But the Writing is So Good! – How we justify Fifty Shades of Grey?

This isn’t going to be a long post. I’m not going to get into an argument about the merits/follies of the outrageously popular novel, Fifty Shades of Grey – Now a major motion picture. I’m just going to ask you to read the following statement.

FSGYep, that’s right. This is what we are telling women today. After decades of demanding respect, this is now what we call liberating.

Please don’t tell me the book is more than just sex and I’m being small minded to focus on that. Tell me what you think of this one line.

Live, Love…and then stir in a little super hero.

Ah, here it is, week two of my young adult foray. Last week I covered a series that has been tingling spines for years now. This week, I pick up a newbie in the land of fiction for young adults. One that has high hopes of becoming a classic. So, welcome to Michael Vey, Prisoner of Cell 25.

I think I should first tell you why I picked up this book in the first place. Frankly, it was an interview with the author. Richard Paul Evens is a well know, successful writer in the adult fiction world, with plenty of bestsellers under his belts. The question then was, why take a chance and change your genre so dramatically to young adult?

As it turns out Mr. Evens has a well know, but frequently misunderstood disorder called Tourette syndrome. No, not the often portrayed version that causes uncontrollable cursing. Mr. Evens suffers from hard to control ticks and twitches. It is undeniably a difficult disorder to live with for an adult, but Mr. Evens takes it even harder, because his son, Michael, suffers from Tourette syndrome as well. As you might imagine, a child in today’s school environment has a very hard time.

So, Mr. Evens took his gift and clout as a writer and wrote a book about a teenage boy named Michael who is struggling to survive in with Tourette’s…but then he went ahead and made Michael so much more.

The Story:
Fourteen year old Michael Vey has had a tough life. He is fatherless, suffering from a neurological disorder and his single mother has had to struggle to keep them afloat, often moving from city to city. But Michael has one gift that makes him special. You see, Michael was born electric. He has spent most of his life trying to hide the fact that he can electrify anything thing he chooses, but he’s begun to discover that there are more children out there with similar gifts. And that there are people trying to capture as many electric children as possible.

I’m going to be totally honest with you. I struggled with this book for about the first 60 pages. In those first set up chapters there is a lot of coverage of how hard life is for teenagers in general. Sometimes I’m just not sympathetic to this particular storyline because I feel it is over used in so many young adult books and shows. But then all of a sudden the book changes from the hardship of the teenage to an often suspense and action filled ride right to the doors of a mysterious and dangerous organization. By the end I felt like I was in the final assault scene of a super hero movie. I was also ready to read the next installment.

In addition to the charged storyline (pun not intended) the book covers some of the moral choices we face in life…of course in the book the consequences of these choices increase. As Michael battles just to get answers, other characters are tempted to violate their personal sense of morality for rewards and approval. And everyone is eventually asked the devastating question, “How far will you go to save someone you love?”

The book series is a little on the dark side at times and there are scenes with psychological type torture. If you are familiar with bad headaches you will feel for these poor kids. But overall, I think the book is appropriate for all ages. Though perhaps most enjoyed by the age range of the characters.

So, from the sacrificial love of a father to a lightning strike filled assault, Michael Vey grows into a great read.

Have you ever picked up a book for a reason other than the story sounded good? How did it work out?

Probably the strangest book series I’ve ever read.

So, now it begins. The first week of my Young Adult month. A whole month is not bad for a girl who wasn’t even sure what Young Adult fiction was a few years ago. But as I stuck my toes into the increasingly deep pool of this genre I ended up discovering some of the most interesting books I’ve ever read. And it seems to fitting to begin with the infamous A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Oh, how can one describe this strange 13 book series? Hm, perhaps I can put it into the same type of terms the author himself might use.

Reading A Series of Unfortunate Events is like ordering a cup of tea and getting a cup of mocha cappuccino served to you instead. First you are shocked to taste the bitter coffee base. Next you are delighted to savor the sweet, chocolately flavor of the mocha. And then you are disturbed but the extra calories you suddenly find yourself consuming.

Shocked, delighted, disturbed…and then disturbed, shocked and delighted…and so on. I think those are the best words to describe what I went through as I read each book. I have an interesting task of ahead of me, because I have to tell you why I liked this series, why parents might want to be hesitant, and then why I think this series should be read. But first, let’s start with the story.

Violet (14), Klaus (12), and Sunny (infant) Baudelaire have a lovely life. They have loving parents, considerable wealth and, according to the author, are both very talented and extremely attractive children. But their circumstance take a turn for the worse on the day a terrible fire consumes both their parents and their mansion and their money is put into trust, unable to be used until Violet turns 21. Such begins the tragic journey of the Baudelaire children as they travel from location to location, handed off to one “guardian” after another, meeting along the way truly murderous villains, the noblest of heroes, and plenty of people along the way who have yet to choose who they are.

The first thing that made me love this series was the writing style. The author, a Mr. Lemony Snicket, who is as much a character in the book as the Baudelaires, has a truly funny way of writing. His anecdotes, style of description and frequent inserts of his own tragic life left me smiling, occasionally outright laughing. The humor is balanced throughout the book well, helping to keep you from outright despairing alongside the young heroes and heroines.

While the previously described delight is what held the book together, it was the shocking side that kept me going and it might also be said it is the reason that I think parents should be hesitant. I found myself repeated saying, “What? No, wait…what just happened?” Unpredictability is something I rarely experience in a book these days, but I can honestly say this series frequently caught me off guard and kept me, well, for lack of a better term, on the edge of my seat. Though, I must say, I think a lot of the shock came from, “I didn’t know they could do that in a kid’s book.”

There is a lot of death in this series. More than I expected, even though I knew a little about the series from the movie. The deaths are never graphically described, but are often gruesome in nature. And some imagery might be considered scary, even if the ideas are never actually acted upon. Also, smoking, drunkenness, adultery and dressing immodestly are touched upon. All of these behaviors are clearly portrayed as bad and, again, are not graphic or overdone. It is just up to parents to decide at what age they want their children reading about these subjects.

Now, in the wake of that devastating paragraph, let me tell you why I think these books should be read. Adults included. The books, in all the wild ups and downs of the decidedly strange plot, are riddled with deep moments of self-reflections and life’s tougher questions.

The subject of dealing with the loss of loved ones is woven throughout, from different perspectives both young and old. Wrong and right are set as clear choices that everyone has to makes, even in situations where most would justify their actions. Why people make the wrong choice is asked repeatedly, and the subject of what happens when we think it’s okay to do something wrong for the sake of the right is often visited. Even in it’s equally strange ending, the two primary principles you are left with are nothing short of poignant.

Sometimes I gripped the edges of this book in suspense, sometimes I laughed out loud, sometimes I experience the sadness and defeat alongside the characters, sometimes I wanted to shake the book in frustration and in the end, after I read the last line of the last page, I sat for a while and thought about it. As far as I’m concerned, any book that inspires that much emotion is worth reading.

Have you ever stumbled upon a book that broke the standard rules of predictability?

Btw, I’m sorry this post was longer than usual. What can I say? I just reviewed 13 books. :)