So I was talking about YA fiction the other day, and how I didn't have it to read when I was (ahem) a young adult. So I'm making up for it now, and my latest foray was James Patterson's Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. As my earlier reading choices indicate, I was and am a sucker for plot: move it fast and I'm yours for the ride. A little mystery and a little romance are good, too. Maximum Ride has all of the above. It reads, indeed, like you're watching a movie: every scene can be visualized, every encounter moves the plot forward. It's exciting and fun, and it's absolutely meant for kids from about 12 to 16. (Nick, who just turned ten, started it, but I found his bookmark on page 54, right where the first kiss takes place He swears that's not why he stopped reading, but he also hasn't asked for it back.)
Saving the World is book three of Patterson's Maximum Ride series, but I found it easy enough to start here with a narrator who helpfully brings readers up to speed this way:
Those of you who picked up this book cold, even though it's clearly part three of a series, well, get with the program, people! I can't take two days to get you all caught up on everything! Here's the abbreviated version (which is pretty good, I might add)…
Max, the titular character (yes, Maximum Ride is a name), narrates about half the chapters, with the others going to an omniscient narrator who's able to fill us in on the action that takes place out of Max's sight. And there's plenty: winged kids, werewolves, a talking dog, telepathy, cloning, and blogging (yes! Blogging as a plot point!) keep the story moving forward. There's an appealing cast of characters, though I did have trouble keeping a few of them straight at first (with names like Fang, Iggy, Angel, Gasman and Nudge, they did all run together at times--particularly Nudge, whom I'd completely forgotten until I picked up the book to refresh my memory). And while the "evil scientist wants to rule the world" storyline has been done before, and while the evil scientist lapses into explanatory mode much in the manner of a James Bond villain, and to similar effect (allowing our heroes enough time to reflect and perhaps save themselves) a little too often, still the overall effect is exciting and fun. The short chapters (2-3 pages) contribute to the sense of urgency and speed. I might quibble with the snarky knowingness of the narrative, which too often addresses the reader in a somewhat postmodern "this is all a fiction, right?" way, but I have to admit I also find it fun--and, more to the point, I think a lot of teen readers will.
This book is pure escapism. It'll make a great movie (and I can't wait to see the special effects.) Sure, there's a message--"kids can make a difference"--but the pleasure of the book is in the action and the characters--and that's a considerable pleasure.