Published: January 14th, 2014
By: Jessica Khoury
On Skin Island, even the laws of creation can be broken.
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. With the help of Jim Julien, a young charter pilot, she arrives -- and discovers a terrifying secret she never imagined: she has a Vitro twin, Lux, who is the culmination of Corpus' dangerous research.
Now Sophie is torn between reuniting with the mother who betrayed her and protecting the genetically enhanced twin she never knew existed. But untangling the twisted strands of these relationships will have to wait, for Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.
I am a huge fan of Jessica Khoury's debut novel, Origin. I enjoyed reading a science fiction book focusing on the dangers of experimentation, that was just the right balance of science, action and romance. So of course I was absolutely DYING to read Vitro as soon as I knew it existed! I figured that, knowing it was in the same universe as Origin, it would pretty damn awesome and strike a good balance once more. That said I did enjoy all of the beautiful descriptions and the dual POV was far more well done than a lot of authors manage. But for me this book had the same issue that another author's (Cat Patrick) did post debut. It had the Goldilocks Syndrome. This is something made up by me, to describe a phenomenon of a perfectly balanced debut, followed by truly good books that are just not quite right. Too hot, too cold, etc. For me the biggest problem with Vitro was the character development - or lack thereof. The plot is great stuff for a science fiction YA - what are at first belived to be clones, altered on a fundamental level by scientific experimentation. It turns out that they are unused, previously frozen embryos that were previously normal human beings. But the scientists working for Corpus have altered them into something resembling slaves by implanting a microchip in their brains during development. The chip causes imprinting to occur - the person (known as a Vitro) will automatically live for the first person they see upon waking for the first time. They will protect them, love them, and even die for them if necessary.
The three main characters in this book are normal girl Sophie Crue, whose mother is a scientist on the Vitro project, her childhood friend (and pilot) Jim Julien and Sophie's twin sister, a Vitro named Lux. Sophie has gone to Skin Island to find her Mom, who she believes is in trouble after a cryptic and worrying email that seems to be from her. Trying to find a way to the island, Sophie runs across her old friend Jim Julien from when she lived on Guam as a child. Now he has a pilot's license - and just as much of a sense of adventure as he did when they were kids. But going to Skin Island is even more dangerous than Sophie and Jim ever imagined. When the two get separated, Sophie is mistaken for Lux and shown off to a potential buyer by her own Mother - while Jim is going back to the plane with Lux who he's 'rescued' thinking she was Sophie! With sinister forces working against them, a corporation driven by evil greed and secrets and people who will stop at nothing to kill them all three teens are in for a ride. But will things end happily ever after for all of them?
For carrying an entire book, we know almost next to nothing about Sophie or Jim (even by the time the novel ended). Sure the blanks have been kind of filled in alongside all the "deep dark secrets", but nothing truly personal or insightful into their past experiences and personalities as individuals. They came across as stereotypes, and cardboard placeholders to move along the action and the plot. I could have easily replaced Sophie with Lux and as long as neither of them spoke, not noticed a difference. No one else did either, if the amount of time they traded places undetected is any indication! Jim was also very dull to me character-wise. Let's go to an island all the locals avoid like the plague, because I have a crush on a girl I haven't seen in almost a decade and a half. Really bright idea Jim-bo! That said, while I didn't get anything heavily emotional from it and the identity of the "real" villain was laughably obvious from less than 100 pages into the book, it was still a fun and easy read. I enjoyed it for what it was - an action film in book form. I will definitely read whatever Khoury writes next, because I am a fan of both Origin and Vitro. And I will be endlessly curious to see if she can reattain the perfection of her first novel once more. I'd recommend to those looking for a book that will make you ask semi-deep questions, but also give you the opportunity to enjoy Bruce Willis-worthy explosions! :D
VERDICT: 3/5 Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book was published January 14th, 2014.*