Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: SYLO by D.J. MacHale

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 SYLO
 D.J. MacHale
Series: SYLO #1
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Publication date: July 2nd 2013
by Razorbill

Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when the U.S. military quarantines his island?

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce prefers to fly under the radar. He’s used to navigating around summer tourists in his hometown on idyllic Pemberwick Island, Maine. He’s content to sit on the sidelines as a backup player on the high school football team. And though his best friend Quinn tells him to “go for it,” he’s too chicken to ask Tori Sleeper on a date. There’s always tomorrow, he figures. Then Pemberwick Island is invaded by a mysterious branch of the U.S. military called SYLO. And sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for Tucker, because tomorrow may never come.

It’s up to Tucker, Quinn, and Tori to uncover the truth about the singing aircraft that appears only at night—and the stranger named Feit who’s pushing a red crystal he calls the Ruby that brings unique powers to all who take it. Tucker and his friends must rescue not just Pemberwick Island, but the fate of the world—and all before tomorrow is too late.  

-A copy was provided by Penguin Canada for review-


Almost a 4 star, SYLO starts off as your run of the mill YA sci-fi mystery but it ends up being much more complex than expected. I did really enjoy it, but I found that 1) we didn’t get enough answers even for a first book in a series and 2) it could have done with 50 or so less pages – which is likely linked to 1).

A strong aspect of this novel is how the beginning chapters really pull you into the story. Being engaged from the start is a wanted feat that is not often achieved. MacHale does this by getting right into the sudden deaths happening on Tucker’s island. He then keeps it up by introducing small chapter cliffhangers every so often throughout the book, which I’m personally a sucker for. Barring that, however, I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style. Some of it simply felt off for supposedly being the voice of a 14 year old. And some of it felt cliché; for instance, the frequent use of “suspenseful” sentences like:

“”Thirty yards!” Kent called out.
…as the machine gun behind us opened fire.
We were about to cross the stern of the flaming destroyer when…
“Now!” Tori called.”

“I eased the wheel to port, made the gentle turn and…
…my moment of peace instantly vanished.”

I know this critique is more of a personal preference but there were a lot of these suspension points throughout that I found cheesy. Another small quirk is how, during normal conversations, a character was said to “scream” or “shout”. Either the author was hoping for a heightened tone effect, or these islanders are really freaking intense (and loud)!

“I think we’re making a big mistake.” Quinn said.
“Seriously?” I shouted. “Now you’re having second thoughts?”

-Sounds like a shouting match, don’t it? (It’s not.)

Our male protagonist, Tucker, is your average teenager who likes his simple island living, so when it gets quarantined and people start dying, he gets a little restless. Tucker is an average character; he’s not someone who’s especially memorable long term, but I didn’t dislike him. Same goes for the secondary characters. While most were charismatic, I didn’t get emotionally attached to them – which is proven by my lack of reaction when one of them dies. I did grow the most connected to Tori, one of the main secondary characters. I loved that she’s a tough girl who’s able to fend for herself; her intelligence, strength, and bravery shine through.

The plot itself is what’s truly entertaining in SYLO, and does make up for the aforementioned qualms, some. There is a ton of mystery from the get go, the sudden deaths being the first of many. There are unexplained aircraft hovering about – one of which explodes right in from of Tucker, never to appear in the news. Bizarre drugs that turn people into temporary supermen. Then there’s how insanely far the military is going to make sure no one leaves escapes. With an abundance of secrets on this island, it’s unfortunate that we become privy to very few answers by the end, though. I wish we’d gotten further into the bottom of it all; we barely scratched the surface. For that reason, I think the book could have been shortened 50 pages or so to stop the non-answers from dragging at times – it was not excessively so, but it did feel lengthy. At least the ending does show us how deep this bottom goes, and I really liked where the author went with it.

SYLO is what I would consider a boy book; a male protagonist, a lot of football talk, missiles, explosions, plenty of death, fighter planes, warships, and a kick-ass climactic battle at sea. Everything a boy-book loving girl like myself could ask for!

3 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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22 Responses to “Review: SYLO by D.J. MacHale”

  1. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I’ve wondered about this one! Still not sure I’m into this one, especially because the writing style items you pointed out (the … and saying someone shouted when, obviously, they did. That is what exclamation points are for, after all!). *shrugs* Maybe.

  2. Nick

    I haven’t heard much about this book, but I’ve had my eyes on it. It sounds like a book that I might enjoy although I know that some of the aspects such as the suspension points, would bother me. But since you’ve mentioned it in your review, I could probably get over it.
    The plot sounds exciting. I’ll definitely be on the look-out for this!
    Lovely review, Giselle! 🙂

  3. Amy

    I have been seeing this one around a lot the past week, and I wasn’t initially interested, but now I am. It sounds like an entertaining book. I think those “suspenseful” sentences would drive me a little crazy though. I automatically pause in my head when I read stuff like that and it would slow my reading progress lol!! Fab review babe!

  4. Christina

    Someone really likes ellipses, huh? Ha, did you read The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die? Pretty much every chapter ended with a cliffhanger. Haha. I’m not a huge fan of that technique, but I will admit that it does make it hard to put a book down.

    A lot of football talk? O_o Oh dear. I have an ARC of this that was gifted, but I think I’ll not try to get it reviewed now and it can go in the “if I have time someday” pile.

  5. Megan K.

    Eh, you’re not the only one. Based on the short quotes you gave, I probably would be VERY irritated with the writing style, too. Too many ellipses makes my eyes hurt. The plot dos sound very interesting, and so does that kickass sea-battle! Not entirely sure if this is worth a shot, but wonderful review, chickie!

  6. Siiri

    Ha, you said it well — a boy book. I thought so, too, the more I read your review. Seems like it’s a thrilling read, but needs more development in characters department. I like the cover *__* Surprising, since I usually don’t like these type of covers a lot, but it’s actually quite good. I don’t think it’s up my alley so I think I’ll pass, but if a guy would ask me some recommendations, I know which book to point out:)

  7. Aneeqah

    The suspense thing that the author used with all the…

    …seems like it would get slightly annoying. Those should really only be used once or twice in a book, if at all, so emphasize the suspense in a single event. That and unremarkable characters aside, I’m loving the sound of the plot. I’m a sucker for fast-paced mysteries, and even with the book feeling lengthy, this may be something I’ll have to pick up. I’m a total sucker for boy books as well. 😉

    Lovely review, Giselle! <3

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

  8. Hollie

    I haven’t heard anything about this book before, but it does sound interesting, and I do like reading boy books a lot, so if I happen upon a copy of this one I’ll definitely give it a go. I’ll try and overlook the frustrating writing style though, I think if I know about it going into a book it doesn’t bug me so much. Great review, and thanks for the introduction to this book!

  9. Kristin A.

    Sylo is one I’ve readly wanted to read. Based on your review I know it’s something I’ll probably enjoy. I’m just hoping the writing style isn’t to frustrating.

  10. Annette Mills

    I reviewed this one this week too, and I feel much the way you do. Too bad it’s so long — I won’t get my reluctant readers to pick it up, and they like this kind of story. Also, I didn’t really care much about the characters, they were just OK. But it’s all about the plot, and although I didn’t agree wtih some of what happened, I enjoyed the premise and the plot in general. Great review!

  11. Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader

    Sometimes there’s nothing better than an action-packed adventure read, particularly with a touch of science fiction. That said, as you’ve identified, that sort of genre tends to lend itself better to shorter novels. It sounds like this book could have benefited from further editing in order to tighten it up, as the length might prove intimidating or exclusionary to those who might otherwise ordinarily read it.

    There was another issue I noticed from the quotes you helpfully highlighted within you review. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine, but I normally hate when dialogue identifiers are used too frequently. With the number of “Quinn said”, “She shouted”, “Tori called’, etc I can tell that MacHale’s writing likely isn’t for me. That sort of thing becomes old very quickly.

  12. Christina (Christinareadsya)

    It’s good that the book is immediately engaging, even if there is an overuse of shout/scream etc. to up the intensity factor and the book went on for a bit too long and didn’t provide enough answers. Still: “SYLO is what I would consider a boy book; a male protagonist, a lot of football talk, missiles, explosions, plenty of death, fighter planes, warships, and a kick-ass climactic battle at sea. Everything a boy-book loving girl like myself could ask for!” –> Me too. That sounds like a lot of fun! Maybe another time 😀

  13. kimbacaffeinate

    Great review Giselle, I have this and picked it up a few times but it didn’t quite hook me, I am glad you liked aspects of it but the cheesy bits and unanswered questions have me holding off on picking this back up. Wonderful review as always:)

  14. Ariella Lee

    I really do love my boy books (they’re really rare in YA) but I don’t think I would pick this up from reading the synopsis. Great review though! It’s just.. the idea for this book doesn’t seem like something I would enjoy reading about :s

    -Ariella @ Secrets of Lost Words

  15. Alexa Y.

    It really does sound like a boy book! I’m not a big sci-fi person, but I am curious to see what the big “mystery” in this book is.

  16. vivalabooks

    I’ve been debating giving SYLO a try, but since it almost got a 4 I’ll most likely check it out. And, a boy-book is always good to read once in a while. Great review!

  17. Jenn Renee

    great review. I have been curious about this one for a bit now. I need to check it out. I am sure my hubby will love it so I need to put in to on his TBR.