The "About the Author" section at the end of MAX (for ages 12 and up) mentions that James Patterson has sold over 160 million books worldwide. So in other words, he's basically sold 2 books for every person in Germany. That's pretty ridiculous.(Read more about Patterson in this interview by the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.)
But by page 14 of MAX it's obvious why he's so popular: James Patterson is a really fun writer. See, the flock — that's Max (the narrator), plus 5 other kids and a talking dog, all of whom have wings and can fly (just go with me on this) — are doing this air show, when all of a sudden the dog gets shot. Max grabs the dog, who's named Total (like Toto), and begins inspecting him for wounds. And the entire time, Total is doing this hilarious "woe is me" speech: "I don't have many regrets. . . True, I thought about a career in the theater, once our adventures waned. I know it's just a crazy dream, but I always hoped for just one chance to play the Dane before I died." Ha! See, "the Dane" refers to Hamlet, which is widely accepted as one of the greatest roles ever written, but a Dane is also a kind of dog! Get it? (It turns out Total is completely OK and was drastically overreacting.)
OK, so maybe I'm kinda breaking my long-standing rules about 1) not giving away plot stuff and 2) not explaining jokes, which is the most surefire way to rob any joke of all of its funny. But in this case, I'm not so worried. And that's because MAX is filled with dozens of hilarious little jokes and references like that; Mr. Patterson drops one, gives you about 2 seconds to get it, and then jumps to the next one. Spoiling one for you isn't the end of the world. The other thing that helps assuage my guilt is that the plot of MAX is by far one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read in my entire life, and it's very clear from the outset that Mr. Patterson knows it. He barely seems to care about the plot, to be honest. I'm guessing that for him, this ludicrous story is just an excuse to write fun dialogue for these characters and narrate a book in Max's wry, witty, self-deprecating voice.
The title of the book is apt, because Max really is the star here. She's the leader of the flock, so she's the main character; but more important, the reader sees everything that happens in the book through her eyes. And as a traditional narrator, Max is terrible. She keeps going off on these asides and rants about things that tick her off, and half the time it seems like she almost forgets that she's supposed to be telling a story. But Mr. Patterson does a phenomenal job of making Max funny, believable, and likable, so her shortcomings as a storyteller just end up making the whole book funnier and livelier. (There's a brief chapter where the narration shifts from Max's point of view to a generic third-person POV, and it's the most boring chapter in the book by far.)
Now I should probably give at least some sort of overview of the plot, so here it is: Max and the flock have to defeat some bad guys. And I should probably talk about the book's healthy doses of romance, fast-paced action, and pro-environmentalism. . . but honestly, none of that stuff really made much of an impression on me. Not that it was poorly done — far from it. It's just that I had so much fun listening to Max go off on her snarky rants that the rest of the book seemed pretty bland in comparison. I highly, highly recommend that you pick this book up and enjoy a solid 300 pages inside Max's neurotic, sarcastic, hilarious world.
What do you think, guys? The Maximum Ride series – thumbs up or thumbs down? Let me know in the comments!
— Jack, STACKS Writer