Vitro

 
Tropical sci-fi adventure builds to bloody mayhem.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Vitro raises questions about the boundaries of human genetic experimentation and free will. Until the climax, when a number of improbabilities stack up at once, its science-fiction plot is reasonably credible.

Positive messages

Vitro emphasizes that when you love another person, you get involved in what happens to them and can't walk away when trouble strikes.

Positive role models

Sophie Crue, the 17-year-old protagonist of Vitro, is determined, resourceful, and brave enough to get herself to Guam on her own and then find a way onto mysterious Skin Island. She's highly empathetic, with an instinct to protect anyone who's in danger, even at great cost to herself. 

Violence

Until its climax, Vitro doesn't have excessive violence: Sophie, Lux, and Jim are chased and shot at by the guards on Skin Island, Sophie sustains a flesh wound, and Lux employs her ingrained fighting skills. But as the plot progresses past the halfway point, the intensity of the mayhem ramps up to the point where characters are being shot at point-blank range, gassed en masse, instructed to jump off a cliff, and caught in a massive explosion. Some readers may find these events disturbing.

Sex

The male and female characters in Vitro notice each other's physical attractiveness, but they don't have much time for flirting. One of the villains roughly kisses Sophie against her will and presses his body against her. 

Language

Vitro contains about a dozen uses each of "hell" or "damn" and one or two instances of "bastard," "pissed," "balls," and "God."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Jim's father is an alcoholic, but his drinking is described only in retrospect.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Vitro is a fast-paced, action-packed, science-fiction adventure set on a mysterious island where a ruthless corporation is performing human genetic experimentation. It follows Jessica Khoury's Origin, with a different cast but the same corporate villain. For the first half of the book, the level of violence is fairly low, but, as the plot moves to its climax, it ramps up to a degree that may make some readers uncomfortable, as characters are shot at point-blank range, gassed en masse, instructed to jump off a cliff, and caught in a massive explosion. "Damn" and "hell" are the most prevalent curses, with about a dozen instances each. Sexual content is low, with some mild flirting and a scene in which the villain roughly kisses the protagonist. One character's backstory includes an alcoholic father.

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What's the story?

Summoned by an urgent email from her long-estranged mother, 17-year-old Sophie Crue travels alone to the South Pacific, determined to find out exactly what's going on at the top-secret research facility on Skin Island. She reunites with childhood friend and pilot Jim Julien, who agrees to fly her there, but when the plane mysteriously crashes, they find themselves in a stranger predicament than they ever could have suspected. Obsessed with her research, Sophie's mother never sent her a message and isn't happy to see her. Worse, Sophie has a \"Vitro\" twin named Lux, a genetically enhanced sibling who looks like her but possesses only the most rudimentary memories. Sophie, Jim, and Lux must fight against a ruthless corporation that will stop at nothing to protect its secrets.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

VITRO is an interesting follow-up to author Jessica Khoury's Origin, introducing a new set of protagonists but sharing the same corporate antagonist. Once again, human genetic experimentation is running amok in the tropics, and it's up to a band of brave young people to set things right. Sophie, Jim, Lux, and the psychopathic Nicholas all are multidimensional characters, revealing sides of themselves that are not obvious at first. The adult villains are a bit less nuanced, sometimes tipping into melodramatic cliches.

The plot is suspenseful and twisty, but it goes off the rails a bit at the climax, when the violent reversals come too thick and fast. Readers may find the mayhem pushes past the point of credulity, and Vitro ends up a tad diminished from its promising start. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss how genetic experimentation is portrayed in popular media. What are the benefits and dangers of experimenting with the human genome?

  • Can you think of any instances in which corporations have put profits before the welfare of their customers?

  • What would be the advantages and disadvantages of an electronic chip that could be planted in people's brains to affect their behavior? 

Book details

Author:Jessica Khoury
Genre:Science Fiction
Topics:Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and underdogs, Science and nature
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Razorbill
Publication date:January 14, 2014
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Quality

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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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