Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review - Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25

Hi, everyone!

Below is the first in a series of reviews that cover books with lots of “guy” appeal. While it's true that a well written book can be enjoyed by all chromosome pairings, it is also true that when you're writing for or about guys, at least some of your shelf space and reading time should be dedicated to books that appeal to them.

With that in mind, today I review Richard Paul Evans' Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25.

Does this cell make my butt look big?

Description (from Oblong Books)
My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story. 
To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers. Michael thinks he's unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.

Just like you, I am very, very important. I've got things to do, people to see, places to get hopelessly lost in and refuse to ask for directions to get out of. This is why books like Michael Vey are so awesome. They are quick-paced and don't waste a lot of time warming up. Here's a short list of things we learn by, like, the second page:

  1. Michael Vey has strange electrical powers
  2. Michael's best friend, the cheese-puff eating Ostin, is wicked smart  
  3. Michael's love interest, a beautiful cheerleader named Taylor, also has electrical powers
  4. An evil corporation is after them
  5. Michael and Taylor gon die!

Okay, maybe it takes longer than 2 pages to set all this up. But not much. And after that, it is on, oh, it is on upon Donkey Kong. The stakes shoot through the roof as Michael and Taylor uncover some disturbing information about a secret organization that's been searching for them since birth. Obviously their powers have something to do with that. Michael can “pulse” like a Taser (with similar effect) and Taylor can “reboot” people, making them forget what they were doing.

We have just enough time to figure out that Taylor is awesome, and Michael should just kiss her already, when she gets kidnapped. The same crew also takes Michael's mother and uses both hostages to lure Michael to them. With nowhere to turn and time running out, Michael sets out to save his mother and his love interest (with the help of Ostin and a couple of unlikely compatriots).

Electrical badassery ensues and Michael and his Electroclan manage to win the battle while leaving the door wide open for the coming war.

There is a lot to like here. Not least of all is the fact that Michael is such a compelling character. He is honest, loyal, smart and good-hearted. But he's also vulnerable, something I believe is key to his appeal. He has this amazing power but tries to adhere to his mother's admonishment that he not use it, even when he knows it would protect him from the school bullies. He also has Tourette's, a condition that causes him to blink and make gulping sounds whenever he gets nervous. These ticks manifest quite a bit when he's around Taylor and it comes across as endearing. He's wearing his emotions on his sleeve.

The other main characters are also fun to watch. Ostin, with his borderline Asperger's, is the other half of the story's bromance and primary source of  its comic relief. He also represents the triumph of brain over brawn. His intellect is crucial to the success of their mission and makes it possible for him to be just as effective against the bad guys despite the fact that he has no electrical powers. It is easy to see why Michael feels such loyalty toward him.

Then there's Taylor, a girl every boy has had a crush on at some point in his life. She's pretty, she's smart, she's confident and she doesn't need saving. Well, she does, but not because she's some damsel-in-distress cliché. Taylor is fully prepared to suffer the consequences of refusing to do her captor's bidding. And in so doing, she becomes Michael's equal, a female hero counterpart. Their kiss is, of course, inevitable. And when it finally happens, it feels so genuine and sweet, you almost forget how much peril the characters still face.

In addition to such fully realized characters, the story has plenty of well-paced action. When Michael confronts the evil leader of the bad “glows” (Michael and Taylor being examples of good “glows”), there is a pitched battle that cleverly incorporates each character's electrical power. And naturally all the good glows must work together to win the day. You'll also find a lot of fun tropes here. You say you like secret organization bent on world-domination? Got it. Need an evil genius who makes Dr. No look like a humanitarian? Got that, too. There's also brainwashed teen villains, evil twins, a bitchy goth chick and some unexpected allies. By the time the climactic battle begins, you're fully invested in the outcome and want Michael to succeed.

Spoiler alert: he doesn't. At least, not completely. And this sets up the next book in the series, Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen.

Michael Vey was definitely a fun read and one I would recommend to anyone looking for action-filled YA with light romance and strong guy-appeal. I am looking forward to the second book in the series and hope to have a review for you shortly after it comes out.

Have you read Michael Vey? Are there other "boy" books you enjoyed or are looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!


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