Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Michael Vey" series.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Michael Vey is a skinny 14-year-old, who is bullied relentlessly at every school he attends. Being stuffed into garbage cans and lockers has become almost routine, but when Jack and his gang try to pants him after school (remove his pants to embarrass him), Michael has finally had enough.
Anger sends electricity pulsing through his body. The powerful voltage shocks the bullies and leaves them gasping in pain. They won't bother him again. But the bullies aren't the only ones to witness his impressive powers. Michael's crush, Taylor Ridley, a cheerleader at Meridian High, is watching.
Michael and his mom have tried hard to keep his unusual ability secret. They moved to a small town in Idaho, and Michael's mom left a good job at a law firm to become a checker at a supermarket. The only nonfamily member who knows that Michael is electric is Ostin Liss, his brilliant but otherwise ordinary friend. Taylor witnessing his ability might jeopardize everything.
Michael avoids Taylor's persistent questions until she reveals that she also has electrical powers. Taylor can't conduct electricity the way Michael can, but she can reboot people's brains, making them temporarily forget what they were doing or saying. She can also read minds.
Taylor, Ostin and Michael form a club called the Electroclan. They discover that Taylor and Michael were born at the same hospital in Pasadena, Calif., within days of each other. Ostin learns that in the 11 days surrounding their births, 59 babies were born at the Pasadena General Hospital, but only 17 survived. The deaths appear to be linked to a malfunctioning piece of hospital equipment that used a new technology called magnetic electron induction (MEI). Elgen Inc. was conducting research on this technology until a technical malfunction suspended the research.
Taylor and Michael are both contacted by a prestigious school called Elgen Academy, located in Pasadena. They have both won a full scholarship. Neither wants to go, but Elgen Inc. won't take no for an answer. Taylor's and Michael's moms are kidnapped. Michael and Ostin are determined to drive to Pasadena to rescue them, but neither of them owns a car. Jack, the bully from school, does, though.
Michael pays Jack and his henchman Wade $300 to drive them to Pasadena. On the way, he discovers that Jack isn't really a bad guy — just a victim of poor circumstances. When they arrive at the gated school, Jack and Wade volunteer to help Michael and Ostin break in.
Meanwhile, Taylor is living the high life at Elgen Academy. Having recovered from the indignity of her capture, she learns that she has a twin named Tara. Tara is also electric and has lived at Elgen Academy for almost a decade. She can manipulate the emotions of people around her. Taylor and Tara go on a whirlwind shopping trip and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and jewelry at exclusive shops. She also meets Dr. Hatch, the man in charge at Elgen Academy, and the rest of the electric children, called glows.
Hatch convinces Taylor to reboot a singer in the middle of a song. She feels guilty later. When Hatch insists that she reboot a motorcyclist in the middle of a jump, Taylor refuses.
Taylor is tortured and locked in a cell with several other glows who have defied Hatch. Michael and Ostin break into their cell but are immediately captured, as are Jack and Wade. Hatch offers Michael safe passage for his friends and mother in return for his loyalty, but when Michael learns that he will have to electrocute Wade, he rebels. Hatch locks Michael in cell 25, where he is tortured by Tara, who makes him feel constant fear. However, his powers continue to increase daily.
Michael finally escapes with the help of Zeus, a formerly brainwashed glow that he and Tara convince to turn against Hatch. They rescue the guinea pigs (ordinary humans that Hatch has imprisoned in the basement) including Jack and Wade. Michael defeats Nichelle, a glow who serves as Hatch's main enforcer, and Hatch escapes in a helicopter with the glows who remain loyal to him. Michael and his friends decide to follow them and free his mom.
Other Belief Systems
All of the glows' abilities are accounted for scientifically, so no magic or supernatural intervention is involved. However, many of the glows believe that humans are less-advanced than glows and therefore expendable. Less desirable members of society are selected to be GPs (guinea pigs), and Dr. Hatch and the glows treat them as property.
Taylor learns about her electrical abilities while playing wizard with her friends. She casts a spell that actually works.
Passing references to Greek mythology include characters like Zeus, the glow who can shoot electricity from his fingertips. The principal's stare is compared to that of Medusa, who was so hideous she turned people to stone.
There is one use of h---. Shut up is used several times.
Michael is constantly bullied, both physically and emotionally. Jack and his gang watch ultimate fighting and take Brazilian jujitsu lessons. They attack and attempt to pants Michael after school (remove his pants to embarrass him). We learn that they once pants-ed Ostin, removing both his pants and underwear. Michael protects himself by electrocuting people, using varying degrees of voltage. When he was younger and less able to control himself, some of his tormentors were hospitalized.
Because of the incident with Jack and his friends, Michael becomes known as Little Norris. Taylor perpetuates the myth, saying he has a black belt. He is encouraged to have a friendly fight with a larger boy, Corky, and wins because Taylor reboots Corky just before Michael crashes into him. The contest ends amicably.
Hatch forces the guinea pigs to wear electric shock collars that are capable of incapacitating or even killing them. Glows are tortured by other glows. Hatch tortures and threatens friends and family members of glows.
Hatch tells Michael that he killed his own father — accidentally electrocuting him. Similar stories are told to other glows. It is suggested that Hatch is lying about the deaths to gain power over the glows.
Glows fight using their electrical powers. One glow uses his ability to make airplanes crash. A guinea pig sprays mace in a guard's face. Hatch tries to shoot Michael, but Zeus disintegrates the bullet before it reaches him.
Ostin has a crush on every girl alive, including Michael's mom. He calls her a hot babe. Similar comments are directed at other females. Taylor is one of the most popular girls in high school, and even teachers have crushes on her. Tara has a crush on a male glow, Quentin. Taylor thinks Zeus is cute.
Michael has a crush on Taylor, but by the end of the book, they have barely entered the boyfriend-girlfriend stage, and physical interaction is limited to a hug and a couple of kisses. Taylor hugs Michael to read his thoughts. Hatch offers to give Taylor to Michael in exchange for his cooperation.
Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.
Cheating: Taylor reboots an opposing player during a basketball game, causing her team to win the game. Afterward, she feels remorseful.
Smoking/Drugs/Alcohol: Jack smokes. Dr. Hatch serves champagne at a dinner.
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Readability Age Range
12 and up
Richard Paul Evans
Simon Pulse/Mercury Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book, 2012; IRA Young Adults Choices, 2012