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Monday, August 27, 2007

Book Review for Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports

Between Fang’s blog, the environmental theme, and even the title, James Patterson does an excellent job tapping into 21st century teen culture with the third book in his sci fi young adult trilogy, Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports.

My fourteen-year-old daughter and I are sci fi fans, so whenever a book appeals to both of us, we read it together. Like the Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, the likable characters and kick butt heroine in Maximum Ride 3 engaged us in spite of some occasional plot problems. Max and her human bird hybrid flock are out to save the world from evil corporate America and its eugenics plan to makeover civilization.

I took a crash course in Maximum Ride, reading all three books in a weekend. In spite of occasional nitpicking, I was always anxious to get to the next book and see what happened to Max and her flock. This last book started a bit slower than the others, but once it took off, it flew as fast as Max does and kept me up late reading.

My daughter is the same age and sex as Patterson’s main character, Max, and she admired Max’s leadership acumen. She did question how Max and friends had time to learn about Harry Potter and other pop-culture facts they reference, given that the flock is always flying from one aerial karate confrontation to another.

We both thought the Eraser bots were a bit lame. Erasers bots are flying robots that pursue Max and her gang and replace the human-modified Erasers that used to chase the bird kids in the previous books. The flying monkeys in Oz wouldn’t be nearly as terrifying if they were robots. There’s no sense of malice in a mechanical creature, so the earlier Erasers were much scarier.

My kiddo loved the teen power aspect at the end, while I found it a little hard to swallow. I felt like an old fuddy duddy. I kept thinking - where are these kids’ parents? Don’t they need an adult or two, at least for the mop up at the end?

The absence of adult authority is exactly what my young adult reader loved. And hey, the book isn’t for me, so it looks like that was right on target. This book would probably appeal most to kids a bit younger than my daughter – around eleven to thirteen.

The author does leaves some loose ends I’d like tied up better. How did they track the bird kids all the time? He brings it up all the time in the story line, but never explains. And what exactly was the By Half plan? A virus? Nuclear strikes? It can’t be easy to kill half the world.

My daughter found the books entertaining, but what she really wants is the movie. She must see the movie. I’m finding that books I couldn’t pay my kids to read are snapped up after they see the movie version.

It isn’t feasible for every book, of course, but making stories into movies sends my kids straight to the books for comparison. Holes, Eragon, and Lemony Snicket are all examples. Harry P. doesn’t need any help, but I’m sure the movies draw in kids who wouldn’t have read the books without a movie tie-in.

Patterson’s internet marketing campaign has been hugely successful and likely attracted many kids to the series who wouldn’t otherwise have cracked a book. Many adult authors are making YouTube short videos to promote their books, and since my daughter practically lives on YouTube, it’d be wise for the young adult book industry to use new technologies like James Patterson has to produce some promo clips to get kids reading. If I can show my children a YouTube video about a novel, it might be easier to entice them to read it.

Overall I’m willing to ignore my admittedly minor plot complaints to enjoy a ripping good story about characters I like, but am glad I don’t have to parent. Bring on the movie.

(This review is sponsored by MotherTalk.) For some reason I can't get blogger to post their graphic.

1 comment:

Larn said...

Well, as a Max lover, I have to say that I'm glad you and your daughter enjoyed the books. As a teen critic, I have some major problems with the later books myself (if you haven't read the fourth one in the series, beware- plotholes, OOCness, and *just bad* action scenes abound in it), but the first and second are, I believe, worthy examples of Patterson's craft.
Happy reading to you and your daughter, and although you two have probably already read this series, may I recommend Ender's Game? ;)