"Vitro" by Jessica Khoury is a combination science fiction and adventure story for young adult readers. Those same readers will be devouring Michael Crichton and Robin Cook books in a few years, but for now Khoury's well-written stories with their non-stop action will please.
The setting is Skin Island, a remote island in the Pacific Ocean near Guam -- practically inaccessible by boat or plane because no one will go there. There are rumors aplenty about what goes on at Skin Island, but no one in Guam knows for sure.
Sophie Crue must get to Skin Island. She has received a cryptic email from her mother asking her to come, stating that it's an emergency. Sophie is more than ready to drop everything to go to her mother. She worships her mother -- the woman who left her husband and family to work for the good of mankind, or so Sophie thought.
She arrives in Guam and there runs into Jim, a childhood friend who happens to be a pilot. Against his better judgment, he agrees to take her to the island. Of course, neither of them has ANY idea what they will be getting into.
Humans grown from embryos and implanted with computer chips are what the scientists on the island are doing. And it's what the computer chips enable the "vitros" to do that makes them special.
Sophie and Jim must find the courage to do what is right on an island where no one else is doing anything right. This book would be a great choice for a book club. The themes in this story lend themselves to discussions regarding science and ethical concerns and how those two important human pursuits may often be at odds. Is it ethical to take human embryos and use them to create combination human - computers? And what about the original purpose of the experiment?
This novel will appeal to both young men and young women because of the male and female protagonists and the alternative third person limited narrative. Some chapters are written with Sophie's point of view, others from Jim's. And part way through the book, there are some chapters written from Sophie's twin, Lux's point of view. Lux is a "vitro."
Khoury's writing includes vivid descriptions, lots of detail, and great character creation. She puts the reader right in the middle of the action, so the book is difficult to put down.
Those who enjoy this book will also enjoy Khoury's debut novel, "Origin," which takes place in the same setting.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Razorbill, for review purposes.
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