on, run! You know you can do it.
I gulped deep lungfuls of air. My brain was on hyperdrive; I was racing for my life. My one goal was to escape. Nothing else mattered.
My arms being scratched to ribbons by a briar I'd run through? No biggie.
My bare feet hitting every sharp rock, rough root, pointed stick? Not a problem.
My lungs aching for air? I could deal.
As long as I could put as much distance as possible between me and the Erasers.
Yeah, Erasers. Mutants: half-men, half-wolves, usually armed, always bloodthirsty. Right now they were after me.
See? That snaps everything into perspective.
--Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, James Patterson, p. 5.

And from there, we are catapulted into Max's life, and the joys and dangers she faces--sometimes at a breakneck speed. Fourteen-year-old Max was genetically altered by scientists--as were her "family"--to be 98% human and 2% bird, complete with wings, lighter bones like birds, the ability to fly, and more. Max and her adopted family--five other children with wings--escaped from the lab with the help of Jeb, a scientist who became like a father to them for a few years. He helped them to live, isolated and "free" from everyone. But then he went missing. The story starts a few years after he went missing, with the Erasers hunting them down. The Erasers kidnap Angel, Max's younger sister, and everything changes.

Max, Fang, and Nudge, then later Gassy and Iggy go on a rescue mission to free Angel. But things quickly become more complicated than they expected.

Although the prologue felt purely like a sales tactic--"Do not put this book down--your life could depend on it"--and it was not integrated throughout the book, some readers may enjoy the direct messages and plea to read, the feeling of involvement. Others, however, may find it off putting. I certainly did.

But once the book starts, it's easy to get hooked into the story. This is a fast, enjoyable read. The short chapters with great hooks increase the excitement, and the suspense and increasing danger is nicely built up. There are some neatly-placed revelations, as well. The read is even more satisfying as there is emotion, depth, and some humor woven throughout the suspense.

The story starts firmly in Max's point of view, and around chapter 13, briefly dips into captive Angel's point of view. This greatly increases reader enjoyment; the reader may even more desperately want Angel to be safe. And soon after, we are back to Max, steadying the reader in the character they have become accustomed to, and care about. After this point of view change, we continue to briefly read from the viewpoint of other people in Max's family, although the book mainly keeps to Max's point of view--which is a good thing, since, at least for me, her point of view was most compelling. This point-of-view change also helps us see, at times, when they are being presented with lies. At this viewpoint switch actually lessens the impact of Max's panic, when we already know what's happened.

Max is the hero of the story--she is a great leader, loves her family and tries to take care of them, defends people in need, and always tries to do the right thing. The intentional distancing she takes from her emotions when things get too hard feels believable, as does her poignant reactions, her pain and joy at briefly experiencing what it would be like to have someone take care of her for a change. However, at times she doesn't seem concerned enough about Angel to feel realistic. Max also has some growth and change that we can directly link back to events in the book, and this is enjoyable.

Each of the people in Max's family have their own quirks, but none of them feel as fully drawn or realized as Max. At times, their quirks feel like just a way to differentiate between them. It doesn't feel like we ever come to really know them as individuals; they are more like caricature. The villains in the story have some shading to them, especially Jeb, which helps make them more believable, but they, too, could be more fleshed out.

Max's and the other characters' reactions to the world, to other people and things they haven't experienced before, and to triggers of things they have, rings true. And the emotions and desires that push Max and her family forward, into danger, to seek answers they need, also feels very believable and compelling--although at times this is questionable, and seems more like a plot device (Would you really remain in an area where mutant hunters are trying to kill you?). Later, when emotion is brought in, some of these things become more believable.

There are good visual and sensory details woven throughout the book. Here are a few repetitive details that stand out, but not many. The dialogue is believable, and with Max, especially, has a sarcastic edge that makes it fun to read. And at times, the characters draw connections or make conclusions that help us see what is happening even more clearly, yet still feel right within the story.

There are some nice mysteries that compel the reader to move forward--but since most of these are dropped at the end of the novel (apparently to be picked up in the sequel), this is a bit anti-climatic and frustrating.

There seemed to be some unnecessary violence near the end of the book; it felt like a way to introduce some information, and wasn't fully resolved. For readers who are sensitive to violence, there may be some areas of the book that are problematic. For others, this may be outweighed by the characters being saved.Although the concept may be familiar to readers, with tones of Dark Angel and other sci-fi works, this story still takes a unique spin, and it's still an enjoyable read.

I found this book engrossing, riveting, and a highly enjoyable read. I was rarely, if ever, kicked out of the story world. Though many threads are left hanging (clearly leaving them for a sequel), some of them very big threads (who is talking to Max, etc) the thrust of the story is so enjoyable, and there is enough good feeling at the end, that I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Patterson is well known for his adult titles; this is his first teen fiction. I'd say it is a success.

If you enjoy this book, you can read more about Max's adventures in the sequel, Maximum Ride: School's Out Forever. You can also visit the author's website for this series at www.maximumride.com, where you can read an excerpt from chapter one of the next book, watch a video, and more.

-Added June 2006


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