Study Guide

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment Themes

  • Family

    The kids in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment don't exactly have the most conventional of families. First of all, they're mutants. In their case, this means they were raised in a terrible laboratory environment called the School. But the six avian-human kids—Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, The Gasman, and Angel—have formed their own little tight-knit family. Even when they discover that they weren't created in test tubes and have biological parents out there somewhere, they continue to see each other as their closest family members.

    Questions About Family

    1. Why do the kids want to know who their biological parents are so badly? Use the text for evidence.
    2. How does learning that Ari is her brother change things for Max? How do you think they're related? Again, use the book to bolster your answer.
    3. Why don't the Erasers seem to be as close-knit and family-oriented as the flock? Be specific, yo.

    Chew on This

    The flock members are so obsessed with their biological backgrounds not because they want to know their families, but because they've missed out on normal childhoods thanks to the School's "upbringing."

    The flock is only able to see each other as family because they left the School and strengthened their relationships on their own terms. If they stayed at the School, they'd just end up like the Erasers, who are ruthless and only follow directions.

  • Lies and Deceit

    The flock members in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment get caught up in a web of lies when they fly to the School in order to save Angel after she's taken by the Erasers. It turns out that a lot of what they've been told is completely untrue—including the fact that Jeb died (he's still alive and working at the School), and that they don't have "real" biological parents. The School has kept a great deal of information from the flock about their personal backgrounds, as well as what will happen to them when they grow older. Luckily for these kids, they can sleuth almost as well as they can fly.

    Questions About Lies and Deceit

    • How do the different members of the flock react to learning that Jeb is still alive?
    • Do you think that Jeb is an antagonist because he lied to them? Why or why not?
    • What's the deal with hiding the fact that the avian kids have real parents?
    • Do you think that the voice in Max's head is lying to her? Why or why not? Give evidence to support your claim.

    Chew on This

    All of the scientists and Erasers at the School have betrayed the flock members in various ways, but the person who's wronged them the most is Jeb—because he actually gained their trust and love before betraying them.

    Even though Max has always been private (especially regarding her hybrid status) she can't lie to Dr. Martinez and Ella. She recognizes them as good people, and not a threat to her flock, so it would be wrong to deceive them.

  • Violence

    Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment may be a young adult novel, but that doesn't mean that it's full of ponies with ridiculously sugary names frolicking through a field. The truth is that the flock is in a lot of danger all the time. The School has sent the Erasers to hunt down the members of the flock and bring them back—and the Erasers do not do things peacefully. They're wolf-human hybrids, so they're all about brute force, even if it means killing and maiming their prey. Trust us: You don't want to come face to face with an Eraser if you can help it. You might not make it out in one piece.

    Questions About Violence

    1. Why do you think the Erasers take so much joy in ripping their prey to shreds? Give examples to support your answer.
    2. Why aren't the flock members violent in the same way that the Erasers are?
    3. Do Iggy and the Gasman feel badly about blowing up the Erasers at their house? Why or why not?
    4. Do you think that Ari's death is justified?

    Chew on This

    The School pretends like they're acting in the hybrids' best interests, but all you have to do is look at how the Erasers are treated (as ruthless mercenaries) to know that the scientists are not the good guys.

    Even though Iggy and the Gasman blow up the Erasers who come after them, their act is different because they're not actively hunting them down as prey. They're simply acting in self-defense.

  • Foreignness and 'The Other'

    With a cast of hybrids, it's no surprise that many of the characters in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment are outsiders who don't exactly blend into society. As hybrids, the flock members and the Erasers are not like ordinary human beings walking down the street. Heck, they don't even think or experience the world in the same way that plain old humans do. When Max leads her flock to New York City, they take off in a restaurant and cause quite the stir with their wings, landing themselves on the front page of the newspaper. Even though the kids long to fit in (it's a lot easier than constantly being on the run, after all), they can never be like other children their age. They'll never just be "normal."

    Questions About Foreignness and 'The Other'

    1. Why do the kids like being in New York City so much? Be specific, please.
    2. Do you think that Ella and Dr. Martinez consider Max a freak? Why or why not? Give evidence from the text.
    3. How do you think the flock members' parents would react if they knew about their hybrid status?

    Chew on This

    Even though Max and the other flock members are stronger and more unique than other kids, they feel inferior just because they're different. They don't want to have all of their powers if it means they'll just be marginalized by society.

    Max and the other flock members may hate the Erasers, but in a way, they're the only other kids who understand what they go through. Because they're all science experiments who have grown up in the School, they have the same unique background and experiences that make them different from other kids.

  • Freedom and Confinement

    Max and her friends in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment aren't the kind of birds (or avian-human hybrids, to be more precise) who are content sitting around in a gilded cage—especially when that cage is designed for a dog and involves scientists poking and prodding them with needles all day. Their primary objective for much of the book is staying away from the School. Angel gets caught by the Erasers and brought in for experimentation at one point, but the flock comes to the rescue because they simply can't leave one of their own to languish in captivity.

    Questions About Freedom and Confinement

    1. Why does the School allow Jeb to take the flock members away for several years?
    2. Why don't the Erasers run away from the School, too? Give evidence from the text.
    3. What do you think the scientists wanted to do when they kidnapped Angel? Why?

    Chew on This

    The flock members are never really free growing up, even when they live in the house away from the School together because they still have to watch their every move and can't leave without fear of being found out. That's not freedom—it's just self-inflicted confinement.

    Even though Max trusts Ella and her mother, she still feels a bit boxed in when she's staying with them because she fears that she won't be able to leave. Her inability to fully get comfortable in one place is a result of her upbringing—well, and the fact that she's fought so hard for the ability to come and go as she pleases.

  • Fate and Free Will

    Destiny isn't a word to throw around lightly, but in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, Max has to figure out if the voice in her head is telling the truth and she's really destined to save the world. It's hard enough to be a part of the flock—they don't get the same freedoms and childhood experiences as other kids do—but despite all of this, Max and the rest of her avian-human brethren want desperately to make a life for themselves. They don't want to play by the School's rules and just resign themselves to lives as test subjects. The question is: Will they succeed? Or are they destined to just be another experiment in the School's history?

    Questions About Fate and Free Will

    1. What do you think Jeb means when he tells Max that she's destined to save the world?
    2. Does the fact that they're hybrids mean that the kids can't live a normal life?
    3. What do you think would happen if the flock members tried to go to a regular school and settle down somewhere?
    4. Why don't any of the Erasers seem to have a sense of individuality outside of their pack?

    Chew on This

    Although she has a little voice in her head that continues to tell her what to do and what her eventual fate is (to save the world), Max is determined to do things her way and to make the choices that will best serve her flock.

    The flock members were previously convinced that they'd never have "real" families or parents, but with the information they find at the Institute, they finally have a chance to alter their destinies and maybe even find happiness with the people they come from.

  • Courage

    Max and her friends in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment might just be children, but they have to deal with some pretty harrowing situations—and after a lifetime of this, they are undaunted in the face of danger. They are fearless when it comes to fighting the Erasers, who seem pretty terrifying what with their superhuman strength, sharp teeth, and pack mentality. Max even shows courage in situations she doesn't have to get involved in. When she sees a girl being picked on by a group of older boys, she swoops down to save the day without hesitation.

    Questions About Courage

    1. Why isn't Max worried about her own safety when she rushes in to save Ella from those mean boys?
    2. Do you think that the flock members are braver than the Erasers? Why or why not?
    3. Did you expect any of the members of the flock to opt out of saving Angel? Why?
    4. How do the flock members react when Max tells them they're going on a cross-country trip to New York City? Are any of them afraid?

    Chew on This

    Even though Max feels like growing up on the run has made her more afraid of certain situations, she has actually become braver and more stoic in the face of great peril. When faced with almost certain death, she flies in and wreaks havoc instead of worrying about her life.

    Fighting the Erasers is scary, but one of the most courageous things the flock members do is turn their backs on Jeb. They basically grew up with him as a father figure, so rejecting him now that he's working for the School is an immensely difficult task for all of them.

  • Truth

    Because the main characters in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment are super top-secret science experiments, they don't know a lot about their own origins. When Max and her friends realize that there might be more info about them stored in New York City, they go on a quest to learn more. They really want to know about their biological parents, how they were created, and the prognosis for their future (since many hybrids have shorter lifespans). As for Max, she needs answers because a voice inside her head has been telling her that she's going to save the world. Is this the truth, or just some brainwashing the School implanted inside of her? Only time will tell.

    Questions About Truth

    1. Do you think the voice in Max's head is telling her the whole truth? Give evidence from the book to support your answer.
    2. What do you think of Jeb's explanation for betraying the flock? Do you buy it? Why or why not?
    3. How would learning the truth about their parents change things for the various flock members? Be specific.

    Chew on This

    The voice inside Max's head has so far told her the truth and led her to the Institute, but she's not sure if it's to be trusted. A key part of her quest for truth is finding out how much of her own person she is—and how much she's at the whim of the scientists.

    Even though learning the truth about their parents is hard for some of the flock members—especially those whose biological mothers have died—knowing they have biological parents is an important piece of personal truth for each of them, and they are glad to have the information.