Tucker, the narrator, is fourteen. His three companions are either the same age or a bit older. They pick up another traveling companion who is yet a bit older than they are -- in his early twenties. But boy, do they ever know how to survive.
In SYLO, MacHale begins with small town life on an island off the coast of Maine. The first book chronicles the government quarantine of the island and the teens who fight back and finally find a way to escape. In the meantime, there's plenty of death, and the narrator finds out that his parents have known about this situation for a long time. He feels betrayed.
In the second book, "STORM," the world turns dystopian. Billions of people have been wiped out by the Air Force and its futuristic black planes, which shine a light on things that then disappear: skyscrapers, towns, or just the people (and animals) inside leaving the buildings unscathed.
The group gets to the mainland to find it devoid of people. Almost. There are a few survivors, but the four companions hear a broadcast that beckons them to a place in Nevada where, says the voice, people are planning on fighting back.
But part of the mystery is: fighting back against what or whom? The Air Force perpetrated the massacre, but there is also SYLO, the secret branch of the Navy that held the islanders captive, blaming the enforced quarantine on a nonexistent virus. Those two branches of the military are fighting each other for some reason.
Tucker is told repeatedly that he shouldn't trust anyone. Does that mean Tori, the girl he's known forever whose father was killed by SYLO? Or Olivia, the spoiled girl who was vacationing on the island with her mother when the military invaded? Or Kent, the spoiled son of one of the wealthiest families on the island?
The group travels across the country, encountering enemies and friends -- but they really don't know for sure which is which.
MacHale's writing is amazing. He manages, through dialogue, action and just the right amount of description, to keep the book so enthralling that the reader really doesn't want to put it down. When Michael Grant wrote, "Make plans to stay up all night finishing it," he wasn't kidding.
Tucker's narration rings true. He channels the feelings and thoughts of a fourteen-year-old, a teenager on the run in a country that's been laid bare and is full of danger.
There is a cliffhanger ending, and although the reader thinks he or she knows now who the bad guys really are -- we still don't know who they REALLY are. There are cryptic clues and hints throughout the story, but I am going to anxiously await the next book for more answers.
Why 5 stars? This really is close to a perfect YA action series. It kept me reading way past my bedtime (you called that right, Michael Grant!). And I kept thinking about what would happen next. That's worth 5 stars to me.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader's copy provided by Razorbill for review purposes.
If you would like to continue receiving book reviews, including information about author appearances, author interviews and giveaways, please click the "Subscribe" icon. It's free and anonymous. Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing this article with others.