A quick warning before the summary: author Richard Paul Evans has been credibly accused of serial sexual harassment, which has caused him to be disinvited from a variety of publishing conventions. His response to these allegations has been to say that questioning the unwanted actions of sexually aggressive men makes “men feel like Jews in Nazi Germany.” This attitude tends to carry through this young adult novel.
Published in 2011 by Glenn Beck’s media empire, Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
is the first in the seven-book series starring the eponymous teenager. Centered on this young man’s attempts to cope with his Tourette’s syndrome and the realization that he has special electricity powers, the novel explores how this bullied scrawny kid manages to rescue and make out with his high school’s beautiful head cheerleader.
Fourteen-year-old Michael is a freshman at Meridian High School, where he is abused for his verbal Tourette’s and where he has a crush on Taylor, the most popular, prettiest cheerleader. However, what no one realizes is that because he was a victim of a hospital experiment when he was born, Michael also has the ability to shoot electricity out of his hands. Worried that he is the only one who has powers, Michael keeps them a secret from everyone except his mom and his best friend, equally a loser, but also of genius-level intelligence Ostin. This secrecy is frustrating since it means that Michael has no way to defend himself from his bullies.
Nevertheless, one day, when his tormentors push him too far, Michael shocks one of them in full view of Taylor. Instead of freaking out, however, Taylor reveals that she, too, has electricity powers. She, Michael, and Ostin form a club – but soon they find out that they, and others like them, are being hunted.
Taylor and Michael are offered scholarships to the mysterious Elgen Academy. However, when Michael tells his mother about this, she panics. In the confusion, she and Michael are accosted by Dr. Hatch and his minions, one of who drains Michael of electricity until he passes out. When he wakes up in the hospital, Hatch has kidnapped Michael’s mother and Taylor, spiriting them away to Elgen Academy.
At the Academy, Taylor finds out that she has an evil twin named Tara. She also learns about Dr. Hatch and his evil plans: he manipulates powered teens into doing what he wants. When Taylor doesn’t comply with his demands, she is punished along with other resisters: Ian, McKenna, and Abigail.
Meanwhile, Michael has patched things up with Wade, his former bully. When Michael resolves to rescue his mom and his crush, Wade gives him and Ostin a ride, but they are quickly captured by Dr. Hatch, who reveals that Michael is responsible for his own father’s death. Hatch demands that Michael kill Wade, and when Michael refuses, Hatch sends him to Cell 25 for torture. After a month in Cell 25, Michael is grouped with Ostin and Taylor, and all three face a powered man nicknamed Zeus for his ability to shoot lightning bolts. When Zeus is tricked into shocking Michael, he accidentally re-powers Michael, while Taylor dives into Zeus’s mind to undo Dr. Hatch’s evil manipulations. Zeus switches sides and allies with Michael and company.
Now calling themselves the Electroclan, the small group helps Ian, McKenna, and Abigail escape from their cells, and together they battle Dr. Hatch and his still loyal minions. Sensing their impending loss, Hatch and his group escape in a helicopter so they can live to fight another day in the next six books.
After the battle, Taylor kisses Michael, and Ostin proudly declares, "This is the rise of the Electroclan!"
Readers of the book complain that aside from the predictable and often derivative plot, the novel frequently insults the reader’s intelligence (sample quotation: “Unlike you, I live in Idaho. Don't ask me what state Idaho is in – news flash – Idaho IS a state.”) Other issues include the fact that all characters of Asian descent are described as “Chinese,” and that Michael’s mother gives him advice about women such as, “Trust me, we're all the same. We like clothes and jewelry. And flowers.” This bears itself out in the fact that the main female character has no agency, personality traits, or any other reason for existing other than being the main character’s unrealistically beautiful love interest.