I will admit that I did not have high expectations for this book. By which I mean I had one of those moments where you stand in front of the library shelves and realize you've read everything that looks even remotely good, and then you grab a random book off the shelf because it's YA. (I also admit that I may have been influenced by the fact that my grandmother read The Lake House, by the same author, and liked it. I honestly did not expect to share reading tastes with my grandmother.) But hey, I heard there were kids with wings in this book, and I have a character with wings who I love, so I thought I might as well give it a shot! I mean, otherwise I'd have to read The Brothers K. *fearful shudder*
So I checked it out, and brought it home, and opened it up, fully prepared to write a scathingly sarcastic review about how anything can be popular nowadays! Then, a hundred and sixty five pages later, I realized I might actually be enjoying this...
The plot is this. Max (short for Maximum) is one of six kids who've been genetically experimented on. The most obvious symptom of these experiments is the fact that they have wings, but as the story progresses it becomes clear that the flock has other "special talents." They escaped from the School two years ago, and are happily learning how to be normal in a house up in the mountains. Unfortunately, the people Scientists at the School are not eager to let their precious experiments just up and LEAVE like that, and they send their enforcers after the kids. Much chasing and freaky things ensue.
And really, that is it for the plot. There are chases, and escapes, and chases, and escapes, and narrow escapes, and really freakily narrow escapes, and more chasing. Unexpectedly though, I really didn't mind! It feels like the author was in love with these characters and a few ideas, so he started playing with them. He didn't really figure out where he was going with the plot until about two hundred pages in, when his editor said "ah-huh, this is great and all, but we have to sell this to kids. Make it a trilogy." And maybe I'm just in a startlingly amiable mood, but this was fine with me! I love hanging out with good characters, and the character of Max is lovely.
At the beginning of the book I was not sold on the narration, particularly because I though Max was a guy. But once I figured out that she was, in fact, female, I had a melt-down of relief and embraced the book gleefully. (That may or may not have been a literal description of my actions... ) I loved Max's voice once I got used to it, especially her wry comments on events such as hearing voices. (Can I also say I loved the genius hacker schizophrenic boy? Is that allowed?) Since this book is a continuation of two books for "grown ups" it starts out with many things already established, including the evil nature of the people at the School. I was particularly annoyed by how often they felt the need to repeat the evil nature of the deeds of the School. Then I met the white-coats of the School, and I no longer minded anyone mentioning the fact that they'd rather die than go back there. The habit of telling me things before they were shown was actually my main quibble with the book, though by the end of it I no longer minded.
Despite the number of pages in this book, it was a very fast read. I think I got through the 422 pages in under two hours, which has something to do with my reading speed, but also had a lot to do with the font size, four-page chapters, and easy comprehension level of the book. If you pick it up, don't expect it to take a weekend to get through. However, if you do pick it up, expect to have to seek out the other stories in the trilogy. The ending manages to both resolve almost nothing, and add new questions.
So yes. Plot was meh, then WAIT HOW IS THIS THE END??? characters were win, voice was win. A lovely, exciting, fluffy/dramatic read. I gave it four stars out of five.