When I started reading Maximum Ride #3: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, I wasn't really sure what to think. I think that a lot of the problem for me comes from the fact that I had not read either of the first two books. I can't recommend jumping into the series with the third book. There are quite a few moments in the book where allusions are made to events which occurred in the previous volumes which seem like they'd be more meaningful with greater knowledge of the series. Since I haven't read the previous books, I'll talk some about what I liked about this book and why I think that it might be worth picking up the first two and reading the entire series.
James Patterson is a very prolific writer with a rather impressive bibliography. It is particularly impressive to me that he can switch from suspense and crime novels intended for an adult audience to SF/Fantasy/Adventure intended for an audience of adolescents. I will admit that, as a grown-up, I found some of the plotting a bit facile and some of the dialog a bit forced, I'm really not the intended audience. Once I put away my prejudices and just turned myself over to the book, I found it very engaging and quite enjoyable.
I really admire the handling of technology in this book. It would be easy, given a corporate monster with the resources to build robots and genetically altered humans, to over-emphasize technology. While technology is present in the books, its use is more in keeping with the technologies that the kids reading the book use every day. Rather than using tech solutions, most of the conflicts in the story are settled with ingenuity and/or fists and kicks.
And speaking of fists and kicks. The fight sequences are fast paced and walk a delicate balance between graphic descriptions of adrenaline fueled fighting for survival and acknowledging that the audience may not be ready for graphic descriptions of injuries and/or brutality. (One of the problems that I had, having not read the previous books, was that I was uncertain on several occasions whether past events were glossed over because the author assumed that the reader had read the first books, or whether it was an artistic choice to leave the descriptions vague so as not to disturb the sensibilities of his younger audience and/or their parents.
Ultimately, I'm feeling positively about the series not so much because of anything that I can write up in a review, but because I closed the book wishing that I was a 14 year old girl with an unshakable faith I could change the world and that I am a vital part of an untapped resource for positive change. These feelings are what I believe will keep kids turning pages and inspire them to search out books that offer that kind of affirmation and encouragement.
In the end, I wanted to read this book because I wanted to see what was out there for the tween and teen children of my friends. A lot of people are asking right now about what will follow Harry Potter. I'm not sure that it matters what kids pick up next as long as they pick up something. Maximum Ride offers them a story with protagonists their own age who are setting out to make a tangible difference. We could do a lot worse.
[ETA -- I hate it when I save a post rather than publishing it...]