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Foreignness and 'The Other'
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.
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