Jennie's Reviews > The Prisoner of Cell 25

The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans
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's review
Jun 28, 11

bookshelves: fantasy, fiction, sci-fi, ya
Recommended for: Younger teens, relunctant readers (especially boys)
Read from June 23 to 24, 2011, read count: 1

I've never read anything by Evans, but I noticed that he was well-known for romantic fiction. I hate romance. So I was surprised to see that this is a YA novel, and one that dodges the ever-so-popular "supernatural romance" trap.

I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Vey. The protagonist has a distinctive voice and is very easy for teens or tweens to relate to with the usual teen foibles -- bullies, irrational authority figures, an absent father, unpopularity, a hopeless crush -- and the not-so-usual ones -- dangerous superpowers and Tourette's Syndrome. On that note, Evan's explanation of Vey's electrical powers -- how they work, where they come from, and how they relate to his Tourette's -- requires a lot less suspension of belief than many other YA tales featuring superpowered teens. There's a little bit of science in there to satisfy the more discerning reader. Likewise, Michael's disability is adequately developed and shown as something that doesn't define him, even though it is ever-present. Teens with related disorders -- AD(H)D, depression, anxiety, and Autism-spectrum disorders -- will find Evan's development of Michael's Tourette's adequate, moving, and easy to relate to.

Evan's protagonist also receives high praise for sharing the spotlight with a cast of similarly powered teens. Taylor, his crush, is adequately developed, although she takes a backseat to Michael and comes off a bit weak in some chapters. Nevertheless, she does not feel like the token romantic interest, which is appreciated. Likewise, Michael's ragtag group of friends -- two bullies with bad home lives, an overweight socially-awkward super brain, and other superpowered teens -- have their own backstories that, thankfully, do not revolve around the protagonists or make them into rather empty stereotypes. Readers will find that Evan's characters are adequately developed, even if they are minor characters.

Another plus is that Michael doesn't suffer from the "superpowered orphan with a destiny" syndrome. He actually has a mother, that's alive no less, and has a succinct developed voice of her own. Even though she's absent through much of the book, her positive influence on her son shines through. Their positive mother-son relationship is a breath of fresh air in a genre that glamorizes unstable, broken, or missing family ties.

A few minor quibbles for me -- some of the plot twists are not adequately developed, in that they come out of left field. Others were painfully obvious. Even more, I felt, didn't give a lot of space to the emotional impact they supposedly had. That's one complaint of the book: Evans does not spend a lot of time developing the "head space" of his characters, so when really terrible things happen to them -- such as torture, being asked to murder people, facing down goons with guns -- it all feels a bit surreal and rushed, and reads more like a news report than a fleshed out action scene.

I'm willing to give it a pass though, since the book appears to be written for the younger teen or older tween set. Michael is a freshman in high school, and his voice feels very preteen-on-the-verge-of-teen. There's not a terrible amount of angst, which is thankfully not missed. Evans writes more towards fans of action-packed books like Ender's Game rather than sleepy romantic hits like Twilight. As a huge fan of the former, and not of the later, I appreciated that.

The bottom line is that Michael Vey was compulsively readable (I finished it in a night without feeling like the plot dragged anywhere), and heavy on the action -- it would actually make the transition to a graphic novel really well. Fans of the superhero genre will find Evan's book compelling and interesting, and it'll attract a wide set of fans -- tweens, teens, and everyone sick of paranormal romance and postapocalyptic novels.
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