As a whole, my thoughts on Maximum Ride from The Angel Experiment to School’s Out–Forever haven’t really changed, and as such I think it would be redundant to write a review. I do have some thoughts, however, so let’s get into those. Be warned: I will not be holding back, spoiler-wise.
First, the plot. In theory, the flock did a lot of things: they went to school! They found Iggy’s parents! They located an evul company!
The only problem is that none of these things really matter. The entire “going to school yay!” subplot took up the first half or so of the book, and served absolutely no purpose to the plot. We did not learn about the characters (with the exception of the romantic subplot between Max and Fang, but more on that later); we did not progress the plot; we accomplished nothing. Now, certainly things happened outside of school (the whole “finding our parents!” stuff), but the existence of school itself did not serve the plot in any meaningful way. All it did was serve as a tool for extra filler.
However, the actual time passed during schooltimes was important on account of the flock attempting to locate their parents. So what do we do when the plot needs time to develop, but the current activity for the characters is boring? We change that current activity.
Personally, I’d remove the safety of Anne and her house–put the flock out in the wild, having to fight to survive. This could pose numerous character questions: how far will Max go to feed the flock? How will the flock act in a time of desperation? And so on. This way, rather than just having the kids at school and performing stereotypical school shenanigans straight out of a nineties cartoon, the characters are actually having to do things and struggle. And, of course, with struggle comes conflict, and with conflict comes compelling reading. The only conflict of the school plot was the headmaster, who might as well have literally been a cartoon character.
Speaking of characters, let’s talk about characters. Theoretically, this would have been JPatterson’s chance to develop the characters; he failed spectacularly in the first book, and now they have some free time to do things and, well, develop. However, instead of actually making the characters their own people, he threw them into stereotypical situations and had them react in stereotypical ways. As such, the characters never developed, and they continue to behave with single character traits for each: Angel is a little girl, Nudge is a slightly older girl, Gazzy is a young boy, Iggy is sarcastic, Fang is quiet, and Max is a horrible human being.
Also note how the younger characters are defined solely by their age and gender. Angel is a six-year-old girl, so she likes unicorns and princesses; Nudge is slightly older, so she also has interest in more pop-culturey things; Gazzy is an eight-year-old boy, so he’s got a crass sense of humor and is a trouble maker. If you remove the names, the characters aren’t even characters: they’re caricatures. And that is bad, bad, bad writing. (Not to mention sexist!)
Now, let’s discuss Itex, the evul company that’s evil because of some reason. Honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t yet heard of Fox News running a piece on this, because I imagine it’s pretty much what they think of when they think of evil liberals trying to poison our kids. Now, I don’t think Itex being an evil company is going to harm our children (and I must admit, my political views are probably more liberal than conservative), but I certainly think it shows a lot of authorial laziness and likely comes from a liberal source. Why do I think this? Because Itex is just… evil. It’s a big company, it has all kinds of products, and it’s evil. That is pretty much all I know about the company, and it seems like in JPatterson’s mind, it being a big company is reason enough for it to be evil. That, again, is lazy writing.
Back to the plot, how about the whole fake Max thing? As far as I can gather, this was the plan:
- Infiltrate the flock with a fake Max.
- Have fake Max lead the flock into the heart of the company’s headquarters.
- Ambush the flock with holographic frightening things.
So, just take a look at this. First, why do they need a fake Max? Haven’t the flock been perfectly adept at getting into places on their own? Then, why take them to the company’s headquarters? Wouldn’t it make more sense to take them to some warehouse where they can’t find company secrets?Then,why use a bunch of holograms to scare them? Why not just shoot them with tranquilizer darts or bullets?
Finally, why not just perform their end goal on the flock when they broke into their hotel room while the flock were sleeping? They kidnapped Max, is it somehow more difficult to kidnap the others, too?
The problem is, JPatterson seems to have no idea what his bad guys want. Do they want to kill the flock? Capture them? Do some mystery thing? We’re never told, JPatterson seems not to know, and their actions seem to confirm all three. It’s nothing but stupid.
Finally, the whole “Max and Fang romance!” thing this book started.
Honestly, I don’t even understand it or its point. The reader can see it coming from about a mile away, and it feels as if the only reason JPatterson included it is because “hey, they’re the two main characters and they’re the opposite sex so romantic subplot, duh!” It’s nothing but boring, because there’s no possible way it won’t end with Max and Fang together, probably with some love triangles along the way.
I also have to wonder what a romantic subplot is doing in a book about kids on the run from evil scientists. Again, it seems more like obligation to have romance in a “young adult” novel than it is any real point. The Max and Fang romance nearly rivals the Peeta/Gale love triangle in the Hunger Games for “why is this even here?”
So, there are my thoughts on Maximum Ride: School’s Out–Forever.