Suspense/Thriller


maximumride1Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Little, Brown and Company

For fourteen year-old Max and the others in her care, life is anything but normal. How can it be even close when she has wings bursting out of her back? Max and the others spend their lives hiding from scientists who would put them back in cages and continue the genetic experiments which resulted in their avian mutations. Just when Max thinks the coast is clear, and she and her friends are safe, the Erasers, frighteningly strong boys who morph into wolves, close in on them. When one member of the flock is captured, Max and the others have only one choice: they must rescue her from the lab where they were once imprisoned.

Max finds more than her lost team member when she reaches her former home. A mentor who helped them escape seems now to have betrayed them. He warns Max that nothing is what it appears. Everything is a test. A strange voice in Max’s head echoes the strange idea and leads Max and her friends on an even more perilous journey to uncover a secret which they desperately want to know: who are their parents?

Maximum Ride is packed with action and teen angst, but the ending was a bit anti-climactic, almost as if the book ended partway through the story. Max is above all an empathetic leader committed to protecting the weak, no matter the cost. Her struggle to discover who she is makes for a powerful undercurrent to Patterson’s first book in the Maximum Ride Series.

Language Content
Mild. H*ll appears a couple of times.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
The central characters are part of genetic experiments and spent a great portion of their childhood locked in cages like animals. After their escape, their former captors pursue them, making for some moderately gory battle scenes.

Drug Content
None.

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black_helicopters

Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston / Candlewick Press

She heard the sound of the black helicopters approaching the day Mabby died. Since then, Valley and her big brother Bo have been hiding and waiting for their Da to come home. Staying out of sight because you never know when Those People will show up again. Valley wants to help. Da sends messages to Those People, ones they will not forget. Ticking packages that make Them listen.

But Da is gone now, and it is only Valley and Bo. Bo is forgetting. Only Valley remembers what Da said. Only Valley sees the bigger game. She will make Those People listen to her message. With one flick of her finger, they will feel her pain, her terror and never forget.

Indoctrinated from her youth, all Valley knows of the world is that it’s not safe. Life is carefully controlled by an elusive group who will shoot down anyone who tries to live outside their ways. The black helicopters will come. She marches along a dark path, fraught with poverty and abuse, determined to continue in her father’s footsteps. To destroy the world her enemies have created and make her voice and her story heard. Woolston creates a haunting tale of misery and paints the humanizing but tragic story of a girl whose life prepares her for only one fate: to become a suicide bomber. Readers who enjoyed Impulse by Ellen Hopkins or Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher will enjoy this novel.

Language Content
A small handful of heavy curses.

Sexual Content
Valley is abused by a man who is supposed to care for her and her brother. One scene briefly but graphically describes the abuse.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
This is the story of a suicide bomber, so it’s heavy material. However, there is little violence described. Valley threatens a boy and his dog. Her mother dies standing outside in a garden, but there is no gore.

Drug Content
Valley’s brother Bo drinks beer. Valley sips mead and elderberry wine.

Reviewer’s Note: A Deeper Look

K L HeinlyI finished reading Black Helicopters as news of the attack in Boston began to break. It was as if Valley stepped off the pages of the story and into our lives.

As headlines poured in, like most of America, I felt angry. Such senseless violence. What’s the gain here? What is an event like this supposed to accomplish?

The truth is, Valley’s story had awakened in me a grudging sense of compassion. Talk about a kid who never had a chance at normal. She was her own first casualty.

Tragic.

Yet this isn’t the word I think of when I see the images of the men who stowed bombs that injured and killed innocent people. And yet the choices made that led to the April 15 attack by the Tsarnaev brothers are tragic.

Innocent lives were lost. Survivors were forever changed. But before April 15, 2013, two brothers were devoured by their hatred.

Please understand: I believe what happened was inexcusable and wrong. But the tragedy began long before those bombs exploded, and for Ms. Woolston, Valley’s story began in the wake of another tragedy: September 11, 2001. On April 17, 2013 she posted a blog detailing her response to the Boston bombing and the release of Black Helicopters. Like her novel, it’s brief but powerful.

Book Giveaway!

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a FREE copy of Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston. (Winner must have US address for shipping.) Contest ends Monday May 13, 2013 11:59 pm Eastern Time.

kill_orderWith memories of the sun flares that destroyed major cities and much of the world’s technology still fresh in their minds, Mark, Trina and their friends find themselves face to face with another catastrophe, and this one may not leave any alive.

The plague’s first victims survive mere hours. But as the disease mutates and spreads, its victims survive longer, becoming mad long before the end takes them. Mark and Trina band together, determined to stay well, track down the source of the vicious illness, and do whatever it takes to stop it.

In this prequel to the Maze Runner series, James Dashner reveals the story of civilization’s fall and the mysterious disease that ravaged mankind in its wake. While providing answers to many of the questions Maze Runner fans have been asking, The Kill Order lacked the density of thrill and suspense that have rocketed readers through the bestselling series.

Language Content
Mild to moderate.

Sexual Content
Moderate to heavy. While much of the physical romance takes place off-scene, it is still known that the hero and his girlfriend are having sex.

Spiritual Content
Not much mentioned.

Violence
Lots of scenes depicting terrible illness and some insanity.

Drug Content
The characters are on a quest for a cure to the mysterious disease that is spreading like wildfire. No recreational drug use.