Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Vitro

Title: Vitro
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Science fiction
Pages: 384
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 5/10

Hi, Readers!

       If you happened to read my last post about Origin, you would have discovered how excited I was to read Vitro next.  Now that I've read it... boy, am I disappointed.  Jessica Khoury did such a phenomenal job making Origin a thrilling novel with unique and interesting characters, and I was expecting the same level of writing in the next novel of the Corpus series.  Sadly, Vitro was not up to the same standards.

       Sophie Crue has lived with her dad her entire life while her mother is on Skin Island, in Guam, doing scientific research.  However, out of the blue, Sophie gets a mysterious e-mail from her mother begging her to come to Skin Island ASAP due to an emergency.  Of course, Sophie leaps at the opportunity to visit, and she convinces her childhood friend, Jim, to fly her there on his airplane.  When the two arrive, they instantly realize that there is something mysterious happening on Skin Island.  They encounter a strand of genetically enhanced humans, named Vitros, who imprint on a single person as slaves.  A few of the prototype Vitros have went off the deep end, and they capture Sophie as a ransom to free themselves.  Worst of all, one of the Vitros, Lux, looks exactly like Sophie.  Sophie has to face a number of heart wrenching decisions, and must manage to survive her time on the island of horrors if she wishes to save the lives of the Vitros and herself.

Skin Island
What I would imagine Skin Island looks like
       As you may be able to tell from my summary above, Vitro was a pretty confusing novel.  What I noticed early on was that Khoury tried so hard to make the novel mysterious that she withheld too much information from the readers.  She relied too much on fast-paced action scenes, violence, and evil characters, and she did not put enough focus on the background of Skin Island and its inhabitants.  It seemed as though every chapter was filled with airplane crashes, explosions, guns, and kidnapping scenes.  In my opinion, Khoury should have focused a little bit more on the characters of the novel and their emotions, and less on the action.

Up next... Hopefully I saved
the best for last!
       The characters in Vitro were certainly much less developed than those in Origin.  Khoury attempted to create a backstory between Sophie and Jim where they were childhood friends, but the whole thing seemed pretty implausible.  I found it too unlikely that they would grow up together on a tropical island, get seperated for ten years, and then just happen to meet up again out of the blue.  Guess I need to work on my suspension of disbelief.  Also, I was not particularly fond of most of the characters in the novel, Jim in particular.  They were not very likeable or relatable, and I didn't form an emotional connection with them at all.  One character that I did enjoy reading about was the psychopathic Nicholas, who had a lot of potential to be a deep and unique character, but I felt let down when Khoury only developed him on the surface and made him fairly stereotypical.  

       I wish that Vitro was on the same level stylistically and content-wise as Origin, but it had a completely different vibe.  If you've already read Origin, spare yourself the time and don't bother checking out Vitro.  All problems aside, I am still planning on reading Khoury's third book in the series, Kalahari.  Fingers crossed that Khoury sticks with her guns and has written it comparably to Origin!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Book Review: Origin

Title: Origin
Author: Jessica Khoury
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Science fiction
Pages: 394
Age Rating: Readers over 11
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       Each year, my public library has an annual book sale.  The books I usually purchase here are hit or miss, because all I know about them comes from the short blurb on the back.  Luckily, when I bought Origin at the book sale, I came into possession of a real gem.  I was enthralled with the characters, plot line, and themes of the novel, and it kept me reading late into the night.

Pia's jungle boy, Eio
       Pia's genes have been genetically bred over five lifetimes so that she is born immortal.  Her skin is impenetrable, her immune system is unbreakable, and she is... perfect.  However, Pia has never been outside of her small compound, Little Cam, located in the middle of a vast jungle.  Although Pia knows everything there is to know about science and math, she has never even heard of New York City, or even cities in general.  The scientists, especially Uncle Paolo, keep Pia on a strict regimen of learning and exercising in order to turn her into a superhuman who will eventually reproduce and be the start of a new, immortal population.  One day, Pia notices a hole in the electric fence surrounding Little Cam.  When she enters the jungle and the real world for the first time, Pia's life is completely changed.  She meets Eio, a local native boy, who shows her that there is more to life than test tubes and immortality.  Torn between two worlds, Pia must now decide where she belongs - future or present, science or emotion, and civilization or jungle.

       Just recently, in English class, we discussed the idea of perspective.  Seeing things from a different point of view can show readers that there is not just one way of living.  My favorite part about Origin is the first-person perspective of Pia, because she is relatable and yet entirely unrelatable at the same time.  Of course, being immortal, Pia lives life much differently than the average human.  However, she still feels happiness, sadness, and, most importantly, love.  The dilemma that Pia must face, although not realistic in the real world, creates a sort of empathy between her and the reader.  We go along the journey with her, finding out more of the truth as the plot line progresses.  

Up next... Vitro!
       One of the most brilliant aspects of Origin is that author Jessica Khoury was able to create a science fiction novel with a unique plot line.  Although I did pick up some hints of popular dystopian and science fiction books thrown in, the work of literature was about a new topic and had undiscovered characters.  In the age of mass-produced literature, I applaud Khoury's distinct style of writing and original ideas.  The Young Adult genre is filled with many "fake" novels that try to replicate the well-known ones in order to sell more copies, and I am happy to say that Origin is not one of those books.

       I would recommend Origin to anyone who enjoys The Hunger Games or Divergent.  Although Origin is a less extreme and hard-hitting version of those popular novels, it explores much more of the emotional impacts of dramatic events.  Now, I can't wait to get my hands on Khoury's next novel, Vitro, to see if it is just as good as Origin

Happy reading!