Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will soon add a trio of new James Patterson titles to its list – one a series finale and two marking series debuts. Due on August 6 with a 850,000-copy first printing is Nevermore: The Final Maximum Ride Adventure, in which Max Ride and her flock of fellow flying humans combat a plot to destroy the world. Scheduled for release on September 24 is Confessions of a Murder Suspect, the inaugural title of a YA series centering on a girl accused of her parents’ murders. Written with Maxine Paetro, this is Patterson’s debut YA mystery. And December 10 is the pub date of I Funny, coauthored by Chris Grabenstein and illustrated by Laura Park, which launches a middle grade series spotlighting an aspiring stand-up comedian.

Asked why he chose to bring Maximum Ride to a close with Nevermore, its eighth installment, Patterson responds simply: “I think the story was finished.” Reflecting on the crux of the series, he notes, “To me, this series has always been about kids learning to take responsibility for their own actions rather than saying, ‘It’s not my fault,’ or ‘Someone else did it.’ That’s what Max and her friends learn and I think, insofar as it can, that the series helps readers to think about taking responsibility, too. That’s what was always on my mind when writing these books.”

Still, Patterson seems reluctant to close the door firmly on Maximum Ride. “I’ve spent many years with these characters – and Max in particular,” he says. “I’ve always felt close to Max and it will be hard not having that voice in my head, and not writing about her. Unless I think of another story. You never know.” But Max will get a new life in a Maximum Ride movie that’s in the works from Universal. “They tell me they have a screenplay and they’ve brought in someone to punch it up,” Patterson reports. “I’ve always thought that these books are more cinematic than many others. They’re quite visual because of all the flying that goes on.”

In with the New

While bidding farewell to Max, Patterson is giving two new protagonists their own series. One is Tandy Angel, heroine of Confessions of a Murder Suspect, who is a prime suspect, along with her three brothers, in their parents’ shocking murders. Of his inspiration for this series, whose kickoff title has a 750,000-copy first printing, Patterson says, “People have been saying to me for some time, ‘Why don’t you write a detective novel for kids?’ The idea of doing a Hardy Boys type of book didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to do it unless it felt somehow more distinctive and edgy than what’s already out there.”

Falling into a very different genre is I Funny, which has an announced first printing of 600,000 copies. The hero of this series launch is wheelchair-bound Jamie Grimm, who’s adjusting to a new school and living with his aunt, uncle, and bully of a cousin while pursuing his dream of becoming a comedian. “I liked the notion of a kid who at an early age finds a passion,” Patterson says. “I thought it was a cool idea that he learns everything he possibly can about comedy from books. It’s a very funny story, but it’s a very human book and a very emotional book, in the same way that my Middle School novels are.”

Like Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life and Middle School: Get Me Out of Here! (both coauthored by Chris Tebbetts), I Funny is illustrated by Laura Park. “I do like illustrated novels,” he says. “Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret turned me on to the possibilities of this combination of pictures and text.”

Making books all the more accessible to kids fits firmly with Patterson’s mission to encourage reading. “What’s behind all of my books is the notion of getting kids to become readers,” he says. “I think that’s the most valuable thing I can do right now. The key for getting more kids to read is giving them books with fast-moving plots that have something to say and that will compel them to move on to another book.”

Patterson’s work with Grabenstein on I Funny involved the same collaborative process that his earlier coauthored projects have. Patterson says he wrote an extensive 70-page outline, with 80 percent of the illustrations in place. “Then I told Chris to do whatever it takes to make the story as compelling as possible,” he adds. “Chris wrote a draft and then I worked with that. He was a stand-up comedian for a while, so that helped him convey what this young comedian might be feeling.”

Andrea Spooner, senior executive editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, has been Patterson’s editor since 2003, and she’s looking forward to the next two series launches. “Confessions of a Murder Suspect will appeal to Jim’s teen fan base and to his adult thriller fan base,” she says. “And we expect that I Funny will be a perfect next book for kids hooked on Jim’s Middle School series and other humorous, illustrated middle grade series – not to mention that it’s a really satisfying double whammy of an emotional story and a joke book rolled into one.”

Maximum Ride, which debuted in 2005, was Patterson’s first YA venture; the series’s first seven books, together with five spin-off manga books, have sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, according to his publisher. Though Spooner has been focusing on the author’s two new series, she says she’s sorry to see the end of Maximum Ride. “I’ve never been closer to a character than Max,” she says. “I know it sounds corny, but she feels like a close friend – maybe even like a part of me, my ‘inner teen.’ Each time I reread the last chapters of Nevermore, I still get kind of emotional, so I can only imagine how teen fans will feel. But I think it’s best to end a series when you’re leaving fans wanting more. And Jim knows when he’s said what he wanted to say about a certain set of characters.”

Nevermore: The Final Maximum Ride Adventure by James Patterson. Little, Brown, $17.99 Aug. ISBN 978-0-316-10184-4

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Little, Brown, $19.99 Sept. ISBN 978-0-316-20698-3

I Funny by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illus. by Linda Park. Little, Brown, $15.99 Dec. ISBN 978-0-316-20693-8