|“||Disclaimer: This is a story of perseverance and hope, but it's also one of grief. I've seen things—terrible things—that no one should even know exist. I've witnessed the world's darkest days and humanity's ugliest moments. I've watched cities collapse, friends die. This is the hardest story I've ever had to tell.||”|
Happily Ever After Is A Lie.
I've fought my whole life to keep my family safe.
I've even had to kill those who hunted us down.
But when the world is destroyed and you're alone for the first time ever...
how do you find the strength to stay alive?
The novel opens up with a letter from Max, who is telling the reader that they are holding the story of life after the Nevermore apocalypse. She asks the reader that, when they're ready, to read Maximum Ride Forever.
After the letter, Max tells the reader that she knows why they're reading the novel: because they want to know the truth. She then goes on to say that she now believes that the truth is something you have to find out yourself, not with help from adults or the news...and it can be harsh, too. Certain events from before Nevermore—such as the Flock's escape from the School, Jeb's betrayal, and Fang leaving the Flock to start his gang—are then mentioned...then Max brings up the apocalypse. She doesn't know what caused it, but she knows it brought about the end of the world. Telling the reader that the Flock's history is the reader's future, she begins the story by introducing the setting: a South Pacific island.
Max, Gazzy, Angel, and Nudge are attempting to escape from a volcanic eruption zone when Nudge and Max scream that they forgot their backpacks in a field. Max tells them to get to a rock outcropping by the southern beach of the island—she'd get the packs—and Gazzy proceeds to warn her that the most time she'd have is five minutes. The Flock leader starts sprinting up the hill, not wanting to risk burning her flight feathers by flying. She grabs the packs...but then a powerful earthquake shakes the ground once more, and she face-plants in the dirt, dropping the packs as she goes down. Max looks up and sees a refrigerator-sized boulder headed towards her, leaving her no choice but to tuck and roll. Once she is a good distance away, she sees that the boulder had obliterated the space she'd just been lying; and now, the volcano is shooting off a column of lava and smoke at least a thousand feet high. Max can only watch as the cliff she'd called home for three months is ravaged by lava, but she can't watch for long. The sky begins raining burning rocks, and she attempts to grab all the packs and tools she can; as she is reaching for Gazzy's pack, however, it goes up and flames and she burns her hand. Angel telepathically screams for her to hurry, and Max tells herself to forget about the tools and run. As she is, she turns onto a rock outcropping. Below the rock cropping, however, a river of lava awaits.
Max is flung out into an empty space and starts to fall. As gravity pulls her down, a survival instinct of hers kicks in and she snaps out her wings. She manages to get to the rest of the flock (almost) safe and sound. They're preparing to leave the area immediately, hoping the lava won't destroy their water resources. It is soon revealed that Akila is with them, too. In the end, everyone escapes the most dangerous area...except Dylan, whose whereabouts are unknown.
Hours later, rain is pouring down, and Max is pacing across a rocky ledge while remembering how paradisaical the island used to be. Burned and beaten, she realizes that the Flock will have to leave soon regardless of whether or not she wanted to. Nudge tells Max to get inside their cave, but Max just shakes her head and says that Dylan probably just went in the wrong direction.
Upon investigating, they find Dylan's shoe and realize that he must have died. As a memorial service, they let the shoe fall into the ocean. They continue flying and reach Sydney, Australia, which has been bombed and flooded, and look for shelter. They break into an office but are attacked by Cryenas, which scar Nudge's face. Akila helps ward them off but later dies of her injuries and ash inhalation. They fly to a hill overlooking the city and then to an abandoned cabin where they bury Akila. Fang discovers a laptop with an Internet connection, and they are able to read through news of what happened during the apocalypse. There are still readers congregating on Fang's blog. The Flock argues over where to go next and Angel telepathically "shows" Fang his fate. Max follows Fang outside and they share a romantic moment, where it is implied that they made love. They end up falling sleep together, but he leaves before she wakes up, fighting off Cryenas on the way. Total is the only one to see him leave.
Fang flies to California to investigate the H-men. Iggy and Gazzy set out for Pennsylvania to search for survivors. Angel heads for Russia. Max, Nudge, and Total are left behind and Max decides to go back to the island and find out if her family's still alive. Instead they're captured by Rizal's gang of mutants. Although Max wants to leave after they confirm the Martinez family's death, Nudge and Total stay behind. Max encounters more survivors in Africa and promises to help them, but after they try to cut off her wings and eat them, she moves on again. She's attacked by a giant man sent by the Remedy, survives the fight, and flies on to New York and across America.
Meanwhile, the Remedy has released a being known as Horseman to kill the Flock. He finds and kills Nudge and Total. Fang is attacked and badly wounded by seagulls. He encounters some kids working for the Doomsday Group, who assume he's a Horseman. He gets into a fight with them, but Star saves him. Leaving the boys on a ledge with no weapons, he goes after Star and manages to get her attention with some food. She explains that Jeb is in league with the Remedy.
Max encounters other avian mutants and meets Harry, who comes with her when she moves on again.
Iggy and Gazzy find a group of girls living in an underground silo in Pennsylvania. The girls force them to clean out sewage, but they're then attacked by the Horseman. Gazzy appears to die in an explosion, and Horseman follows Iggy into the woods to kill him.
Now in Seattle, which has been hit with a nuclear bomb, Max and Harry find a phone. Max gets onto Fang's blog, where she finds rumors of the Flock's deaths. She also hears that the Remedy's army plans to ambush Fang in Alaska. They find a young girl, whom Max tries to help, but who knocks them out with a blast of gas. They wake up in a cage, surrounded by brainwashed kids and a man pretending to be the Remedy. Max argues with the Remedy and he has the kids attack them, but Max and Harry manage to carry the cage upwards and smash it against the ceiling to escape.
Meanwhile, Angel is aware of the Flock's deaths, but is still traveling around the world gathering rebels into an army. In Alaska, Fang finds Erasers, which have been upgraded into Horsemen, attacking Dylan, who's still alive. Fang flies in to help fight them off, but the Erasers throw him to the ground in front of Jeb and rip one of his wings off. Somewhere far north, in the snow, Angel has telepathic contact with him and begins to cry as Horseman arrives. Then she calms down and asks, "Is it done?" Horseman answers yes and kneels at her feet.
Max and Harry are sleeping when Dylan arrives, followed shortly by Angel. Dylan reveals that he is Horseman, kidnapped by the Remedy and upgraded, and that he faked the Flock's deaths. Everyone is safe. Dr. Gunther-Hagen is the Remedy. However, Fang's death was not faked. Dylan shows Max a video of his death to prove it, and gives her one of Fang's feathers.
Their group flies over the Bering Strait to Russia, where they encounter the rest of the Flock and Angel's army. Angel rallies the army with a telepathic speech and they begin fighting against the Remedy's soldiers, where are mostly mutant children. Max and Dylan manage to enter the Remedy's underground bunker, where Max confronts Jeb. Star and Kate intervene, with Kate snapping Jeb's neck.
Max and Dylan travel through Dylan's room, meeting Margaret A. on the way, and enter the Remedy's office. He reveals that he has hooked himself up to the final nuclear bomb, and if they kill him they will also kill their own army. Max flies him out of the base and up into the sky. As she flies, he reveals his master plan and gloats that it's over. In turn she reveals that she's pregnant with Fang's child. When he angrily tries to set off the bomb, it fails to work, and in his desperation he begins trying to stab at her stomach. Max drops him and he dies on impact.
In the aftermath, people clean up from battle, explore Himmel, and prepare to sit out the nuclear winter inside the underground base. Dylan takes Max to the lab, where he has kept Fang's body in suspended animation and created a new bionic wing to replace the old one. He asks Max whether she wants to use the machine to bring Fang back or not. She says yes and tells him that she's pregnant. After telling her that he loves her, he brings Fang back to life, killing himself in the process.
They all live in the tunnels for almost four years until they reemerge into a world mostly covered in ash. Max gives birth to her daughter Phoenix underground. The Flock, now much larger, flies to Peru to live among the ruins there. Max begins writing down the history of what happened. The story ends with the Flock teaching Phoenix to fly.
- The novel contains various references to the Book of Revelations, the final book of the Christian Bible.
- The Horsemen that appear in the novel are a reference to a group of figures known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
- Towards the end of the novel, Max realizes the true power of Angel's psychic abilities and dubs her a prophet; in this way, Angel herself is an allusion to John, the prophet whom God sent visions of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to.
- The "Remedy" is the fake Jesus Christ who everyone loves and trusts and is secretly evil.
- The Barnes & Noble exclusive edition included a sneak peak at the script for the webseries.