Thanks to Trudi Jaye, our Guest Host!
Robert’s quick summary:
Max (full name: Maximum Ride) is 14 and can fly. Part of a secret group of six kids bred to be genetically altered, complete with avian DNA and big wings. Max is the oldest, and after their surrogate “dad,” Jeb, smuggled them out of the horrible cages they were forced to endure; taught them how to fight and look after themselves, then left them a couple of years ago (presumed dead), Max has had to look after the “Flock” as best as she could.
But the “School” that created them wants them back, and keeps sending other genetic mutations (“Erasers”), horrible human kids who morph into wolves, to try to capture them.
When Angel, the youngest of the Flock, is taken by Erasers, Max vows to find her and to finally find out the truth about why the School made them in the first place … and discover the answer to everyone’s bringing questions: do they have real parents? If so, why did they give them up to the School?
The Angel Experiment is by James Patterson
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Robert) I thought it was terrible! I was looking forward to a great page-turner from a titan of authors (it’s a reasonable page-turner, but that’s all I could say about it). This review more or less summed it up for me:
Patterson is well known for his use of ghostwriters to fill out drafts from his ideas and premises. Many fans seem to think that he actually penned at least the first three books in this series himself, which only makes it worse. The writing is childish, contains way too much telling, is possibly too adult in content for a young audience, and the 12+ who might be the intended readership would laugh at this compared to something as sophisticated as Harry Potter. I found it insulting to the reader’s intelligence. The way they have casual conversations as they fly in windy skies is bizarre. Funny that some things date a book (Palm Pilots seen as cool?? Haha)
2. (Robert) Reads like Grandad tried to write The Hunger Games. There were some good plot twists, one that I didn’t see, and one that was sooo obvious it was a barn door. And … Plot hole city: Why didn’t anyone see their wings? Why didn’t Angel read more minds? Why does Max know how to hotwire a van but not drive? Iggy is blind but seems to run with them easily (which they do a lot). A head on crash at 50-60 mph and they walk away because the airbags work? Why did they love the “Taylor Twins” concert? If New York was a surprise, and they’d been in isolation … so much contradiction and not explained. They slip out of the trees in Central Park one busy early morning … unnoticed! No other kids at the zoo notice their retractable 13-feet wings. What is the chip? Does it track Max? Why isn’t this a central point of discussion? They’re all smelly and bloodied, yet walk casually into a sleek office block reception and aren’t questioned. I did like the “Chucky’s Back!” moment with Angel’s mind commanding others – there are good moments.
3. (Trudi) The action and the short chapters made it an easy read. Kept it moving forward really fast. I wanted to know more about what was going on. There are some good mysteries involved. “We’re the good guys” comment from Ari, Who is Jeb? Why do they think Max is going to save the world?
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Robert) Why is this book (and series) so loved? It gets better reviews than Blood Red Road, which stands head and shoulders over this comic-book, churned out simplistic rubbish. Shows how a big name can get away with a lot. If this had been indie-published it would have been savaged (or edited!). There are so many convenient moments: “Hey, a free makeover, just when we’re attracting way too much attention and have been splashed across the NYT front page! And the stylists changed all our clothes and never spotted our giant wings! So lucky!” “Hey! A voice in my head that has all the answers, or withholds them when we need story tension!”
2. (Robert) I liked that with the multiple POV, Max was always first person, past-tense, the others third-person, past-tense. Never a question about whose story it was. I did wonder about the use of metaphors such as “Kodak moment.” Would these be in use by a 14 yr-old in 2005?
3. (Trudi) I thought the whole bit where Max flies off to rescue the girl and then ends up with Ella and her mother was random, and not very well done. The book read as if it had been pants’d, and the author didn’t know where they were going half the time. The section of them in New York was actually kind of enjoyable, but it felt weird, like it was a different book. I actually think the first book should just have been them trying to rescue Angel ,and then it should have stopped when they got her and escaped.
More from Trudi: I would do more showing – there was a lot of tell. I was told that Max and Angel were really close, but I didn’t really feel it, so I wasn’t particularly worried when Angel was kidnapped. I didn’t feel the emotion I should have, and that was a huge hole in the book. It could have been so much more if they’d worked on setting the atmosphere a little more, developed the connection of the flock to each other, showed how much they loved each other. As it was, I didn’t get that, and I felt like it was all fairly shallow in terms of their connection to each other.
Bonus disgruntlement from Snobbert: the dialog has almost no misdirection (ref: The Scorpio Races where the characters rarely actually answer one another). Almost everyone just responds to the other in a logical fashion. “Who’s your mommy?” “I don’t know, Nudge.”
Trudi and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. A quick read. Good for a kid who is sick in bed; on a plane, or has low expectations. Is credited with getting some kids to read, so beware of Snobbert.
2. The characters were actually rather good, I (Trudi) thought their personalities and traits were actually one of the bits of the book that were well done.
3. A pacey read with lots of action (mostly fighting or running away), would suit young boys … except the MC is a girl.
Prompt of the Week:
You wake up in a cage to find you’ve been undergoing genetic alterations. What newfound skill do you wish you had, and why will it make returning to society extremely dangerous?