Maximum Ride: The Final Warning (The Protectors, Book 1) Review
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For ages now, I’ve been hearing all kinds of wonderful things about James Patterson’s Maximum Ride books from kids who can’t get enough of the series. Since I’ve never really been one to pass up a recommendation (or a James Patterson novel), I was eager to read one for myself. But I probably should have started with one of the other books in the series—because Book Four clearly wasn’t a good place to start.

Life hasn’t been easy for fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride and her flock of winged mutant friends. Every bad guy on the planet wants to control them, and every scientist on the planet wants to dissect them. The government, meanwhile, wants to put them in a special mutant school—but the flock isn’t interested.

Instead, advised by Max’s mom, Dr. Martinez, the six bird kids—Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, Angel, the Gasman (along with their talking Scottie dog, Total)—end up on an important mission. They climb aboard the Wendy K., a ship that’s headed for Antarctica, where they’ll be helping a group of scientists who are studying the effects of global warming. But as the bird kids study penguins with the scientists—who, for once, don’t want to dissect them—a new enemy is waiting to make his move.

Though I haven’t read the first three books in the Maximum Ride series, I didn’t actually have a problem jumping right into the story in The Final Warning. Patterson does a pretty good job of explaining things to newbies, so it didn’t take long for me to get a feel for the story—or to get to know (and like) the characters.

Despite the fact that Max is a mutant kid who’s part human and part bird (and despite the fact that she’s constantly battling bad guys), she’s still a pretty normal teenager—so readers will have no problem relating to her. She may be the tough, sarcastic leader of the flock, but she still has her share of insecurities—especially when it comes to her confusing feelings for Fang. Middle-aged guy Patterson writes the teenage girl character surprisingly well, too—and as you read the parts of the story that she narrates, you’ll be able to hear her voice in your head.

So my problem with The Final Warning wasn’t that I was lost in the middle of the series, and it wasn’t that I didn’t like the characters; the problem was the story. Based on what I’d heard about the series, I was expecting a thrilling teen adventure about a bunch of mutant kids who are hunted by bad guys. Unfortunately, though, Patterson spends so much time preaching about the horrors of global warming that the action and suspense are nearly non-existent.

I realize that global warming is an important issue; I’m not one of those people who believe that global warming is just a myth. I also have no problem with an author wanting to incorporate an environmental message into his novel. In fact, I applaud the effort—especially when it comes to books for kids. But in The Final Warning, Patterson repeatedly shoves the global warming issue down readers’ throats—so much so that it made me want to go out and spray a few aerosol cans in rebellion.

As I read, I kept thinking, Yeah, I get it. Global warming is bad. Get to the story, Patterson. But, unfortunately, there isn’t much of a story. There’s an underdeveloped plot involving an underdeveloped villain. There’s also a little bit of action—which still made me want to read the other, non-global-warming-based Maximum Ride novels. But, when I reached the last page, I didn’t feel like I’d just finished an exciting novel; I felt like I’d just sat through sixth grade science class.

While The Final Warning has the elements of a great teen adventure, Patterson’s preachiness spoils all the fun. So if you’ve been meaning to check out Patterson’s Maximum Ride series, I recommend skipping this one and starting elsewhere.

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