March 8th is International Women’s Day, and in honor of that event, I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about three women in literature who inspire me. As a disclaimer, you must keep in mind that I mostly dabble in the world of YA Fantasy, and so my choices are from that world. This is not to say that women like Scarlet O’Hara and Jane Eyre aren’t inspirational… they are simply ones that weren’t selected this time through.
Maximum Ride, James Patterson
While I generally disliked the Maximum Ride serious (or at least failed to be impressed with it) I was incredibly impressed with Max herself. She was single-minded, real, focused, and conflicted. Despite her mutation and the fact that she is a fictional character thrown into an extraordinary situation, Max reads are relatively relatable and likable. I also loved Patterson’s descriptions of flying from Max’s point of view. Made me wish I had wings. In the moments that I wanted to toss the book across the room, it was Max (max! Not Patterson’s brilliance or the other characters) that kept me reading.
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
Even when she’s soft, Holly is business. She is proud of who she is, and what she has accomplished, and she works hard to earn her stripes. She’s quick and savvy and smart, and just a generally admirable character, it’s little wonder that Artemis will always have a little bit of her with him… literally. Despite her looks, Holly is no Tinkerbell, and it’s her character that gave me hope for the mythical race of faeries.
Last, but not least -
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, JK Rowling
Ever since the first time I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I wanted to be Hermione Granger. She was like me (I thought) in so many ways – she was smart, but never beautiful, her best friends were boys, and she had something I wanted (at that age) more than anything in the world – magical powers. Even now, I admire the character and adore Emma Watson’s portrayal of her. Hermione is smart, and she made it cool for girl’s to be smart. She had leadership qualities, but is also a team player, and she is the glue that keeps the trio together. She cares about people (and mythical creatures) and she is committed and loyal. How could you not strive to be like Hermione?
Of course there are many more women in literature who are strong characters, who inspire other women of all ages to be the best person they can. When I posed the question to myself, these are the three that came to my mind – who comes to yours?
Saving the World – and Other Extreme Sports
Duration Read: February 6th to 9th, 2012. Three days.
Read Count: Once.
My Rating: Four Stars.
Summary: In MAXIMUM RIDE: SAVING THE WORLD AND OTHER EXTREME SPORTS, the time has arrived for Max and her winged “Flock” to face their ultimate enemy and discover their original purpose: to defeat the takeover of “Re-evolution”, a sinister experiment to re-engineer a select population into a scientifically superior master race…and to terminate the rest. Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman, and Angel have always worked together to defeat the forces working against them–but can they save the world when they are torn apart, living in hiding and captivity, halfway across the globe from one another?
At last! A Maximum Ride I couldn’t put down.
That is, half of it. At long last, Patterson answers some questions and cuts the flock in half, so that the reader can switch between one half and the next rather than reading about all the travel time. I felt like the flow was better in this one, there were unexpected twists and turns, and Saving the World – and Other Extreme Sports renewed my faith in the hype about the Maximum Ride series… enough that I will be picking up the next book when I run out of things to read.
However, for me, this book wasn’t perfect. Understanding that it is intended for younger readers, some of the goings-on, especially under Fang’s plotline with his blog, just didn’t do it for me as a reader. I do, however, think that younger readers will enjoy that plotline – it is the idea of kids (not just the flock, but all kids) making a stand, and I like the premise behind it, even if she my point of view it felt a little cheesy. I genuinely believe that if I were five, six years younger, I would’ve loved that angle. Really.
And, lo, do I sense a little state-of-the-world disgruntlement, James Patterson? I do like the ideas behind the series – genetic biology, environmentalism – even when I find the characters a little much.
School’s Out – forever
Duration Read: October 10th to 22nd, 2011. Twelve days.
Read Count: Once.
My Rating: Three Stars
Summary: Adventure, fighting, backstabbing and love abound” (VOYA) in this action-packed follow-up to the #1 New York Times blockbuster MAXIMUM RIDE: THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT, now available in paperback. The heart-stopping quest of six winged kids–led by fourteen-year-old Max–to find their parents and investigate the mind-blowing mystery of their ultimate destiny continues when they’re taken under the wing of an FBI agent and attempt, for the first time, to live “normal” lives. But going to school and making friends doesn’t stop them from being relentlessly hunted by sinister spies, who lead Max to face her most frightening match yet: a new and better version of herself.
Yes, yes, I know. Everybody loves Max. I think that phrase is written across all three of the Patterson books I own. I’m still trying to love Max. I still don’t.
The series is not bad. I liked the first book better than I liked School’s Out – Forever. I think that they idea of these kids going to school is a little far-fetched and ridiculous, and as much as the travelling annoyed me before, their goals seemed more realistic to their situation. And I simply couldn’t get past Anne, their caretaker. The lack-of-FBI-esque qualities that abounded in her character made me want to chuck the book across the room, and several times I found myself telling the page “Ha! And FBI agent would NEVER say that.” Obviously later on the lack of traits becomes explained, but the lack of even trying bothered me enough that it distracted me.
I have issues with the characters in general, still. The older children are less frustrating – Fang and Max, namely. Total, the dog, bears a Toto (coincidence? I think not) like resemblance to me but he’s annoying, and Angel is simply too bossy/innocent… she gets away with too much. That leaves “comic relief” to fall to Gasman and Izzy… and thus it makes them seem less vital to the story, other than being part of the flock. I do, however, give kudos to Patterson’s method of handling the situation with Izzy’s parents.
I still believe that for grades 8 through 12, the Maximum Ride series should be a huge hit. The characters are relatable, and there is less need for suspension of disbelief. Patterson’s pacing is amazing, though. As much as I may find the series disappointing (and that, too, is a danger of a series with so much hype), I can move through the books very quickly, making them a good choice for a light read.
The Angel Experiment
Duration Read: July 30th to August 6th, 2011. Seven days.
Read Count: Once.
My Rating: Three Stars
Summary: In James Patterson’s blockbuster series, fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride, better known as Max, knows what it’s like to soar above the world. She and all the members of the “flock”–Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Gasman and Angel–are just like ordinary kids–only they have wings and can fly. It may seem like a dream come true to some, but their lives can morph into a living nightmare at any time…like when Angel, the youngest member of the flock, is kidnapped and taken back to the “School” where she and the others were experimented on by a crew of wack jobs. Her friends brave a journey to blazing hot Death Valley, CA, to save Angel, but soon enough, they find themselves in yet another nightmare–this one involving fighting off the half-human, half-wolf “Erasers” in New York City. Whether in the treetops of Central Park or in the bowels of the Manhattan subway system, Max and her adopted family take the ride of their lives. Along the way Max discovers from her old friend and father-figure Jeb–now her betrayed and greatest enemy–that her purpose is save the world–but can she?
This book (and series) has a lot of hype around it, and hype can either improve or destroy my perception of a book. I tried, really tried hard to love Maximum Ride, but I didn’t. I just didn’t. It wasn’t the character – Max was well-formed and so was her flock. I think it was the plot. The plot was everywhere. And part of my frustration with the plot went along with the fact that, for one reason or another, when I read “The Angel Experiment,” I related that to the character Angel and not the obvious fact that these kids look like angels. So negative five points to me. But I still didn’t love it. However, some of the best series start off with a questionable first book, and you just have to be confident that everything will come together.
I really did like the concept, though. Genetic experiments gone wrong are my favorite type of science-fiction. I will be reading more, because there are a lot of unanswered questions, but I’m not compelled to pick up the next book immediately and read it. The questions just aren’t that pressing to me. The book is, as most of my read, geared towards a younger audience and perhaps things like the questionable maybe-it-will-happen? romance will compel readers to fly (no pun intended!) to book two. Or it may be that I’m just tired of the “omg who is she totally into?” sub plot.
There’s a lot of running in this book, which serves its purpose, but grows tiresome. Stylistically, Patterson does keep it moving, and if there’s going to be a lot of running (and flying!) around, then it really needs to be written with great flow, which Patterson definitely accomplishes.
This is great for a light, easy read. It’s enjoyable, even if I didn’t find it compelling. Max is a strong female lead who accepts help but doesn’t grovel for it. She definitely stands on her own two feet, and it’s always nice to see a protagonist like that!