Single mother and lawyer Danielle Parkman doesn't know what to do anymore. Her son Max has always been a handful. He is an ultra-smart teen with high-functioning autism. When he starts using drugs and exhibits violent behavior, Danielle decides to have Max assessed at a top-notch psychiatric facility.
Max soon becomes more violent and the assessment indicates he has severe behavioral issues that mean a long-term stay at the facility. When Danielle finds Max unconscious and covered in blood at the feet of a patient who has been fatally and viciously stabbed, Danielle soon becomes an accessory to the crime.
Separated from Max and afraid of the person he seems to have become, Danielle must discover the truth--no matter what her investigation uncovers.
Saving Max is one of those books you finish and you're not quite sure what you think of it. It's a suspenseful story of one mother's determination to discover if her child has lost all ability to interact with the outside world. As a mother, I could relate to Danielle's need to uncover the truth, no matter what she might find out about Max.
Told mostly in the present tense, this book is heavily plot driven. As a reader who prefers character driven fiction, this put me at a disadvantage, especially because van Heugten's writing style did not allow me to get to know Danielle, Max, or any of the other characters very well. While there are moments when the reader can sympathize with Danielle and Max, overall, one feels she is being kept at arm's length and not let inside their heads.
Like Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James, Saving Max relies on the psychological behavior of its characters to help drive the story forward. However, van Heugten's characters lack the depth that inspires the reader to want to understand why the characters behave the way they do.
While admittedly, I eagerly turned the pages of this book, I felt a great sense of relief once I was done. Some things that happened during the investigation seemed implausible. Though the majority of the story was told through Danielle's character, when it served the author's purpose there were chapters using other characters. It seemed like an easy way for the author to share information with the reader that Danielle would not have.
The reviews for Saving Max on Amazon.com have a wide variance. The majority fall within the 3- and 4-star range. If I rated my books, I would say this book ranks as a 4-star. While the story held my interest, I was left with wanting more than I found within this book's pages.
Title: Saving Max
Author: Antoinette van Heugten