Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1), by Richard Paul Evans
Michael Vey is a fourteen-year-old high school freshman who lives in Meridian, Idaho. He also has Tourette Syndrome. Contrary to the popular perception of the condition, this does not mean that he curses uncontrollably. Rather, he has tics; he blinks and swallows and makes random sounds. His tics get worse when he is under stress. Between his size (he is short for his age), his Tourette, his general social awkwardness and his best friend being Ostin Liss, the smartest kid in school, and himself the target of bullies, Michael spends a lot of time dealing with bullies.
One day he is set upon by the school bullies, Jack, Wade, and Mitchell, and strikes back. He zaps them with electricity and tells them that he could have hit them harder. That is the first time that we, and cheerleader Taylor Ridley, see that there is more to Michael than meets the eye.
Additionally, someone has been looking for two missing children for the past fourteen years. It turns out that Michael is one of those children. We find out that fourteen years ago, the staff at Pasadena General Hospital was testing out a new imaging device, made by a company called Elgen. Somehow it affected the babies born at the hospital during that period. Most of the babies died. There were seventeen survivors, one of whom is Michael.
By the time Michael gets an invitation to a private school called the Elgen Academy (student body: seventeen), he knows that he is one of the babies that was affected by Elgen's machine. Of course, he instantly realizes that this invitation is Elgen's attempt to get him under their control, and refuses to go. However, when Michael's mother and Taylor, who has become Michael's friend, are kidnapped, Michael and Ostin know that the school is the first place to look for them. Soon they, and a couple of surprising other characters, head off to California to rescue them.
Building on the idea that animal nervous systems are electrical in nature, the surviving children have special abilities, all having to do with electricity and/or the nervous system. Besides Michael's ability to project electricity, we find, for example, that one of the kids has the ability to affect the emotions of other people. Another can generate heat and light. The way that science, problem-solving, and bioelectricity are used in this book has led to it being named an Outstanding Book by the National Science Teachers Association.
Michael can generate "pulses" of electricity, but he has an unexpected ability, too, that Ostin finds while testing Michael. Michael seems to be able to absorb electricity and direct it.
We do, of course, find out what Cell 25 is. The promotional material for the book offer the reader a chance to glimpse what is in Cell 25 if you visit the book's website. And, after seeing what is in Cell 25, I have to ask, "Why would I want to do that?" I know that it's just a gimmick and probably is just some supplemental material, such as an interview with the author, but still . . . . I feel this was not the best possible marketing choice.
One peculiar thing about the book is that most of it is written in the first person, from Michael's point of view. However, once Taylor gets kidnapped, we see things from her perspective, in the third person. It is an interesting approach, though I have known some people in the fanfiction writing community who would be extremely critical of this technique. I wonder how things would have worked out if Evans had attempted different first-person perspectives, similar to what Rick Riordan uses in his "Kane Chronicles" series.
Overall, though, I loved this book. The characters, the danger, the science. It was with a very pleasant feeling of anticipation that I await the rest what is shaping up to be an amazing series.