Review: Vitro by Jessica Khoury

Jessica Khoury
Series: Origin (Companion)
Released: January 14th, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Rating: 4 stars
Word Rating: Fun fun fun
Reviewed by: Blythe

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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.

Vitro has pretty much all the key components necessary for a really fun and awesome action/adventure hit: we start with the setting and atmosphere of the creepy desert island (by the name of Skin Island, no less), which Jessica Khoury nails; then there's the handful of interesting conspiracies and twists, and behind it all, a villain whose motives are entirely believable (which makes everything even more spine-tingling). All of this, and more,  make Vitro a really fun, action-packed read.

However, like most action/adventure hits, suspension of disbelief may just be necessary for you to enjoy this novel. Off the top of my head, I can think of a bunch of nagging questions and holes that could have kept me from enjoying Vitro as much as I did. But for the most part, you're going to have to roll with what you're given in regards to explanations that may not entirely make sense (but most of them really do make a lot of sense, and are really quite clever, especially towards the end).

Also like most action/adventure books and movies, character development is not exactly Vitro's forte. Since it's written in third person, and we're thrown into the action fairly soon, we don't really get to know the characters for who they really are until later on. As the novel progressed I found that I was more invested in the relationships of the characters than the characters themselves--at least in regards to the main character, Sophie, with whom I never truly connected. Sophie is stubborn (but not in a bad way, necessarily) and is willing to do anything to prove herself to the mother who had left her; and although I did find her likable as a whole, I can't say I came out of this novel knowing much about her other than those two points above, really. I just feel like she could have been so much more.

The same goes for the other main character, Jim, except to an admittedly much lesser extent. With Jim, what we know is that he's charming, willing to help anyone he cares for, but is also pretty damaged by his relationships with his parents. I hadn't really connected with Jim until about three quarters through the novel, when he had an entire chapter focused on how largely he was affected by the abandonment of his mother (not a spoiler), and his entire stance on how he viewed love. It was a very powerful chapter for me, and added a great layer of depth to his character that was not there before.

The next character in the novel would have to be my favorite, but unfortunately, there isn't much I can say about her without spoiling some pretty crucial stuff for you all. But, what I can say is that her name is Lux, and she is a Vitro. Since I don't know what to disclose about Vitros and what not to disclose, I'm just going to say nothing in particular and tiptoe carefully around what I loved about her perspective. A big conflict in this novel is in regards to humanity, and how much of it Vitros actually have, so I loved that Jessica Khoury included chapters from a Vitro's perspective into the novel. It made me understand the mental state of Vitros much more than I would have without Lux's chapters, and made many things more emotional for me as the novel progressed. Also, Lux is just an adorable character, so that obviously helped.

Now, to the aspects of Vitro that were especially awesome, because I spent far longer than planned discussing characters and this review is getting far too long. As I mentioned earlier, Jessica Khoury really nails the atmosphere of Skin Island; her writing style is sharp and vivid, and the imagery of the tropics was brilliant. The twists were well thought out and executed, and although one was extremely predictable, the others took me by surprise and each added something genuinely unique to the story. I loved that the novel was split into three perspectives--Sophie's, Jim's, and Lux's--as they were all at different locations on the island, dealing with different people and situations. It provided me with a full scope of what was going on around the island, as opposed to the one-sided knowledge I would have had if it were told by, say, just Sophie's perspective. The action scenes are really well-written and thrilling, and some were even heart-wrenching by the end.

Like all great action/adventure books and movies, Vitro was virtually unputdownable for me. Despite its rough start, and some issues with characterization, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and there are some things about it that I think might stick with me for a bit. With Vitro, Jessica Khoury manages to balance fun action and adventure with some pressing questions concerning science and morality, which really struck home with me and added something fairly complex and intellectual to the novel; with that having been said, Vitro has nearly everything necessary for a fun, quick read with some interesting questions to pressing issues, and I highly recommend it for readers looking for their next escapism read.

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  1. The best part that I'm hearing is that it was unputdownable. That is what I'm looking for!!

  2. Goodreads keeps recommending this one to me but I never really bothered to look at it. It sounds interesting, though, but suspension of disbelief is not something I'm good at so thanks for the heads-up on that! Always easier to suspend my disbelief if I know I'm going to have to do it ahead of reading!

    1. I'd say it's only really necessary in the very beginning, because as the novel goes on Jessica Khoury provides us with really good explanations, so at that point suspension of disbelief isn't entirely necessary.

  3. Ooooooh I totally want this book. I was unsuccessful in procuring it through other means. If I can get it this way, then breaking my New Years resolution was worth it. Thanks for the giveaway!

  4. Ooh I really can't wait for it to come out! So exciting:)

  5. Man... After reading your reactions, I think my own dislike probably stemmed from my priorities, and tunnel-vision on the relationship aspect. The action and plot were great, but I just couldn't shake my disappointment in Sophie and Jim, and their relationship. But you made a really good point about the different perspectives providing a complete picture of what was going on across the island! The way you got a full picture of the setting and scope of everything was excellent. I'm really glad you liked this one! I hope others have better luck with it.

    1. But I definitely do understand why you had your issues with it. But yeah, Sophie could have been a lot more. But I did like Jim, and I especially liked how Sophie and Jim's relationship only trespassed into romance towards the very, very end. Like, last page, right? Or not at all, really.

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  7. I'm sooo excited about this one, heard amazing things about it, so can't wait to get my hands on it. :) Loved your review and happy that you liked it. :) Thanks for a giveaway! :)

  8. Oooh, a believable villain with motivations? What is this?

    Wait, stubbornness is...bad? But. I'm stubborn. And I'd convinced myself this was a compliment.

    Okay, this does sound better than her first one - no animal death and comments about native populations is a good start - but I still don't think it's a Christina book. PASS.


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