Maximum Ride in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment
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The Leader of the Flock
Even though she's only fourteen-years-old, Maximum Ride (known as Max) is the leader of her flock, and she takes this responsibility quite seriously. Max is willing to risk anything for her friends, and leads them whenever they're in peril—which is more often than they'd like. So when Angel gets caught, Max comes up with a plan to break her out of the School. Leader that she is, there's a part of her plan that she doesn't share with anyone else: She's willing to sacrifice herself if it means the rest of them can escape. Like a captain, Max is willing to go down with the ship.
Max isn't just prepared to take the heat worst-case scenarios concerning her nearest and dearest, though—she's also willing to throw herself into the line of fire for people that she doesn't even know. This is exactly what she does when she swoops down to protect Ella, and when she decides to release all of the other hybrids at the Institute. Even though she knows that it's technically a bad idea (and could lead to her death), Max goes ahead with it anyway:
"You know we can't save them all," he told me softly.
"I'm supposed to save the whole world, remember?" I whispered back. "Well, I'm gonna start with these guys." (128.11-12)
Max obviously has what it takes to be a true leader. She's willing to make serious sacrifices—even giving up her own life—if it means that the kids she leads are safe. That's why they all trust her so much: They know that she always has their best interests in mind. It seems like the voice in her head that's always reminding her that her purpose is to save the world knows about Max's true blue leadership qualities, too.
Who's That Girl?
Although Max is an excellent leader, she still suffers from all of the same self-doubt and searching for individual identity that other teenagers do. She doesn't know who she really is, and is confused when Jeb and the voice inside of her head start to tell her that it's her destiny to save the world:
"I told you, you're going to save the world," he said. "That's the purpose of your existence. Do you think an ordinary, untrained fourteen-year-old could do that? No. You've got to be the best, the strongest, the smartest. You've got to be the ultimate. Maximum." (117.10)
Max doesn't want to be told that she's destined to save the world—she just wants to be a normal kid who's figuring herself out at a normal pace. But with all the responsibilities that Max has to juggle, she hardly has time for the kind of navel-gazing that most teenagers get to do. Instead, she's always trying to keep herself (and her friends) safe. When she kisses Fang—another pretty normal teenage thing to do—she doesn't even have the time to think about it or discuss it with him:
"That's me," he said, but he gave me a long look, like, I haven't forgotten what you did, meaning the Kiss.
I blushed furiously, embarrassed beyond belief. I would never live that down. (119.3-4)
Max is just too busy to figure out what the kiss means, or to even think about her own dreams and desires. In her readiness to lead, she always puts herself second—and with so many threats and mysteries cropping up, she never winds up with any time to dig into who she is and what she wants. Here's hoping that she gets some free time to contemplate her future in future installments in the series.
A Childhood Lost
Another drawback to being the leader of a flock of children on the run from evil scientists is that Max has never experienced a carefree childhood. She tries not to feel too resentful or to feel sorry for herself, but it's difficult. When Max gets injured and has to stay with Dr. Martinez and Ella, she loves it because she finally gets treated like a kid who has a parental figure:
They smiled and left, and then I saw the clothes on my bed. My own jeans and socks had been washed, and there was a lavender sweatshirt with large slits newly cut into the back.
Ella's mom was taking care of me, like Jeb had. I didn't know how to act, what to say.
A girl could get used to this. (35.12-14)
Even the little gestures—like Dr. Martinez doing her laundry or making freshly baked cookies for her—are amazing and precious to Max. She's never had parental figures that take care of her and make sure that she doesn't have to worry about things, and being around Dr. Martinez makes her acutely aware of what she's missed. As the book ends, and everyone but Max has some idea of their parents, this desire for someone to take care of her seems like a gaping hole in Max's life.
Maximum Ride in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment Study Group
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