A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Vitro contains about a dozen uses each of "hell" or "damn" and one or two instances of "bastard," "pissed," "balls," and "God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Jim's father is an alcoholic, but his drinking is described only in retrospect.
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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.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.