Oh, where to start with this book. There’s just so much wrong with it!
Okay. Let’s start with the plot. We join the flock in Louisiana, after they broke into an Itex branch in Florida. (Well, it’s only an Itex branch in this book–if I recall correctly, it’s referred to as the headquarters in the previous book.) In possession of a laptop from the branch that they supposedly got after escaping, even though this was never mentioned in the previous book, they’re heading west for no particular reason. Only of course they get captured, because what’s a Maximum Ride book without being captured by the bad guys at least once per book?
This brings us to the one of the more pointless portions of a Maximum Ride book. The first half of the book, really, is dedicated the the flock wandering around, getting captured, and then escaping, which is ultimately pointless; the only thing this section does is to cover a bit of basic setup. After escaping with Ari, the flock split up, Max taking Nudge, Angel, and Ari, and Fang taking Iggy and Gazzy. Fang, Iggy, and Gazzy go on to accomplish absolutely nothing other than not be with the others and do some blogging (more on that later), while Max’s group spend much too long sightseeing in Europe. Finally they get captured again, this time in the real Itex headquarters in Germany. After a bait-and-switch regarding Max’s biological mother, the book climaxes with a corny showdown where nothing really happens.
Obviously there’s a lot wrong with this. The first half of the book is wasted on stuff that could have happened in a fraction of the space, though Max does manage to get her hand made unusable and then have it magically fixed (yay for science fixing an unfixable wound!); there’s a decent sized section set in England and France that’s literally just Max’s group visiting tourist attractions and failing to progress the plot; Fang’s group get a small portion of the book, and yet the only thing of importance they do is blog, rallying kids worldwide to help the flock (which, by the way, is the most contrived, ridiculous, and just plain stupid plotting I’ve ever seen); and in the end, nothing is actually done to stop the bad guys . Seriously. Max flies the Big Bad up into the air, scares her a little bit, ostensibly escapes, and then we skip forward a week or two and the flock have just magically stopped Itex. It’s simply the laziest plotting imaginable.
And then there’s the flock themselves. Over the course of three books, they go from being isolated up in the mountains to visiting tourist attractions to going through some scary stuff, so you’d think they’d change and grow a little bit, right?
Wrong. The Max at the end of the third book is identical to the Max at the beginning of the first book. I cannot think of a single way her character has changed, and while not every story will create growth within its characters, like I said: a lot of stuff happens to the flock that would change them, and it doesn’t. They’re stereotypical kids through and through. It’s infuriating how poorly the characters progress.
It doesn’t help that the characters are incredibly shallow. Max, being our narrator, gets a bit more depth than the others–we see some of what bothers her, what makes her feel happy, but that’s never taken anywhere as it should and so she continues to be a rather flat character. The rest of the flock don’t even get the illusion of depth, sadly. Even though Iggy gets a chapter in the second book where he agonizes over his blindness and he then has a bit of a breakdown, his character never evolves as a part of this and it’s pretty much forgotten after the second book.
I want to talk a little bit about Iggy’s blindness, though. On the one hand, this is really cool–having a disabled hero is great. However, because of Iggy’s poor characterization, he really only has two character traits: his sarcasm, and his blindness. The first book does better, of course, but the second and third books seem to find it necessary to bring up his blindness at least half of the time he’s brought up, rarely for any actual reason. Then there’s the fact that he has magical, impossible echolocation that frees him of half the burden of being blind, which feels like a cheap way out and I think sends a bad message: are you blind? Well, you can still be a hero, but first you’ll need echolocation that works better than possible!
While Iggy is handled pretty poorly, I think that Ari, is easily the worst character in the series. He starts out as an angry villain, resentful of how Jeb treated him in relation to Max, then in the second book he becomes some sort of sociopath, acting without morals and with the mind of the seven-year-old he’s supposed to be. In the third book, however, he goes through a random change of characterization and becomes a lot more grounded and “normal,” and even ends up being a good guy. None of his different characterizations ever make sense in relation to one another, and he reads more like a tool JPatterson uses however is convenient than an actual character.
Going back to the second book, I think it’s easily the worst of the three. Not only is the writing terrible as always, but the plot is almost entirely insignificant–while it does introduce Itex, it doesn’t actually do anything with the company and all of the important information could have been put into the beginning of the third book in place of the unnecessary bits. The first half of the second book, similar to the third, is simply pointless: the most it does is begin some character arcs with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, but then those character arcs–Iggy’s resentment, Max’s protectiveness of the flock, Angel’s questionable morals–are completely dropped as if they never happened. It seems as if JPatterson thought the books were going in one direction in the second book, then decided to go somewhere else in the third book without paying heed to what he had already written.
Then there’s the random powers JPatterson gave the characters. Over the course of the first book, Angel is established to have mind reading abilities, Gazzy is established to have voice mimicing powers, and Nudge gains the ability to “read” objects to find out who used them and such. Not only do these powers make no sense whatsoever, but they also seem to exist for no reason whatsoever–Gazzy’s power is never used for anything but throwaway lines and gags, Angel’s powers grow to let her control minds to hurt enemies when convenient, until they gain the magical ability to block it, and Nudge’s power manifests itself just as it’s needed and then is mentioned about three times afterwards. Again, it’s lazy writing.
That’s the thing with these books, really: they’re lazy. JPatterson seems to have put no thought in them, and the random changes in plot and villain motivations even within books makes it clear that he never had any idea where he was trying to go. I mean, let’s take a look at the villain’s actions through the books:
1st book: they capture Angel, leaving the rest of the flock, then alternate between trying to kill the flock and capture them. Makes perfect sense!
2nd book: they randomly attack the flock with no logical goal, then decide to clone Max, replace Max with the clone, put Max into some weird stasis thing, then lead the rest of the flock into an Itex branch to do… something.
3rd book: they capture the flock and try to convince them that everything that had happened so far was a dream. Why they did this, I’m not sure, because they then proceed with a plan to kill the flock in the most drawn-out way possible. Meanwhile, they’re working on a bizarre plan to kill half of the world’s population, and upon capturing the flock a second time they first intend to sell the flock to China (apparently that wasn’t in the picture the first time the flock was captured?), then decide to kill the flock after a drawn-out, nonsensical, pointless competition between Max and a new superhuman they created.
So throughout the first two books, the villains have no discernible goal, and their motivations even seem to change halfway through the third book–it just makes no sense. I simply don’t think that JPatterson had any idea what he was doing the entire time he wrote the series, and I’m really disappointed that he would even consider publishing them. They read like first drafts that had sections he intended to flesh out, change, and make more cohesive, but then he decided that he’d just send them to the publisher. It’s lazy, irresponsible, and I’m just sickened that anyone thought these books were a good idea to publish. Except that since JPatterson is practically a franchise at this point, anything he writes is guaranteed to sell and so there is no limit on what crap he can put out–I bet he’d be able to publish a branded phonebook and have it sell millions. And that’s just irritating.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find a place to put these books where I won’t have to look at them.