Okay. I'm Max. I'm fourteen. I live with my family, who are five kids not related to me by blood, but still totally my family. (P4)
The other flock members may not be Max's biological siblings, but they're basically all that she has in the world. If they're not her family, then who is?
I'd never told the others, but I just loved, loved, loved Angel. Maybe because I'd been taking care of her practically since she was a baby. Maybe because she was just so incredibly sweet and loving herself.
"Maybe because I'm like your little girl," said Angel, turning around to look at me. (3.25-26)
Max may just be a fourteen-year-old girl, but she already has some experience with motherhood outside of playing house. She's an adopted mother to Angel, who is super cute despite the whole creepy reading people's mind thing.
"These birds," said Nudge, wiping her eyes and feeling stupid. "Like, these dumb hawks have more of a mom than I ever had. The parents are taking care of the little ones. No one ever did that for me. Well, besides Max. But she's not a mom." (25.16)
Poor little Nudge—all she wants is to find her family. It's pretty rough when you find yourself feeling envious of a bunch of giant, bloodthirsty hawks.
Jeb had calmed me down, talking to me, taking my mind off of it, and then, when I least expected it, he had popped it right back into place. Instantly, all the pain was gone. He'd smiled and stroked my sweaty hair off my forehead and gotten me some lemonade. And I'd thought, This is what a dad would do. This is better than what a dad would do. (35.5)
Jeb totally did seem like a good dad when he was living with the flock… until he faked his death and rejoined the evil scientists who had them locked up, that is. That's not something a real dad would do, right?
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. (35.13-14)
Max may have just had a couple of nights with Ella and her mom, but she already feels oddly at home with them. They really know how to treat a girl to some good old domestic comforts.
"I have to take off tomorrow," I told Ella that night when we were getting ready for bed.
"No!" she said, distressed. "I love having you here. You're like a cousin. Or my sister." (46.12-13)
Max would be an awesome big sister to have. She is fiercely loyal and protective, and will rush in to fight off bullies, even when they're carrying around a shotgun. Talk about a fearless protector.
Plus her mom was so awesome. She was strict about some things—don't leave your socks lying around—but so not strict about other things, like calling the cops about my bullet wound. Unlike any other parent I'd ever heard of, she didn't press for details, didn't lecture, and believed what I said. She actually accepted me. Like she accepted Ella, for who she was. (46.18)
That's a new one: Max is actually jealous of Ella because she has a mom who can be strict. It's basically the exact opposite of what most teenagers want (a parent looking over them), but it's what Max has been missing for her entire life.
Jeb had been the only parentlike person I'd ever had. He had kidnapped the six of us four years ago, stolen us away from this freak show and hidden us in the mountains of our house. He'd helped us learn how to fly—none of us had ever been allowed enough space to try before. He'd fed us, clothed us, and taught us survival sills, how to fight, how to read. (60.3)
Jeb's betrayal is a thousand times worse because Max really trusted him, not just as a friend, but as a dad. He was the only person who took care of her like she was a normal kid, and she just can't believe that he'd do this to her.
"Nudge is right," Angel blurted. "We did have parents—real parents. We weren't made in test tubes. We were born, like real babies. We were born from human mothers." (70.24)
The fact that they have real mothers who gave birth to them changes everything for the flock members. Sure, they're still human-avian hybrids, but this means that they might have biological families instead of just other experiments who were created in the same batch.
"Yeah, Jeb's son," he snarled. "Like he even knows I'm alive. What do you think happened to me while you were off playing house with my father? Did you think I just disappeared?" (106.22)
Well, Ari's serious vendetta against Max suddenly makes more sense. He hates her so much because he blames her for taking away his father—and for monopolizing all of his love and attention. Aw, poor Ari.
Fractured images, memories, fear, pain, all came crashing together inside my brain. You think being a regular teenager with growing pains is hard? Try doing it with DNA that's not your own, not even from a mammal.
"I don't remember," I told her. It was a lie. (40.25-26)
Max doesn't want to lie to Ella and Dr. Martinez, but she can't help it—she can't very well tell them that she was created in a lab by evil scientists who combined human DNA with bird DNA… Right?
"To tell you the truth, I usually don't look at my patients' owners much. And I haven't seen any strangers around. As for unusual animals, last week I treated a cow that had a bicornuate uterus. She had a healthy calf in each side. Does that help?" (42.24)
Dr. Martinez may be a moral person, but she's not above lying when it comes to protecting Max from the suspicious characters that show up at the vet's office. She even tells them a weird and gross medical story to throw them off the scent.
"Your hideout in the mountain is nothing but ashes. Your pals keep having unfortunate accidents. You two are the last ones alive—and now we've got you." (44.6)
You simply cannot believe those Erasers. They'll lie to the flock members about everything—including the fact that all of their friends have died gruesome deaths. Ugh.
One, Jeb looked like he was on their side now. An enemy of the flock, like all the other whitecoats at the School.
Two, wait till Max found out about this. Max would be, well, she'd be so mad and so hurt and so upset that Angel couldn't even imagine it. (45.10-11)
What in the world is going on? Jeb is the last person that Angel expected to see at the School, and he's not a welcome surprise. He may have been their surrogate father once, but she's not going to trust him if he's in cahoots with all those scientists.
"Probably not," I said, hating the hurt look on Ella's face. "I just—don't think I'll be able to. If I ever could, I would, but-"
I turned away and started brushing my teeth […] So I put all my feelings in a box and locked it. (46.20-21)
Max may not be able to lie to Ella about visiting in the future, but she's certainly capable of lying to herself about her emotions. She can't even admit that leaving them hurts—it's like giving up the only family she's ever had.
Now my eyes were telling me that he was one of them. That maybe he'd been one of them all along. That everything I'd ever known or felt about him had been a rotten, stinking lie. (60.8)
What's worse than being caught by a bunch of evil scientists? Well, finding out that your father figure is one of them. Max is completely horrified to see Jeb amongst the scientists working at the School—this means that her whole life so far might be one big lie.
Nudge and Angel nodded, concerned, and Fang kept staring at me. I had no idea what he was thinking. Was he wondering if I was a traitor? Was he wondering if Jeb had managed to turn me—or if I had been in league with Jeb from the beginning? (62.16)
Once the flock members find out that Jeb has betrayed them (maybe from the beginning), everything comes into question. So much so that Max wouldn't even blame her friends for believing that she's in cahoots with the School.
I turned slightly so the others couldn't see me and mouthed, "The Voice."
He nodded. "But Max," he whispered, barely audible, "what if this is all a trap?" (89.6-7)
Fang is pretty skeptical of the voice inside of Max's head, and to be honest, she is, too—this could all be one big trap. But it's not like she has any better options right now. She'll just have to follow the voice's instructions until she figures out what its deal is.
"I'm up for it," I said briskly, as Fang's eyes widened a fraction of an inch. I gave him a meaningful look. "We'd love to be made over. Make us look completely different." (109.19)
Being chased by the Erasers totally stinks for the flock members, and they're willing to do anything to evade capture. So when they get the chance to alter their appearances, they jump for it. Why not get some nifty disguises for free?
"I'll always be responsible for you," he snapped. "If you think you're actually running your own life, then maybe you're not as bright as I thought you were."
"Make up your mind," I snapped back. 'Either I'm the greatest or I'm not. Which is it?" (117.13-14)
How can Max trust anything that Jeb says? He keeps changing his mind about whether she's totally brilliant or an idiot, and won't give her a straight answer about why he left them to go back to the School. There's one word for this dude: shady.
To them, we're six moving targets—prey smart enough to be a fun challenge. Basically, they want to rip our throats out. (P9)
The Erasers sure know how to have fun… not. Their favorite activity involves hunting down the flock members and trying to kill them. No wonder the flock members aren't all that into hanging out with them.
Tears were streaming down my cheeks, their salt stinging where the Eraser had raked me with his claws. Moving automatically, I got the first aid kit and started cleaning the Gasman's scrapes and cuts. I looked around. Nudge's cheek was bleeding; some shrapnel had burned her as it flew past. For once she wasn't talking—she was curled on the couch, crying. (9.4)
Ouch, those are some brutal wounds. The Erasers don't go easy on the flock members just because they're a bunch of kids—and they especially don't go easy on Max. They'll kill her if they're given permission to do so.
But every time she stopped running, a sadistic whitecoat—Reilly—zapped her with a stick thing. It jolted electricity into her, making her yelp and jump. She had four burn marks from it already, and they really, really hurt. What was worse was that she could feel his eager anticipation—he wanted to hurt her. (16.2)
These scientists are the worst. They're willing to hurt a little girl repeatedly just to run her through a barrage of tests. No wonder the flock members won't trust them no matter what they say—we don't either.
I moved fast, fast, fast. With no warning, I snapped a high kick right into the lead jerk's chest. A blow that would have only knocked Fang's breath away actually seemed to snap a rib on this guy. I heard the crack, and the guy choked, looking shocked, and fell backward. (21.17)
One of the perks of being a human-avian hybrid is that Max has some cool powers, like super strength. It comes in handy when she's rushing in to defend a girl who's being ganged up on by a bunch of brutes.
Years of Max-enforced training kicked in as adrenaline sped through the Gasman's body. Door blocked. Window blocked. They were surrounded, with no clean escape available. It was going to be a fight, he realized, already preparing himself.
More than likely a fight to the death. (33.20-21)
The Gasman is only eight years old, but he's no stranger to danger—or to the idea of fighting to the death. He's not even all that scared when the Erasers drop down from the sky. He just gets ready to kick some serious Eraser butt.
"Guess what?" the first Eraser asked with a pleasant smile. "We got the little one—they don't need you two alive." They laughed, the sound like deep bells ringing, and then their faces began to change. (36.5)
Wow, those Erasers sure are gleeful that they've received the orders to kill Iggy and the Gasman. They obviously don't have real consciences at all—they just want to chase and kill some prey.
The thing about airbags is that when you hit something at fifty or sixty miles an hour, they inflate with enough raw force to slam you back against your seat like a rag doll, possibly breaking your face. Which is what this one had done to me, I concluded, trying to stem the gush of blood from my nose. (58.2)
Ouch. It's a good thing that Max is no stranger to physical pain, because getting into a car accident at top speed has to be pretty rough. Still, she manages to soldier through it… even though she gets captured by the Erasers.
I grinned evilly. Then I leaned over and chomped hard on Ari's fingers. He sucked in a deep breath, then yelled in awful pain. I gathered my strength and bit down harder, until I actually felt my teeth break his skin, tasted his horrible blood. But you know what? I didn't care. Seeing Ari hurt was worth it. (64.6)
Yikes. Max isn't one to engage in unnecessary violence, but desperate times call for desperate measures. When she's cornered by the scientists and about to be torn to bits by Erasers, of course she's going to take out some of her aggression on Ari.
Then Ari bent over Fang's body, his muzzle open, canines sharp and ready to tear Fang's throat. "Had enough," he growled viciously, "of life?"
Oh, God, oh, God, not Fang, not Fang, not Fang—(116.23-24)
Those Erasers are not kidding around when it comes to gratuitous violence. Ari may have known Fang as a kid, but he's this close to killing him. It's a good thing that Jeb shows up when he does—otherwise Fang would definitely be dead meat.
Ari gagged and started to go down. I threw myself at him, grabbing his head, and we fell as one in slow motion. He was huge, heavy, and we dropped like lead. Wham! Butt, back, head… I held on tight—as Ari's neck slammed against the hard side of the tunnel. I heard a horrible, stomach turning crack that vibrated up my arms. Ari and I stared at each other in shock. (130.36)
Well, that was unexpected. Max means to hurt Ari so that he can't capture or kill the flock members, but she is completely shocked when he ends up breaking his neck. Killing someone… well, that's a more serious responsibility than she bargained for.
Basically we're pretty cool, nice, smart—but not "average" in any way. The six of us—me, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel—were made on purpose, by the sickest, most horrible "scientists" you could possibly imagine. They created us as an experiment. An experiment where we ended up only 98 percent human. (P.6)
It's all very well being "nice" and "smart," but the flock members can't easily blend into society or make friends with other kids their age. This is because they're not like other kids their age at all—they're basically mutants.
My last thought was disbelief: Ari was Jeb's son. They'd made him into an Eraser. He was seven years old. (5.20)
Well, that's not cool. Ari used to be your typical cute little human boy, but now he's a muscled Eraser who's out for blood. That must have been quite the traumatic transition for him.
The other one just looked like… a mistake. He had extra fingers and toes, and hardly any neck. His eyes were huge and bulging, and the hair on his head was sparse. It made Angel's heart hurt just to look at him. (13.8)
Yikes. Even though things are hard for the flock members, they could apparently be much worse. The scientists didn't get every experiment right, and Angel sees the "mistakes" when she's taken back to the School—to say the least, the results aren't pretty.
Never in my fourteen looong years have I felt the slightest bit normal—except for my day with Ella and her mom, Dr. Martinez. (40.1)
Dr. Martinez and Ella give Max something way more valuable than medical attention or freshly baked cookies: the chance to feel like a normal kid, if only for a little bit.
I'd decided to give them a sort-of present. I felt they deserved it.
Would they think I looked goofy? What did we—the flock—look like to outsiders? I had no idea, and I didn't have time to start caring. (48.14-15)
The flock members have so little contact with the outside world that Max literally doesn't know what people would think of her little secret. So when she shows Ella and Dr. Martinez her wings, she's kind of nervous. What if they think she's a freak?
At one point a whitecoat came in and dumped another "experiment" into the crate next to mine. I glanced over, curious, then quickly turned away, my heart aching. It looked enough like a kid to make me feel sick, but more like a horrible fungus. (63.10)
If the flock members already feel like freaks, then it must be so much worse for the failed experiments at the School. Those poor kids don't even have a chance of blending into normal society.
Basically, if you put fence around New York City, you'd have the world's biggest nontraveling circus.
When we woke up at dawn the next morning, there were already joggers, bicyclers, even horseback riders weaving their way along the miles and miles of trails in Central Park. We slipped down out of the trees and casually wandered the paths. (76.1-2)
The flock members thought that they were the only freaks out there, but they're wrong. There are plenty of "normal" human beings who do totally weird things and wear odd outfits—which the kids happily find out when they reach New York City.
"You know what I like about New York?" the Gasman said, noisily chewing his kosher hot dog. "It's full of New Yorkers who are freakier than we are." (79.1)
The Gasman is right: If there's any place where the flock members can blend in, it's New York City. There's such a huge diversity of people that no one would even give them a second glance—so long as they keep their wings hidden, that is.
The next morning, Fang came back from town and placed the New York Post at my feet with a little bow. I flipped through the paper. On page six, I saw "Mysterious Bird-Children Nowhere to Be Found." (113.1)
Max and her fellow bird hybrids may have done a terrible job of keeping their wings a secret, but it turns out that in New York City, it's not that big of a deal. After a couple of days, they're not even frontpage news anymore.
Sure enough, there were mutant kids sleeping in cages and in large dog crates. It brought my awful, gut-twisting childhood whooshing back to me, and I felt on the verge of having a panic attack. (128.3)
Max can't help but feel for all of those mutant kids who are stuck in cages at the Institute. She knows exactly how hard it is to be treated like a freak and an experiment, and she's not going to just leave them there to suffer through it forever.
Here, my family and I could be ourselves. Here, we could live free. I mean literally free, as in, not in cages. (2.10)
Max may think that they're free in their house, but the flock members are still limited in where they can go and what they can do because they're afraid of being captured. That's no way to live.
They were just boring kids, stuck on the ground, doing homework. With bedtimes and a million grown-ups telling them what to do, how to do everything, all the time. While we were free, free, free. Soaring through the air like rockets. Being cradled by breezes. Doing whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. (19.5)
Max tries to believe that she and the other flock members are better off than "normal" kids, but deep down inside she isn't so sure. Homework does sound like a huge drag, but she's still missing out on all of the fun and security that comes with living an ordinary life with ordinary parents to look out for you.
She flung herself off the cliff, unable to keep a bittersweet happiness from flooding her chest. It just felt so—beautiful, to float in the air, to move her wings strongly and feel herself glide freely through space.
She flew alongside Fang, and he demonstrated the move for her. She watched him and imitated it. It worked great. (25.10-11)
Even when their situation is pretty dire, Nudge and the other flock members can still take great pleasure in flying. After all, while their flying ability is what sets them apart, it's also what gives them the most freedom.
Until I stepped into that house, I could still turn and run, escape. Once I was in that house, it would be much harder. Call it a little quirk of my personality, but I tend to freak out if I feel trapped anywhere. We all do—the flock, I mean. Living in a cage during your formative years can do that. (29.11)
Max is weird about trusting people or putting herself into situations where she doesn't have a guaranteed out. And it's no wonder, really, since she's spent a lot of time in cages, and she's definitely not eager to do so again.
It seemed clear that they were looking for the rest of the flock. It didn't matter whether they wanted to kill them or only kidnap them: Capture was unthinkable. (32.3)
Going back to the School is basically the worst thing that any of the flock members can think of—they'd rather fight to the death than go back to that place. It must be a really awful place to inspire that much dread and fear.
"It's a microchip," she said hesitantly. "We put something similar into animals. To identify them in case they're lost. Yours looks like a, like the ones we use on really expensive pets, show dogs and such. They have a tracer in them in case they're stolen. They can be tracked, wherever they are." (41.32)
Uh-oh, that's not good. All this time, Max has believed that she's totally free of the School's grasp, but it turns out that she's wrong. She has a microchip implanted in her so that no matter where she goes, they can find her. What's up with that?
"What a touching scene," Ari called down at me. "We're all going home. Just like old times." (58.22)
Talk about a worst-case scenario. Max's whole plan to storm the School and rescue Angel is not going according to her plans, and it looks like she and her friends are going to be taken into custody by the horrible, no good Erasers.
All these animals, even though they were stuck in enclosure, probably bored out of their minds, possibly lonely, still had it so much better than we'd had it at the School. I felt edgy and angry, nervous, still coming off my adrenaline high after being chased by the Erasers. Seeing all these animals made me remember too much about when I was little, when I'd lived in a cage so small I couldn't stand up. (78.8)
It's hard for Max and Fang to enjoy going to the zoo when they relate more to the animals than to the human visitors. It's definitely no fun being kept in a cage, and Max is tempted to set all the creatures free.
Sometimes it felt as if we would never be free, be safe. Never, ever, as long as we lived. Which might not be that much longer, anyway. (96.24)
Even when they're not being kept in cages at the School, the flock members don't feel totally free. It's hard to just relax and enjoy your "freedom" when you're constantly being tracked and attacked by scary human-wolf hybrids, after all.
The ocean. Another new and incredible experience. We'd grown up in lab cages until four years ago, when Jeb had stolen us. Then we'd been in hiding, avoiding new experiences at all costs. Now we were doing something different every day. It was a trip. (112.1-2)
Living away from the School was the better option, but the flock members still didn't get a chance to get out and experience new things a lot. Now that they're in New York City, though, they're going to pack in all sorts of cool adventures.
The Gasman would die before he went back there. Angel would rather have died too, he knew—but she hadn't had a choice. (32.4)
If it comes to a choice between going back to the School and dying, the flock members will choose death, thank you very much. They're not about to put their fates into the hands of those psycho scientists again.
Fang's dark eyes widened in surprise. "What? Nudge, you're crazy. Come on, let's talk about it. Let's find a place, take a break."
"No!" said Nudge, tears coming to her eyes again. "I'm going down—and you can't stop me!" (38.21-22)
Given the chance to learn more about her "real" family, Nudge isn't going to back down. She doesn't care if it probably won't work out—she just wants to take her destiny into her own hands for once.
"Yeah, but what now? We're kinda all dressed up with no place to go," Iggy said. "There's no way we can go home—they're probably everywhere. What are we supposed to do with ourselves? And what if Max and the others come back just to fly into an ambush?" (39.4)
Are Iggy and the Gasman just going to resign themselves to dying at the hands of the Erasers? No way. They're going to build some bombs, set up some traps, and prepare to take them down Home Alone style.
You'd think I'd get used to the ongoing nightmare that was my life, but I was actually pathetically surprised that those demonoids from the School could continue to wreak havoc on me from so far away, so long ago. (42.6)
Finding the microchip in her arm is a kind of depressing revelation for Max. All this time, she thought that she had a fighting chance of escaping the School… but it turns out that they've been tracking her every movement this whole time.
"The thing is, Max," he said, tons of heart-wringing emotion in his eyes," you're even more special than I always told you. You see, you were created for a reason. Kept alive for a purpose, a special purpose." (61.16)
Jeb thinks that he's going to win Max over with this moving speech about her purpose in life, but she's not having any of it. How annoying is it to have some grown-up tell you exactly what you're supposed to do? Ugh.
"But I had to let you know the size of what we're dealing with, the enormity, the importance. You are more than special, Max. You're preordained. You have a destiny that you can't imagine." (62.2)
Wow, talk about laying it on thick. No wonder Max is overwhelmed and doesn't want to listen to what Jeb has to say—he's trying way too hard to convince her that she has this wild destiny.
"Max, everything you've done, everything you are, everything you can be, is tied into your destiny. Your life is worth the lives of thousands. The fact that you are alive is the most important thing anyone has ever accomplished." (62.4)
According to Jeb, the stakes are high when it comes to Max and her decisions in life. She, however, would just like to carry on doing whatever she wants instead of hearing what he has to say about the "important" things that she needs to do.
How about us? How long would we last? Well, as far as I knew, we were the oldest recombinant beings the School had ever produced.
And we could devolve and expire at any time. (69.16-17)
The flock members don't even get to assume that they're going to live long, healthy lives like other people. Because they're science experiments, they have no idea how long their lifespans are—they could conceivably "expire" any time now.
Angel nodded, smoothing her bear's fur down around its ears. "Yeah. I just asked her to buy it for me. You know, with my mind." (91.21)
Angel obviously isn't old enough to understand the ethics of influencing people's thoughts and forcing them to do things they otherwise wouldn't. It's a good thing that she's only using her powers to get free teddy bears so far.
I myself could be a beacon without knowing it, without being able to do a thing about it—except leave the flock and strike out on my own. The Erasers were tracking us but not killing us. (107.12)
Having Jeb insist that she's destined for greatness and hearing this voice inside of her head is starting to freak Max out. She's beginning to seriously wonder if she has a say in any of this at all—or if she's just being led down some set path.
"You know we have to go after Angel. You can't be thinking that we would just let them take her. The six of us look out for one another—no matter what. None of us is ever going to live in a cage again, not while I'm alive." I took a deep breath. (11.10)
Yeah, the prospect of going to the School to get Angel is scary, but the prospect of leaving her there is scarier. Max is definitely not going to let her fear of the scientists keep her from rescuing her little flock member.
Angel knew it was a dream because Max never cried. Max was the strongest person she knew. Not that she had known many people. (16.5)
Max doesn't show any weakness around the other flock members, which is why Angel thinks that she'd never cry. But what she doesn't know is that Max can be an awesome and courageous leader and still cry when she's afraid.
But if worse came to worse, I had a secret Plan C. If it worked, everyone would escape and get free. Except me. But that was okay. (18.10)
Talk about a true leader. Max is like an army general—she's going to lead her troops into battle, but she's willing to sacrifice her own life for their safety. There's no way that she's letting them go down without a fight.
It gets so tiring, this strong-picking-on-the-weak stuff. It was the story of my life—literally—and it seemed to be a big part of the outside world too. I was sick of it, sick of guys like these, stupid and bullying. (21.6)
There's nothing more disgusting to Max than strong people picking on the weak and young, which is basically what the Erasers are doing to her flock. When she sees it happening to someone else, she's not going to stand by and watch—even if she's dealing with strangers.
But I was honest enough with myself to know that I really couldn't go on like this—wet, cold, starving, and a little wonky from loss of blood. I had to suck it up and accept help. From strangers. (29.12)
Oddly enough, accepting help from a kind stranger takes more guts for Max than getting into a scrappy fight. She's so distrustful of other people that it's less scary for her to fight off Erasers than it is to enter someone's home and accept medical attention.
There were a few moments of silence, as if we were all gathering our courage again. I know I was, trying to pull my strength into a tight, hard ball that would carry me through the rest of the day, as we headed back to our worst nightmare. (51.18)
Going back to the School is as terrifying as walking into a haunted house, but the flock members feel better when they're all together. They wouldn't be able to storm the School alone—but together, they just might have a fighting chance.
My throat closed up. That she was still trying to be brave just rocked my world. I felt ashamed for taking so long to get here, ashamed for letting the Erasers catch us, ashamed for being a failure, even as a freak. (59.4)
Angel is the baby of the group, but she's no pushover. When it comes to putting on a brave face, she's a total pro. She doesn't even start crying when she's finally reunited with the flock again.
The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective.
Like right now. My choices were to either give in and let them kill all of us or fight back with everything I had. (64.1-2)
It'd probably be easier to give up and just accept her fate, but Max isn't that kind of girl. She's determined to fight back and to make sure that her friends survive—even if it means facing off against some gnarly Erasers.
Stunned, I shut my gaping jaw and went over to him. When I put my hand on his shoulder, he pushed it away. The others crowded around—it was so unusual for Gazzy to break down like this. He was always my little trooper. (102.2)
All of the kids in the flock are so stoic when it comes to danger and mayhem that it's hard to remember that they're really just… well, kids. The Gasman's been a good little soldier this whole time, but he's bound to break down. After all, he's only eight years old.
One thing I guess I should mention—I was really, really afraid now, more afraid than I'd ever been before, and I didn't even know why. Maybe I didn't want to know the truth. Also, my head was throbbing, and that had me a little crazy too. Was I going to die? Was I just going to fall over and be gone from the world and my friends? (121.2)
Max may seem like she's totally confident in front of the other flock members, but inside she's actually terrified. Maybe that's real courage, though: moving forward and fighting even when you're scared to death.
"Let me tell you a secret, old pal, old chap," Ari yelled at me. "You've got it all wrong. We're the good guys!" (7.14)
It's mind-boggling that the Erasers don't see how evil the scientists at the School are… or are they privy to some information that the flock doesn't have? What if Ari is right?
"It's a… wing," I whispered. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ella frown. "My, um, wing." Silence. "It got hurt too."
I took a deep breath, feeling like I was going to hurl, then slowly and painfully extended my wing just a bit, so Ella's mom could see where I'd been shot. (31.28-29)
You have to hand it to Dr. Martinez and Ella—they are super good at rolling with the punches. They don't treat Max differently after she admits her hybrid status to them at all; instead they just go along with it.
I pressed my lips together and looked away. My head was throbbing. I wanted to tell her—that was the awful part. Something inside me wanted to blurt out everything. But I couldn't. Not after years of Jeb telling me I couldn't trust anybody, ever. (40.17)
Max wants to tell Dr. Martinez the truth about where she comes from and why she's on the run, but after all this time spent keeping secrets, she can't very well blurt out her whole life story. That would be dangerous.
"What if they moved?" Fang asked for the nth time. "What if you misunderstood what you read and these people aren't related to you at all? Then, with horrible gentleness, he said, "Nudge, even if you weren't a test-tube baby—which you probably were—what if there was a reason they gave you up? They might not want you back." (43.8)
Fang isn't trying to stop Nudge from finding her mom because he's mean, he's just worried that the truth will hurt her. He doesn't want her to find out that her mom never wanted her, or that she gave her up willingly to the scientists.
"The thing is, Angel," Jeb went on earnestly, "life itself is a test. It's all a test. Sometimes you just have to get through it, and then later on everything makes more sense. You'll see. Now go ahead and eat. I promise it's okay. I promise." (45.23)
Even though Max once would have trusted Jeb with her life (he was her father figure, after all), now she can't believe a single word he says. All of his promises mean nothing to her because he betrayed them all by letting them believe that he was dead—he's already proven himself a liar.
Like a door slamming shut, everything in me that had loved and trusted Jeb closed down. In its place rose new feelings that were so powerful and full of hate that they scared me. (60.12)
The truth hurts, and that's definitely true for Max when she finds out that Jeb—her hero growing up—is actually one of the scientists working at the School. This basically makes him her nemesis.
"But in time, Max, it will all come out, and you'll understand what's happening. That's what I told Angel. I told her that everything is a test, even when you don't know it. That sometimes you have to do what you have to do and know it will all be clearer later. All of this has been a test." (61.9)
Jeb is constantly trying to explain to Max that this has all been a test, but she can't exactly take him at his word now, can she? He's already messed with them once, and she's not going to fall for his tricks again.
Worry is unproductive. You can't control what happens to Angel. You can save the world, but the only thing you can control is you. Go to sleep, Max. It's time to learn. (107.16)
As the flock leader, Max is constantly worrying about what's happening and if the voice in her head is telling her the truth or leading her astray. But she can't keep stressing out about what she can't control.
"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)
In true teenage fashion, Max and Fang do not discuss things after she kisses him. They're both dying to know the truth about what it all means, but neither of them is willing to be the first one to bring it up. How embarrassing would that be?
Jeb's horrifying words echoed in my head again and again the meaning and consequences seeming worse each time. You killed your own brother. Could that be true? How? Or was this just more theater? Part of my test? (132.1)
Okay, Jeb has just dropped another serious bomb on Max—right after she goes through the awful experience of accidentally killing Ari. Is he telling the truth, or is he just trying to hurt her more?