Final Ruling: 4/5 stars
(If you want to avoid the spoilers, please avoid the italics)
Okay, so let me preface this with the fact that I read this book a long long long time ago, like when I was in elementary school; but that doesn’t really mean much because I also read novels meant for adults at that age too (yes, I was that kid). Anyways, I adored this book just as much as I did when I was young, probably because I still have this morbid fascination with science gone wrong, genetic experiments and the like. Maybe that makes me a freak in turn, but I can’t help what keeps my eyes glued to the page. The characters were beautifully developed and remarkably unique, by the end of the book I felt like I had a personal and emotional connection to each and every one of them. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know that the characters and their growth are the most important part of any book for me, so to find a book that has both an interesting premise and captivating characters is absolutely phenomenal. So I tip my metaphorical hat to Mr. Patterson for making me a part of the twisted and remarkable world of Max and her family. But aside from all of that, there were some serious drawbacks that forced me to lower my overall rating.
Let’s get right into explaining the negatives, in order to get the heartbreak of writing these words over with. Now, I know that this is a book for younger kids so keep in mind that this is something I also kept in mind while I was reading. However, the fact that this was meant for people younger than me does not completely excuse the childish prose and anticlimactic reveals. Yes, the book was written for children, but it was not written by a child, which is frankly what it felt like some of the time. At some points, it even felt like Patterson was trying way too hard to sound like a child. Yes, the book was written from the point of view of a teenage girl, but let’s be honest, no teenager’s inner monologue sounds as childish as Max’s.
(CAUTION: spoilers ahead)
Speaking of childish, can we PLEASE talk about that awful, over-dramatic, and trite revelation that Jeb is actually Max’s father. Yes, the book does build up to this, but the way it is revealed was very very anticlimactic and nearly made me laugh out loud at the means of revelation: Jeb literally yelling to Max down the hallway thing that she had just killed her brother, Ari. There were so many ways that Patterson could have revealed this, ways that would have made more sense, would have had a much higher shock factor, and would have improved the quality of the whole book itself. He had such a good thing going, too, with Max starting to see through Ari’s facade. But alas, Patterson didn’t feel that he could stave off the reveal, and thus killed Ari and ruined the interesting dynamic between the two.
Now onto the positive parts of the book which, in my opinion, do outshine the negatives. First of all, the characters; the characters are fantastic. I fell in love with each and every one of the flock in turn. I adored Max’s dedication and love for her family, Fang’s intelligence, Nudge’s badass innocence (if that makes sense…), Iggy’s refusal to let his disability limit him, Gazzy’s strength, and Angel’s compassion. How amazing it is to finally see a book with such strong familial bonds, I really don’t see that enough. Family is so so so important and it is wonderful to see somebody acknowledge that in a young adult book.
In addition to the characters themselves, the book is so captivating because of what has happened to them. The whole idea of genetic experimentation is so fascinating to me, and I adore reading about it, no matter how sick and twisted that makes me. It gives me a morbid sense of curiosity as well as a broken heart to read about the
(CAUTION: spoilers ahead)
School and the Erasers and the other experiments on children that Patterson described, especially the ones that Angel came in contact with during her time back at the school. She read their thoughts and found that not only were the children physically deformed, but they were mentally compromised as well, unable to form coherent thoughts. Some of them died mere minutes after she encountered them. The scientists that work at the School and the Institute make me sick; I cannot even fathom the fact that anybody could treat another person, no matter how little humanity is left in them, like they treat the children they experiment on. They keep them in freaking dog crates, as if they have no thoughts or feelings. They are horrific human beings for doing something like that (Jeb in particular). Speaking of that, let’s talk about Jeb for a hot second. He disgusts me, seriously disgusts me. He pretends to be a friend to the flock, pretends to save them, to take care of them, makes himself their father figure, and then abandons them to return to the School and the white-coats, who he was working for the whole time. He has a stupid head and a stupid face and does not deserve to even be in contact with the flock. He took literally everything from them, making him impossibly more horrible than he already is for condoning what the School and the Institute are doing. Ugh, I have so many feelings about him I can barely form coherent sentences.
(end of spoilers)
I would recommend this book to anybody who desperately wants to be whisked away to a world existing just underneath our noses, a world of twisted science, a world in which the primary goal is to find the humanity in the not-quite-human.