Richard Paul Evans is somewhat of a celebrity in our community. He's a true "local boy makes good" story. I've heard him speak and find him a fantastic public motivational speaker. And yet, even though I receive a copy of his highly popular Christmas Box as a gift every other year on average, I still can't get though the whole story. It feels forced, predictable, and formulaic. At the request of a family member, I also read Promise Me, about a man who goes back in time and meets his mother-in-law, is instrumental in helping her get on her feet financially, and because of his help, he is able to save his future wife from suffering the life threatening effects of her disease. I just couldn't buy it, and I found the writing to read like a dime-store romance novel.
So it was with trepidation that I began to read the book club choice for March, Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25.
My daughter is friends with Evans' niece and was invited to a book release party. She came home and said that Michael Vey was exactly like like Percy Jackson and she wasn't going to read it. The only thing redeeming about the party was that the boy who modeled for the cover was sooo cute, or so she said.
So I began reading, and to my surprise, I liked it. And to my surprise, I found the premise of a mutant electric boy more believable than the premise and characters in The Promise.
Is it like Percy Jackson? Yes, but not an exact copy as my indignant daughter claimed. Keep in mind, I am a junior high teacher and I've read a zillion books like this. The plot is predictable.
Here is how you could write your own story.
Once upon a time there is a boy who is bullied/is a mutant/has a disability/has super powers/is a half god/is extremely smart/is extremely brave/has had or has a deadly disease/a combination of any of the above.
His father is dead/is missing/ left/divorced his mother/is in jail.
The boy has a side kick in the form of a genius best friend/little sister or brother/mythical creature.
The boy has to overcome his inadequacies and fight the villain/bad guys/government conspiracy in order to rescue his mother/avenge his mother's death/help the family and save the world.
That's is it in a nutshell. Now you can write your own adventurous boy book.
I just finished reading another great book with my students that follows this formula, Flush by Carl Hiaasen. I asked my students if they wanted to read this or Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, by saying, "Do you want to read about drums and girls or poop?" They said poop. They are still in 7th grade, what do you expect? They loved it.
They also liked Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. This is also one of my favorites that was originally recommended to me by a fifth grade teacher who I was sitting by on an airplane.
I would give all these books four stars out of five. So Richard Paul Evans, you redeemed yourself. I'm looking forward to the sequel.