James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series, which follows the titular teen with the power to fly, spans nine novels and boasts 13 million copies sold. Now he’s returning to Max’s post-apocalyptic world with a new story about Hawk, a teen with a mysterious past. Written with Gabrielle Charbonnet, Hawk combines the thrills readers expect from a Max novel with original characters to hook you from page one. Trust us, you’ll be intrigued after reading the book description from the publisher:
Hawk doesn’t know her real name. She doesn’t know who her family was, or where they went. The only thing she remembers is that she was told to stay on that street corner until they came back for her, for as long as it takes.
That was 10 years ago.
The day that she finally gives up is the moment that her life changes forever. Because the promise becomes reality: someone is coming for her. But it’s not a rescue. It’s an execution.
“I’m very excited to be introducing Hawk to a new generation of Maximum Ride fans—and to be bringing longtime fans of the series something fresh!” Patterson tells Paste. “It’s been five years since I last wrote about Max, and I hope fans will find this story worth the wait. I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.”
JIMMY Patterson Books will release Hawk on July 6th, but you don’t have to wait to begin reading. We’re excited to exclusively share the novel’s prologue and first two chapters alongside the cover reveal!
Cover design by Sammy Yuen, illustration by Miranda Meeks and photos by Howard Huang / Shutterstock
Enjoy reading the excerpt below, and click here to pre-order the novel.
I solemnly promise this one thing to myself: I swear that this is the last day, absolutely the very last day, I will ever wait for those heartless bastards: my parents.
I leaned back against the corner of this building, the fading gray stucco chipped and pitted and slowly coming off. Five years ago it had been a bank; now there were no banks anywhere. I don’t know why. Now the only things this building is good for are squatters, who’d broken in through the heavy glass door; looters, who’d taken anything of value from it, and me. I used it to prop myself up during my daily pointless wait. Today I was extra mad at myself for being the gullible smack that I am. We’re talking way gullible. Why else would I be here?
“Hawk.” The ragged homeless woman shot me a quick worried glance as she hobbled down the street with surprising speed.
I nodded at her. “Smiley.” So-called because she’d lost a lot of her teeth. You hang out on a street corner long enough, you get to know the natives. I’d been hanging out here every day—we’re talking every single fricking day—for ten years.
Every day at five o’clock, whether it’s raining, blistering hot, freezing, snowing, wind blowing, whatever. Every day from five to five thirty. I was here.
And, like, why? Such a good question. One that I ask myself a hundred times every day, when I pretend not to notice what time it is, when really, it’s ticking in my head, down to the minute. Like a bomb I keep playing with, every day, one that I actually want to explode. Because if it did, maybe this time, I really wouldn’t go.
So why do I keep doing it?
The answer’s always the same: because they asked me to. My parents.
And you know, I can remember just about every face I’ve ever seen. I’m like a super recognizer. I should work for the government, I’m not kidding. Not this government, obvs. But some government, somewhere. Anyhow, a million faces, good, bad, and ugly locked away in my mind-vault, and yet…
Yet I don’t remember them. Mom and Dad. I remember my father’s hands, standing me on this street corner. For some reason I feel like we were afraid. I could feel a tremor in his fingers, tight in mine. I think I remember this so clearly because my hands were clean and haven’t been since then. One of them said, “It’s five o’clock now. Stay here for half an hour, till your watch says five thirty. A friend of ours will come get you—or we’ll be back. Promise.”
I don’t remember the voice, whether it was soft and warm, or harsh, or desperate, or whispered. I don’t even know if it was my mom or dad that said it.
I lost my watch years ago. Actually, it got broken in a fight. Along with my nose, that time. Other things have been broken and bruised since then, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. The one thing that hasn’t broken yet is my spirit. But a few more days of keeping this lonely watch on this crap corner might do it.
My parents’ muted voices, the fogged-out faces—that was ten years ago. No friend ever came. My parents never came back. Remembering that makes me laugh at myself.
What kind of a pathetic idiot waits on the same corner every day from five to five thirty for their whole life? Or at least ten years of it? The biggest idiot in the world.
This was the last, very, very last time.
5:12 Splat! I winced and jerked as something wet and gushy exploded on the wall right next to my head. Ick! I wiped rotten…onion? off my forehead, its sharp, rancid odor making my nostrils twitch and my eyes tear up.
Oh, goddamnit, not today…
Instinctively I dropped into a crouch just as a bullet ricocheted off the wall where my head had been.
I immediately straightened, eyes easily finding Tony Two-Toes and Racelli.
“This is our corner, bitch,” Racelli said. “You keep trespassing.”
“Yeah, girls are annoying like that, right?” I asked, sounding bored.
Whoosh! Tony Two-Toes swung his gun butt right at my head with enough force to crack my skull, if he’d managed to make contact. Instead, I leaned way to my right and the gun smashed into the building wall, cracking old plaster and stone and sending chips flying.
“The thing about you,” I said, “is you’re so goddam slow.” With that I jumped straight up into the air, nine, ten feet, then pivoted and pushed my feet off the building, sending me out into the middle of the street. From there I took a run at Racelli, landing with a big leap, my worn-out boots almost touching his extremely expensive sneakers—stolen, no doubt. I chopped the back of his knee with the flat of my hand and his muscles gave out under the pressure. He buckled, and I grabbed the gun from him. Backing up quickly, I flicked the safety off and waved the gun at each of them.
“Careful, shit-heels. Do not piss me off today,” I snarled. “And if you’re going to throw food at me, make it something fresh. I prefer apples.”
Racelli lunged for me. Moving as fast as only I can, I chucked him under the chin with the gun butt, knocking him on his ass again. Tony raised his gun to shoot, so I aimed and blew his hat off. He yelped and looked back for it, giving me time to adjust my aim.
“Sorry, Tony,” I said, right before I shot his gun out of his hand. “I don’t think you can be trusted with that.” This time he screamed, looking at his hand, which was running red. The gun lay on the concrete, surrounded by bright red drops that almost looked like rain…except they weren’t.
Charging him, I kicked his gun off the pavement and down a sewer grate while he held his hand and screamed at me.
“I didn’t make you Tony One-Finger, did I?” I asked. Then—too soon—I tossed Racelli’s gun down the sewer grate also, feeling like I was a fecking boss. Tony took advantage of that to roar and punch me in the jaw, snapping my head sideways. Tendons in my neck cracked, and there were black spots in my vision. I didn’t have time to get out of the way when he pulled his arm back to hit me again, but Ridley had seen what was happening and she swooped down.
Her wings beat the air as she dropped onto Tony’s head, her long, razor-sharp talons raking his skin. Twin rivers of blood flowed into his eyes, blocking his view as he shrieked and tried to punch her. She flitted gracefully out of reach, her cold black eyes now focused on Racelli, who had run over to us. He retreated a few steps as Tony doubled over, wailing and holding his scalp as more of his blood fell onto the concrete to pool with the earlier drops.
“You’re gonna regret tossing my gun,” Racelli said meanly.
My eyebrows rose. “I doubt it.”
He made a quick move at me, but Ridley hunched her shoulders as if preparing to strike.
Racelli looked at Tony, then at Ridley, then at me. Without even telling Tony goodbye, he turned and walked away. Walked, not ran. But walked fast. Tony, swearing to rain hell down on Ridley and me, hobbled after him, leaving a trail of red as he cradled his injured hand to his chest.
Ridley floated down and landed on my shoulder, careful not to grip me too hard. She brushed her hard beak gently against my hair, trying to smooth away the endless tangles. I put my hand up and stroked her warm brown wing, crooning to her.
“That silly Tony,” I told her in a baby voice. “Doesn’t he know we’re already in hell? We live here, man.” It was 5:18.
5:20. When I was sure those two berks were gone, I leaned against the building again. I was sure this wall had a Hawk-shaped indentation in it from ten years of me keeping a stupid promise. I tried to settle in just right, find the position that dug into the familiar ache of my back, maybe bring a little relief while I put in the last ten minutes of my watch. My tongue probed at my teeth to see if Tony’s punch had knocked anything loose. One molar might be a little wiggly, and there’s an ache in my jaw, but I totally came out of that tangle on top.
Ridley perched on my shoulder, preening herself and my hair at the same time. Absently I stroked her breast feathers, enjoying her warm, five-pound weight, the quick, gentle movements of her beak. The same beak that could rip a rat or a person to shreds was also precise enough to pick ticks off her feathers and dirt out of my mohawk.
With no warning, as usual, the Voxvoce suddenly blared throughout the city. People stopped in their tracks, some sinking to the ground, holding their ears. Ridley gave a high-pitched whine, and I clamped one hand around her silky head, shielding her ear holes as best I could. Then I closed my eyes and escaped within myself, away from the Voxvoce and the twisted, corrupt government who used it to control its people.
It ricocheted off buildings, filling the air and making my teeth ring. Even my eyeballs felt like they were vibrating in my skull as Ridley curled closer to me, looking for shelter from an enemy she couldn’t see and didn’t understand.
5:24. Finally, it ended—it had been about a minute and a half this time. Sometimes it was longer, sometimes shorter, but the sound always had the ability to make kids cry, terrify animals and make birds drop from the sky, make grown men sink to their knees and women cringe against buildings, silent tears streaking their cheeks.
It was super-effective. I pictured catching the bastards who’d come up with the idea of the Voxvoce, and the bastards who had created it, and locking them all in a room with it playing 24/7. They’d be writhing like worms within minutes, vomiting and crying and screaming for mercy. I would have no mercy.
They always killed it right when you thought you were about to lose your mind, go totally insane and shove something sharp into your ear just to make it stop. The bastards were smarter than that, though; they turned the Noise off before you hit that point, and instead you were just thankful that it ended. I’d actually seen people thank them for stopping, like they forgot it’s the bastards that started it in the first place.
5:25. Everyone knew this was my corner—which was why so many thugs tried to take it from me. For a half hour every day, I people watched, usually with Ridley on my shoulder, which kept some of the rougher elements away. The smarter ones, anyway. There were certainly some dumb ones walking around with Ridley-induced scars on their faces. This city was a nightmare. What kind of parents would leave a little kid on her own in a nightmare place like this with only a raptor to protect her? I looked around. Every person here was packing, the outlines of their guns plain against their clothes. I’d seen kids as young as six with their own handguns, scaled down to fit their smaller hands and weaker grips.
5:27. Besides all the freaking gun-carriers, there were the Opes. Opes were scary, even to me, almost. Every once in a while you saw one who was a relatively cheerful addict, maybe someone with money and a sure supply. Much more often Opes were ragged, desperate, dirty, and lost. At a certain point they forgot to eat, forgot to do anything except find drugs. They were bony, with sharp cheekbones and elbows, scarred skin, rotted teeth, and hair that looked like it had been stapled to their heads in sad clumps.
An Ope was lurching toward me now, singing under her breath, dragging one foot, sticklike fingers twirling in hair dirtier and more tangled than mine, which is saying something. I carefully looked away, just another drug-free kid with a large hawk on her shoulder. She paused when she saw me, but I refused to meet her eyes, and finally she loped past, almost stumbling at the curb.
When she was gone, I grinned a little and rubbed Ridley’s head. The Ope had been wearing a Max T-shirt—filthy and full of holes, but still. I loved Maximum Ride, though I didn’t really know who or what she was. Maybe a comic book character? Maybe a movie star or something, I don’t know. Just every now and then I saw her picture on a T-shirt or a book cover or a billboard, and I liked the way she looked: god-awful fierce and determined as hell. No one to mess with. I’d named my bird after her: Ridley is like Ride, with an ly.
And it was 5:30. I was out.