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The Angel Experiment: Maximum Ride    by James Patterson order for
Angel Experiment
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

James Patterson's new teen series, Maximum Ride, builds on his two previous bird children novels, When the Wind Blows and The Lake House. He tells us that the similarities end with the basic idea of avian kids, the character Max, and the infamous School, where the winged kids spent their childhood in horrific laboratory confinement and experimentation.

Valiant young Max (Maximum) is a delightful fourteen-year-old girl with a charming point of view. She takes responsibility for her flock of genetically modified children (all 98 percent human and 2 percent bird) - Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel. Each has a unique talent. For example, Angel reads minds. These bird children are paranoid, and rightly so. They're out enjoying nature on a strawberry picking expedition when the first attack comes and six-year-old Angel is taken from them by Erasers. These bloodthirsty half-man, half-wolf mutants join the whitecoats (lab scientists) as the villains of the series.

The first surprise is that one of the Erasers has been mutated from Ari, seven-year-old son of the flock's father figure, Jeb, the one who originally released and mentored them. As the flock flies off on a rescue mission to the School in California, surprises and violent ambushes continue to unfold. After detours (Max helps a girl being bullied, Fang studies hawks, Nudge seeks her real parents, while Iggy and the Gasman become saboteurs) Angel's freedom is won, and the bird children take flight for New York City and the Institute where they hope to find answers to their parentage. En route, Max suffers painful mental assaults and hears 'the Voice'.

The Angel Experiment doesn't pull any punches, with fast action, regular violent attacks, and stereotypically evil villains. This first in the Maximum Ride series raises many questions for future episodes to address. Max and readers learn that mysterious others have a role planned for her, and that she may be a major player in 'a huge, twisted, sick, important game.' But all Max wants to do is to nurture her flock - as she tells Voice, 'my friends are my world.'

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