August 2011 by Simon Pulse
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.
The Michael Vey books are super popular at my school, especially with students who don't normally read, so I figured that as a responsible teacher, I should check them out. I can see why they're popular with all my students, but they're not the books for me.
The Prisoner of Cell 25 seems to have been written specifically for some of my short attention span reluctant readers. It is quite fast paced. Boom. I have powers. Boom. I can't tell anyone. Boom. I told Taylor. Boom. She has powers too. Boom. Now people are chasing us. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. There wasn't any set up or space to breath between events. The book is made of short chapters and very, very short sentences. Come on, vary your sentence length at least a little. Don't write down to teens, Evans; they're capable of more than people give them credit for.
The villain is a bit too mustache-twirly, crazy, and evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil for me. Yet, he can't come up with anything more evil than blackmailing airline companies? He makes stupid mistakes like running a metal pipe from Cell 25 and the cell where Taylor and the other electric powered kids are being held when he knows that electric powers can be conducted through metal. And the reason Hatch and company are scary and unbeatable is because "They have private jets and hidden compounds" (pg 156)? I had to giggle a bit at that line.
The kids are way overpowered. I'm fine with them having electric powers, even strong powers. But no police department anywhere is going to let a 14 year old interview a violent suspect because, you know, he might just get more information out of the guy that we have, despite the fact that we've been specially trained and do this as our livelihood. The final fight seemed a bit unrealistic too, though I can't speak about it in detail since I got bored and skimmed through it. Beyond being overpowered, the characters are rather unoriginal. We've got the cute, popular cheerleader; the overweight, genius friend; and the bullied kid with secret powers. They don't grow throughout the novel. And Zeus's 180 at the end is just unrealistic.
And Meridian? If you've ever driven through the West, you know for a fact that there are more obscure, tiny, out of the way places to hide out than Meridian, Idaho. And how big of a coincidence is it that two electric kids just happened to go to the same school?
The Prisoner of Cell 25 is basically brain candy. It reminds me a lot of The Maze Runner and all the reasons I didn't like that book much either. I know some of my students think Michael Vey is the best series ever, but I just don't know if I can in good conscience recommend it except to my reluctant reader when I know there are better written books out there with complex characters and logical plots.