Saving Max by Antionette van Heugten sells itself as a thriller about a whip smart autistic boy who is accused of murder and the mother who does everything in her power to support her son and see him exonerated. Those points are there but the story is too flawed for me to recommend.
The novel has four main flaws that kept me from wanting to finish the book. First is the characterization of Max. Second is his mother, Danielle, who is supposed to carry the story but is an unlikeable and unbelievable character. Third is the medical staff which seems out of place in a novel set in modern times. Finally, there's the plotting and pacing of the mystery which takes far too long to get started.
Let's start with Max. He's the titular character. He's the reason for there even being a book. He's described as "whip smart" and a highly functioning autistic child. The problem though, is that these are attributes only. In the 120 pages I read, he hardly has any lines, any actions, any purpose other than to be talked about by the adult characters in the novel. Informed attributes do not make believable characters. Characteristics should be shown, not told!
Then there's Danielle who is supposedly a devoted mother and brilliant (perhaps "whip-smart"?) attorney who is up for partner. Except, she doesn't show any of this brilliance. Instead of using the legal system to her advantage to help her son, she rants and raves when the hospital staff aren't giving her access to her son. Then after he's accused of murder she again ignores the legal system to skulk around like Jessica Fletcher to investigate on her own. No. I don't buy that for one moment.
So then there's the medical staff. They might as well be photocopied right out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or perhaps the even older Snake Pit. Patients rights have progressed some since then and parental rights along with them. Had Saving Max been set thirty years ago, I would ignore their outrageous behavior. But all the way through the first hundred pages I'm wondering why Danielle doesn't just sue their asses instead of flailing around.
The final straw for me was the pacing of the mystery. I don't expect there to be a body on the first page or even at the end of the first chapter. I do however, expect the mystery to happen in the first fifty pages. Saving Max, though, waits until after one hundred pages to finally produce a body and frame Max. Those first hundred pages are just Danielle regretting her decision to take her son to this horrible hospital but doing nothing useful to undo her mistake.
So by the time the mystery actually started I realized I would never get to know Max, I hated his mother, I didn't find anything credible about the setting and I didn't care who had actually killed the other patient or why.
I received the book for review.