Sunday, October 9, 2011

Arty -- The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael Vey is your typical fifteen-year-old. He's got his loving mom, since his dad died when he was little. He's got his best friend, Ostin Liss, who is overweight, genius-smart, and girl-crazy. He's got a crush on Taylor, the beautiful popular-but-nice-to-everyone-(except-apparently-Ostin) cheerleader. He's getting tormented by the school delinquents/bullies, Jack and Wade. And he has power over electricity.

Yeah, just a normal fifteen-year-old.

But (dun-dun-dun) someone wants Michael's powers for himself - someone from Michael's past, and someone possibly connected to his dad. And when Michael shows his powers less than discreetly, he leads that someone right to him.

This book had cliché written all over it, but I still picked it up at the library, hoping it would work the cliché factor to its advantage. And the author did get a few things right.

The beginning was good. For one thing, the 'powers' that Michael and various other teens have are all based in electricity, instead of having every kind of power on earth at their fingertips. It was a bit refreshing and interesting to see how many ways they could use electricity (though, not being a scientist, I don't know how correct those uses are). I also enjoyed the interactions between Michael and his mother, Sharon.

But the characters weren't strong enough to bear up under all the clichés. Michael is one of those vaguely funny, vaguely courageous, vaguely interesting male MCs that seem to be gaining popularity, with only his Tourette's Syndrome as a defining personality factor. That was interesting, and well-written, but hardly sufficient to distinguish an MC. Ostin was maybe my favorite character, but he was so very much the stock comic relief-slash-information dispenser, with so little background or development, that it was hard to cheer for him.

Don't get me started on Taylor. When you give the MC an oh-so-beautiful cheerleader as the supposedly spunky, intelligent, kind love interest, you're going to have to work hard to make me like her. But when you make her controlling, rude, and manipulative in the best of times and a complete wimp in the worst of times, who still manages to get everyone to worship at her feet... well, don't expect me to be impressed.

The requisite bad guy scientist, Dr. Hatch, was utterly uninteresting, a caricature of a hundred previous 'mad scientists.' Near the end, his face even 'twisted in hatred' toward Michael. Yes, very intimidating, I'm sure. And his big plan? Take over the world with the electric-kids' powers (powers that, yes, evolved from some of his company's experiments).

I quiver with fear.

Add all that to a confusing yet cliché ending (let's rescue all the prisoners! oh wait, we have to take over the central command station with all the cameras, microphones and controls), Cell 25 was disappointing, to say the least. I know it's being hyped in classrooms and such as a great, clean book, but... well, just because a book is clean doesn't mean it's great, or that it's a must-read. I know a lot of clean books that have way better characters, way better plots, and way better endings than this. It's not that hard.

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