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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1) by Richard Paul Evans

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.

Released: August 9, 2011       Pages: 326
Publisher: Simon Pulse          Source: Library
First Look: ***** A few months ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I noticed an ad for this book along the side.  It said something along the lines of "Michael Vey is a hero Percy and Annabeth would approve of".  Considered the fact that I love the Percy Jackson series, this is a pretty dangerous statement to make.  I shrugged and continued scrolling.  A few days later, I saw the same ad, except that it said Michael was "a hero that would make Artemis and Holly* proud".  Now, I like the Percy Jackson series, but I love Artemis Fowl books like you wouldn't believe.  Making claims like that is a dangerous thing to do, because I took that as a direct challenge.  Artemis and Holly* would be proud?  All right, let's see about that!  And so I added this to my to-read list. 

Setting: *****
It was a typical high school.  I have no complaints, but nothing else to mention.  I shall sum up my thoughts with this picture**:
Meh: neither good nor bad.  Indifference.  Just...meh.

Characters: ***** Many of the characters were too stereotypical for my liking.  To be honest, I felt like I had read about Michael before.  Let's see...scrawny kid, gets made fun of (often for no logical reason), has a single mother, not much money, limited amount of friends, average student, has a disorder.  And a superpower.  Hm...Percy Jackson, maybe?  Nick from the Chronicles of Nick (minus the disorder, I think)?  Charlie Bone (again without the disorder)?

And Michael.  Now, I didn't care much for the Chronicles of Nick book that I read, and I can never figure out whether to love or hate the Charlie Bone series.  But you see my point.  If I can think of three other series with a very similar character (and that's without scanning my Goodreads shelves to look for more), then maybe we have a stereotype problem going on.  Percy Jackson had these characteristics, yes, but I still liked him.  Rick Riordan made him stand out; he gave Percy uniqueness.  I liked Michael to a certain point, but at the end of the day he doesn't stand out for me against all the other characters I've read about. 

And then there's Taylor.  Stereotypical popular-yet-nice cheerleader.  She's only talked to Michael about...twice, but she's going to invite him to her house?  Suddenly they're best friends, and, wait for it, dare I say, boyfriend and girlfriend?  Insta-love at its finest (worst?).  That aspect of her bothered me.  I was also bothered by her reactions after she was kidnapped.  These scary, suspicious people kidnapped her, even hurt her, and dragged her off away from home against her will.  Then they bought her expensive stuff and flattered her.  And she began to like them, to think they mean her no harm?  What happened to the they-kidnapped-you part? 

Okay, here's the end of the character rant.  In short: I liked them, to a limited extent.  But they seemed stereotypical to me, and they did things that bothered me (and rightly so).

Plot: ***** I enjoyed the plot itself.  I liked how it moved nice and quickly.  I probably would have liked it much more if I hadn't spent much of the time being annoyed with the characters. 

Another of my problems, though, was that Michael himself didn't actually do very much.  Stuff happened to him, but he didn't cause much to happen.  Writing lesson: In your novel, there's going to have to be some amount of stuff happening to your character.  It'll get the story rolling.  But your MC should be making most of the plot happen.  It's more interesting. 

Uniqueness: *****
The premise itself was clever and unique, but I wasn't getting the same from the characters.

Writing: *****
What bothered me about the writing was the way the author kept referring to teenagers as "children".  Look, I don't care if they actually are considered children by many standards.  No fourteen-year-old thinks of themselves as a child.  They don't call themselves children.  (For the record, I don't think even six-year-olds talk about "children".  They talk about "kids".  But that isn't my point.)  If this is written from a fourteen-year-old's POV, no matter whether it's first person or third, you can't describe the MC and his friends using a term he'd never use in real life.  It makes no sense.

Plus, fourteen-year-olds don't want to be thought of as children.  And fourteen is around the prime audience for this book.  They're going to pick up on the use of this word, and they're going to feel like they are being talked down to.  It's going to feel condescending.  Yes, they will pick up on this.  (Here's a spot for another writing lesson: When writing about this general age group, just "kids" will do just fine.  The term "kid" comes off in a completely different way than "child".)

Likes: Electrical powers are always so cool.  And the evil corporation really was scary and intimidating.

Not-so-great: Nothing that hasn't already been mentioned.

Overall: I read this book as a "Oh yeah?  If you're going to make those claims, challenge accepted!" sort of thing.  Unfortunately, it doesn't really live up to the Artemis-Holly standard.  The plot is quick and cool, and it's got some really unique and awesome ideas.  The characters are very stereotypical, though, and they did things that annoyed me to no end.  Try it out of it looks interesting, but otherwise I'd pass on this one.  I'm not sure whether or not I want to read the sequel.
*And believe me, Holly puts all those other "strong female heroines" to shame.  Seriously.  Katniss Everdeen would be afraid to cross her.
**Okay, fine, I admit it.  I just find that picture highly amusing.
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