Before I get into my review (it is a little critical), I want to explain why I think this book series is so important. Michael Vey is published by Mercury Ink. For those of you that don’t know what Mercury Ink is, it is the book imprint of Glenn Beck‘s Mercury Radio Arts. Beck is one of the few conservatives that seem to grasp the connection between culture and politics. The exciting thing about this series is it is expected to be seven books long, and it’s not political at all. This means there is no reason that this book should not be in every middle school library in the country.
Because of the above, I had really high hopes for this book, but I ended up being a little disappointed by it. My biggest complaint would have to be the writing, it’s careless at times.
Michael Vey is a freshman who lives in Idaho with his single mother. Yes, Idaho, the state with the potatoes, and, well, not much else. Trust me, he is there for a good reason. Michael is not quite like the other kids, he has Tourette’s, and there is that peculiar issue of him being able to shock another person with about 1000 volts of electricity if he chooses to. Michael is one of 17 children that have special powers. You are probably wondering why Michael has these powers. Well, you’re going to have to read it to find out, but let’s just say it involves an evil corporation and a plan to take over the world. We’ll leave it at that.
There are some really good aspects of this text. To begin with, it is a really easy read. This makes it accessible to almost every reader at the middle school level and up. The text of the book is very dialogue rich, and that seems to advance the story quickly. Second, it is a new young adult series, and it is not vampires or fantasy!
The main conflict of the story presents the reader with a clear choice between good and evil, and you find yourself rooting for Michael and the other characters involved in the story. It’s about character. Michael is a great kid that lives in a loving single-family home. Finally, the science fiction part of the story is good science fiction, in other words, it seems plausible. It is not some weird alien story that is off-putting to readers that do not like science fiction.
As I said above, the text is sloppy at times. Plot events seem to advance at inappropriate speeds. There are a couple of specific events in the story that make no sense. The final conflict in the story did not add up to me either. It seemed too easy for the characters’ situation. It struck me as a book that was rushed to deadline, or had an editor that just was not very good.
I also struggled with the characters. They appeared a little immature for their age. I have had several students in my classroom (7th grade English) read this, and that does not seem to bother them. So, it is probably just my perception as an adult reader reading a young adult book. Many of my kids have given this book a five-star review.
All in all, this is a good first attempt at a new young adult series, it’s different, and in today’s young adult marketplace different is good. The good news is the second book is outstanding! I will have a review up for that one in the coming weeks.
UPDATE 12/22/2013: We have just concluded the first semester in our district. The Missouri Association of School Librarians has a middle school book award called the Truman Award. Michael Vey made the list this year!
On a professional level, I have been amazed at the amount of interest I have seen in this book. There is something about it that kids just grab on to. I am especially impressed with the effect this book has on reluctant readers. I have easily had 20 students complete the book this year. Not one of them has abandoned the book or rated it less than a four of five stars.
On a personal level (the I’m so sick and tired of liberal pop-culture, and it’s about time your child experiences something of value level), there are days I wonder how many of these kids who love this book have parents that can’t stand Beck. I must admit, just the thought makes me smile with conservative giddiness.
Also, make sure you check out my review of the 5-start Michael Vey 2. It was everything I had hoped the first one would be.