(Disclaimer: If nobody reads this, it's fine. I'm writing for a niche community within a niche community: the people that read the series and hated it. If I'm the only one who feels this strongly, I wouldn't be surprised at all.)
It's past lunchtime. I'm sad. I feel the great need to spill my sorrows on the series that promised me so much, gave me nothing but disappointment, and keeps calling me back with fake promises that it'll be "better the second time".
I got into Maximum Ride because I love the idea of winged humans. Always have–maybe to an obsessive degree, I admit. Currently designing my own species for my books, and for many years I've researched birds, aviation, hypothetical anatomy, adapted clothing, even diet constraints. I won't say I'm a licensed authority on winged humans or anything, but suffice to say I know things.
Maximum Ride sounded cool! A dream come true. Diverse, colorful young characters, humor, adventure, and of course wings for all. I tried the manga first–was mildly saddened by the poor drawings of the wings in question–but not yet totally discouraged. I decided to give the books a shot.
That's how I realized that not only was the realism aspect very…..screwy…..but the plot. The plot was an absolute train-wreck that only got worse with each new book. Who is the enemy? What do they want with the Flock? Why all these puzzles and mysteries that ultimately lead nowhere? What about these side-plots that seem jammed in as an after-thought, only to be dropped after a few chapters?
At first I was willing to excuse it as intentional. The author wants to add conflict, intrigue, excitement. Not my thing, but okay. That works until an editorial slip-up forgets to correct the part where the so-called Ultimate Evil Corporation, the one the Flock are supposed to defeat, is suddenly posed as the people that created Max to save the world. And no, it wasn't a plot twist. It was a mistake.
I'm getting so angry just writing all this down. This is a highly popular series by an "acclaimed" author who has an entire bookshelf dedicated to his works at our library. I've read fanfic on the internet with more quality, depth, and consistency. This is drabble. This is mind-melting.
And I'm not done! Oh no. We haven't covered the massive problem of relationships in this series. The stupid romance arc between Max and Fang that should have been canonized by book 4 at least, only to be ousted by a god-forsaken love triangle. Now, I don't hate Dylan. He's a sweetie and none of this is his fault. But he never should have existed. The world is ending, and the only thing Max cares about is petty arguments with her family and snuggling with a cute clone. But hey, she is 15, so maybe that's actually realistic. No offense to 15-year-olds. Point is, the romance is dumb and vaguely toxic and makes me hurt.
Then there's the millions of tiny inconsistencies. Is Max blonde? Brunette? Yes. What color are her wings? Yes. What about Nudge, Iggy, and Gazzy, the famously forgotten members of the flock? What do they look like? Depends on which book you read. At least they couldn't get Fang's solid black color pallet wrong. Bravo.
Then there's the wings themselves. The arm-length, hide-under-jacket, highly-acrobatic, falcon/hawk/pheasant-esque, telescoping wings. I cry every time I read the new ways the author comes up with to butcher realistic flight. You can't hover when you're huge. You can't fly sideways. You can't carry heavy loads, particularly not people. You can't hide large wings under clothing in ANY CAPACITY. And you can't have TELESCOPING BONES.
I need to calm down.
The last two books broke me. They were so dark, so depressing, so fundamentally flawed that I couldn't tell what I was reading half the time. People died, but who cares? They'll come back in a few chapters. People kiss. So what? At this point I'm emotionally numb. Angel is a mentally shattered 8-year-old and Iggy and Gazzy don't seem to exist anymore. Why is the story even continuing? The world ended ages ago, and frankly that was a better finale. The entire experience Forever gave me was so surreal and ludicrous.
Honestly though…..I can deal with a bad story. I can shake my head and move on. But the problem with Maximum Ride is that…the potential is there. It had so many chances to be an amazing story, from the unique characters to the friendships they develop to the scope of the world they live in. Heck, even the final chapter, with Pheonix, is surprisingly sweet and hopeful. It's just all….twisted. Improperly handled. Turned into cliché. And every time I remember the series, I'm drawn back by the good parts, the stuff that could have been. It's so tangible that sometimes I think I'll find it if I go back. But of course, I won't. I'll just be reminded of the still-fresh emotional wounds that you can only receive from an unhealthy relationship. Thanks for the memories, Max. James Patterson, screw you.
(This broadcast was brought to you by a reader who saw HAWK on the shelf at Walmart and felt their heart drop into their boots. Please no more, please James, just let this die)