Written by: Jessica Khoury
Published by: Razorbill
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Source: Penguin's FirstToRead.com
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
A death-defying tropical adventure delivers a frightening message about dabbling with creation from the talented author of Origin.
On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.
Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists hunky charter pilot Jim Julien to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for, including a charming, brilliant Vitro named Nicholas and an innocent, newly awoken one named Lux.
In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.
I entered to win an ARC of Vitro on a whim when I saw it on Penguin’s First To Read website. I’d heard of it, and thought it sounded interesting; and I knew it was a companion novel (not a direct sequel) to Origin, which I haven’t read, but has garnered extremely mixed reviews from all the blogs I follow. I thought, “Hey, why not, at the very least it should be entertaining given the subject.”
And it was! It was fast-paced, concisely written, and an exciting story set on a dangerous tropical island. And that’s pretty much all I can say about it.
Since the blurb says that Vitro deals with “a frightening message about dabbling with creation”, and “what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach”, I was reasonably prepared for a story that would make me feel something, make me think about the meaning of living, freedom, and the boundaries of science. And honestly, the plot and the scaffolding for those deeper questions are all there.
The problem I had was that none of the characters — not a single one — made me feel anything towards them. The best way to describe my reaction to Vitro would probably be to say, it felt like I was watching one of those two-hour, made-for-TV Indiana Jones knockoff movies. The plot was predictable, and the characters (except for one) were all exactly as they appeared at first glance. It didn’t explore any deeper motivations, I didn’t feel the characters’ emotions (despite them being clearly told in different situations). And a lot of the choices the characters made didn’t make too much sense — other than to cause conflict or forward the plot.
The main characters, Sophie and Jim, were unfortunately chemistry-less, despite their history being one of my favorite kinds — they grew up together, were separated when they were 7, and then meet again years later. But even in this instance, their feelings didn’t feel real. They’re together all of a few (VERY few) hours before they start to fall for each other, and then they’re separated from each other on the island for a large portion of the book. They think of almost nothing but each other while they’re apart, and each have very intense feelings about the other. This just didn’t strike me as realistic, nor did their feelings feel genuine. But their reunion and romance was exactly what I expected to happen.
And the scientists working on the island were exactly what I expected them to be, as well. Maybe I’m just bored with the science-advancements-gone-too-far plotline… I just keep hoping there’s someone out there who will do it well. Unfortunately, it seemed like old hat in Vitro, and wasn’t fresh or unique at all.
Overall, Vitro just didn’t feel genuine to me. Everything was there — the potential for a deeper message, the potential for great characters, etc — but none of it was made to feel real or layered or poignant, which is what a book like this needs, in my opinion. It was a light and exciting story, of the made-for-TV adventure movie variety. But if you’re looking for a book that has excitement, and unpredictability, and well-developed characters, this probably isn’t the one for you.
I had a really hard time deciding how to rate this book – I ended up at 2.5, just because I think I enjoyed it less than most of my 3-star-rated books. If I rated in increments of 1/4, I’d probably put it at 2.75, though, somewhere between the two categories.