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.
#1 New York Times bestselling author D.J. MacHale brings his brilliant plotting and breathless pacing to SYLO, the first in this ultimate end-of-the-world adventure trilogy.
Tucker takes some because he is having trouble on the football team, but he realizes that something that makes him feel that strong probably is really, really bad for him. When another islander dies, the island is occupied by SYLO forces after the U.S. president claims that the island is the site of a virus he doesn't want to spread. Tucker, Quinn, and their new friend Tori (who also saw the explosion) think that the deaths are tied to Ruby, not to a virus. They also suspect that SYLO is not telling them the complete truth, so they make a plan to escape. They are caught, and become even more concerned when they are kept in a SYLO compound.
Strengths: Love that this involved football AND an invasion. The boys wear helmets when they are biking, and they are good kids (if somewhat misguided). There is some nice, light romance, and Tori is an excellent female character! At one point, the coach uses the fantastic phrase "fiddle farting around". (Or fart-fiddling. Either way, it's a gret phrase!) There's nothing inappropriate, but it would be a great read for high school or middle school. In fact, there was a whole lot that I loved about this one, which surprised me. MacHale's work usually just confuses me, even though it's really popular with my readers. (Could not tell you what the Pendragon series is about to save my soul, even though I read it and have every student who finishes it try to explain it to me. Complete fantasy amnesia about it.) The best part is that I really don't know where this is going, and how everything will be explained, so I really want to read the next book!
Weaknesses: There were some deaths of key characters which surprised me a bit. Of course, since this is a trilogy and one of the people was vaporized rather than killed outright, maybe he will return.
Unfortunately, despite its strong start, the story progressed far too slowly for my liking. I began to lose interest at about page 50, and didn’t become engaged in the plot again until halfway through the novel. The mystery is drawn out for far too long; a lot of my questions weren’t answered until the very end, while many weren’t answered at all. After reading through ~400 pages, I still don’t really know anything about the quarantine and SYLO, which simultaneously frustrates me and makes me want to read the sequel.
I didn’t really connect with any of the characters in SYLO, as my lack of reaction during a certain scene can certainly attest to. Tucker, Tori and Quinn are flawed and realistic characters who are equally important to the plot in different ways, though they’re not particularly memorable. I neither liked them nor disliked them; they were just there.
Overall, SYLO is an action-packed read with an intriguing premise. Despite my complaints, there were many enjoyable parts of this book, so I’ll likely pick up the sequel at some point.
Things that make you go hmm...
That's pretty much SYLO in a nutshell. This is going to be very hard to explain without giving away everything.
Here is what I can tell you right now: This is not a dystopian. Yet. I spoke with the author while getting a copy of SYLO signed at a convention a few months ago and he shared with me some interesting tidbits about the series. So far, SYLO is a mystery that sets the stage for the remaining books in the trilogy. It is not a dystopian, which was a bit disappointing since the book synopsis made it seem that way. However, MacHale did say that the second book (Storm) will definitely have a dystopian feel to it.
While I found this an easy read that kept me turning the pages, I found a few things that annoyed me along the way with our narrator, Tucker. Tucker is very wishy washy. He has ideas that he will share, but he quickly tosses them aside if someone offers a counterargument or alternate plan. That does not make a strong leader, and Tucker is part leader in his motley crew of renegade teenagers. I was also not thrilled with some of the people picked up along the way. While Olivia grew on me, Kent did not. I do not like Kent. He seems volatile and I do not understand how he is going to fit in Tucker's crew. Maybe that will become clear in the next book...
The plot is pretty straight forward and predictable. Do not expect any shock and awe here-- at least until the final chapters. I will admit I had a feeling where things were headed, but then I was thrown for a major loop when a HUGE discovery was made. Again, this solidifies that the remainder of the series is going to take on a dystopian feel. It's pretty imminent.
I just hate that the best part of the book was at the end. I really wanted to find out more, but now I will have to wait. I am not a patient person. This is a fast read that I feel would be suitable for reluctant or struggling readers. It is a low level read, so anyone could read this without any trouble. If I were still in a classroom, I would get a copy of SYLO to put on my bookshelves. The boys would love it.