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School's Out - Forever: Maximum Ride #2    by James Patterson order for
School's Out - Forever
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Maximum Ride series builds on James Patterson's two bird children novels - When the Wind Blows and The Lake House - in which winged kids spent their childhood in horrific confinement subject to laboratory experimentation.

In The Angel Experiment, valiant 14-year-old Max (Maximum) Ride nurtured her small flock of genetically modified (98% human, 2% bird) children - Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel. They were repeatedly attacked by bloodthirsty half-man, half-wolf Erasers, and sought their origins. Max learned she has a chip in her head, and frequently heard a voice in her mind, that tasked her with saving the world. Max also killed Eraser Ari in that episode. Though he's back from the dead now, it has only deepened the intense love-hate feelings Ari has for Max - based on both his admiration for her as a small child, and his jealousy of the attention his father Jeb focuses on her.

As School's Out - Forever opens, the flock is in the air (carrying dog Total), when they're attacked by Flying Erasers and one is badly injured. FBI agents show up at the hospital, led by Anne Walker, who offers them refuge in her Virginia home. After all they've been through, it seems like paradise, even after Anne enrols them in a private school with a hateful headmaster and a disturbing history. They make friends, and Max goes on a date. They fly with bats, Max discovers warp drive and a double, Angel plays mind-puppet with the leader of the free world, and they track down one set of parents. But the good life doesn't last, and after school's out, they ride the winds again towards an explosive 'date with destiny'.

James Patterson again delivers an engaging, action-packed adventure for this close-knit group of kids who've survived horrors together and have come through them with flying colors. He carefully doles out hints of why they were given flight in the first place, and steadily shows them discovering emerging talents and facing new horrors (like the Eraser self Max sees in the mirror). Along with a legion of fans, I'm curious to see what surprising storms Patterson will fly Max's flock into next.

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