"We tested early copies in schools all over the country, and in every case, it was the same. I've had science teachers tell me their kids are more interested in science because of the book." One teacher pointed out a kid who was getting straight F's, except he was getting his first B — in English because he loved reading the book.
Another teacher thanked him for writing a book that "the boys went nuts over. The girls are easy, she said; they will read. But she was so happy to have a book that she didn't have to beg the boys to read."
With a strong female character, it is a book that appeals to girls, too, says Evans. "And I've had kids as young as 8 who have loved it."
In one of their surveys, 93 percent of the students said they liked or loved the book; and that was in a class where 22 percent said they didn't like to read, "so we were capturing a lot of nonreaders. I love that. Also, 80 percent had told three or more friends about the book."
This book means a lot to Evans for another reason. "Of all the people I've written about, Michael is the closest to who I am."
Evans was diagnosed a few years ago with Tourette syndrome, something that is not widely understood.
"As a boy, all I knew was that I had these tics and twitches that made me different."
He hopes to raise awareness of Tourette's, but to also let kids know they are not alone.
"I got a letter from a boy who said when he read the book it was the first time in his life that he did not feel like a freak.
Another letter from a mother of a boy with Asperger syndrome said that her son felt empowered, was doing things he hadn't done before after he read about Michael."
Those are the kinds of letters that make it all worthwhile, says Evans.
"It takes a lot of faith to write a book," he says; you never know how it will be received.
So far, he hasn't had to worry. Evans is the author of 16 novels that have all appeared on the New York Times best-seller list. More than 14 million copies of his books are in print worldwide. They've been translated into 25 languages. Four books have been produced as television movies, and his list of prizes they've won ranges from a 1998 American Mothers Book Award to the 2010 Wilbur Award.
So, when he says he as a feeling that "Michael Vey is going to be very special," and that he "likes it better than anything I've done for a long time," it's really saying something.
If you go …
What: Launch party for "Michael Vey: Prisoner of Cell 25"
When: Aug. 10, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Taylorsville High School, 5225 S. Redwood Road
How much: Free
Evans will also sign copies of his new book Aug. 11, 7 p.m., Barnes and Noble, 1780 N. Woodland Park Drive, Layton; Aug. 12, 7 p.m., Provo Library, 550 N. University Ave., Provo; Aug. 13, 10:30 a.m.-noon, Costco, 11100 S. Auto Mall Drive, Sandy; Aug. 13, 1:30-3 p.m., Costco, 648 E. 800 South, Orem; and Aug. 13, 4-5:30 p.m., 198 N. 1200 East, Lehi.
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