I am a reader. I read something for pleasure pretty much every day, even if I can only manage a few pages right before my body and mind collapse into an exhausted pile. I like a variety of genres and I also enjoy interspersing young adult fiction into my reading lineup. Not because of any sort of arrested development but more because it brings back great memories of spending long hours with books as a kid. I have read the Harry Potter series, of course, and in the last year reread a few of my childhood favorites like the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series (ok, not the whole series, just a handful). I love thinking about the books that Gabe will be reading as a youth. He has always been completely enamored with books and with the plethora of books strewn about our house, I expect his love for books to continue. In fact, I have many a book ready and waiting for him to “grow into them” so to speak.
Thanks to MotherTalk’s current blog tour, I had the opportunity to preview (and critique) the latest YA fiction novel from James Patterson, Maximum Ride III: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. I promise not to give you any spoilers, but I do want to give a bit of flavor on the book at the start.
The premise of the story is quite interesting. Genetic mutations have been created that allow for hybrid humans to exist. The main characters of the book are bird kids, humans with avian genetic material. Their bones are lighter than normal, they have greater muscle mass, their metabolism is such that they require food at very regular intervals and, oh yes, they have wings and can fly. The book starts with the classic tale of the mutant’s creators hunting them down to eliminate them because they have outgrown their usefulness. Classic. It’s a model that has worked in the past and has the potential to keep working. I like the model because it includes a bit of the known, a bit of the unknown, and a few twists and turns along the way.
Overall, the book had a great deal of potential, but I felt that it fell short. It seemed that every time there was a chance for the story to delve a bit further into plot detail, action sequences, or expand a character’s thoughts and feelings, it would abruptly move on to the next bit of the tale. Perhaps the author felt that this would be a way to keep the story moving. I found, however, that it made the story feel choppy, disjointed, and superficial. I will admit that I am an information junkie. I love to get as much detail as possible. Meaningful detail. I have read many a story where I kept thinking, “Why are you telling me this? Move on.” In MRIII, I was left thinking, “Is that all? I want to know more.” There are times when the consumer should be left wanting more. It’s a sales tactic that can pay off when used properly. It is not a good tactic for an author to use unless that author is planning to follow through with the “more” later in the story, and leaving out the detail is a way to keep the reader interested. When I started the book, I had hoped that this was the author’s style and that I would be rewarded by continuing to read. I was disappointed to find that my curiosity would not be rewarded and the payoff for continuing to read was to find myself at the end of a not-so-fulfilling book.
Now, I will say that this book is the third in a series and I have not read the first two. Perhaps the other two books expanded upon the characters to the degree that I was seeking. The author does take a moment in MRIII, as the voice of the main character, to bring the reader up to speed if the earlier books were not read or were, perhaps, read a long time ago. In fact, there are periodic “speak to the reader” moments sprinkled throughout the book. I didn’t like them. Would I have liked them as a teen? Probably not. And I also know that as a teen I would have also wanted more detail from the story. But I was not every teen.
Do I think that this book is good as YA fiction to get kids reading? You will be surprised, but yes, I actually think it is. For the right kid. I see this book as extremely light YA fiction, which is suited well either for the very young advanced reader ready to move into novels or for the older young adult (is that self-contradictory?) who has not been a big fan of reading to get a taste for an adventure in words. The straightforward nature and lack of side-tracking with detail might just get that individual to stick with the story long enough to find out that reading can be fun. That’s the thing with reading. Just as we all have our own personalities, we all have our own reading preferences. When I read a story, I want to step into the story and experience it first-hand. Without enough detail and plot expansion, I am really not able to do that. And I was definitely not able to become engaged with MRIII. But, I know others who simply want an interesting story, told in a sparse fashion, and who have no interest in stepping into the story itself. MRIII could be perfect for the latter reader. For the former, like me, it would not be a part of the bedside book pile.
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that in exchange for my book review, I was offered, and accepted, a free review copy of the book and an amazon.com gift certificate.