Review: Vitro by Jessica Khoury

Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 384 (ARC)
Source: Borrowed from Gillian
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's 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 find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I read Khoury's debut novel, ORIGIN, and enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for her sophomore novel. It pains me to say that it didn't blow me away the way I thought it would. While the plot has amazing potential, the execution was lacking. Though this is a strong companion novel, the characters are flat, the scientific explanations were laborious, and the mystery was really obvious to me. With all of that being said, seeing Khoury's plot progression between the two novels still makes me think that one day she can be a huge force to be reckoned with in the science fiction world.

The Vitro project has run amok. Though it was started with good intentions, the ability to have such control over humanity tempted the scientists and brought them over to the terrifying side of Playing God. Skin Island houses this exclusive project and Sophie is now determined to learn exactly what the project her mother left her family for entails. With the terrible mysteries surrounding Skin Island, no pilot is willing to help her to her final destination. That is, nobody but Jim Julien--the boy who she once terrorized Guam with as a child, but left behind when she moved to America. Together, they're about to embark on a journey that makes them question humanity and the role that humans can play when it comes to controlling the lives of others. Oh, and she meets Lux, her Vitro twin she had no idea about. Talk about a well-earned freak-out session!

The characterization in this one was not as strong as in book one. I really only liked one character and that was Lux. Vitro's are pretty much incubated until they come of age. So, when we first meet her, though she has the body of a seventeen year old she is only several hours old. Watching her learn to walk, to think, to stand on her own was amazing because it was so strange. Despite her aged exterior, she had the mind of a newborn until her mind caught up to her body and helped her to reach her true potential. Thus, she was not only vulnerable but blindly trusting of Jim, and I adored this aspect of her. She was unique and I often looked forward to the chapters told in her perspective. Jim was a great character as well because he often spoke his mind and followed his hunches. But, the issue is that despite my connections to the secondary characters, I could not connect to our main character, Sophie, at all. She was the equivalent of a piece of cardboard in my mind and I wasn't the biggest fan of her chapters, though some of the biggest plot twists were revealed in her perspective.

With that being said, the plot was predictable. A few minor plot twists completely shocked me, but I predicted the arguably biggest plot twist of the book very quickly upon Sophie's arrival on Skin Island. I also saw several of the plot twists near the ending coming, though the smaller ones certainly shocked me. I wish the predictability factor, especially for a sci-fi mystery, was much lower because it would have made the plot of this book so much stronger. With all of that in mind, the ending was still explosive and beyond satisfactory.

My other favorite aspect of this book was the fact that it examined the way people think. We obviously experience different thought processes throughout the book, but there's also a focus on psychopathy. When this came about, I often found myself completely engrossed in this novel because it was so unique. I love any psychological aspect in a thriller when it's done right, and this aspect of the novel was really awesome. It piqued my interest before my attention could stray and kept me on track. I hope Khoury continues to explore such psychological themes in future novels because she has an affinity for it.

The one issue with this novel was the pacing and choppy writing style. There were parts of the novel that were beautifully descriptive and parts that rushed through descriptive sequences. Near the end, there was a solid nine to ten pages of paragraphs upon paragraphs of speeches. There was seriously a paragraph that was the length of an entire page. I found myself legitimately moaning out loud at this point. My head began to hurt, I had to remind myself to take mental breaths, and I had to often re-read passages because my eyes would gloss over. There were no breaks in these speeches and they were not well done. Such instances often occurred when Khoury wanted to explain the scientific background of some huge plot twist. Yes, they were interesting, but this was info-dumping to the extreme and a seriously bad case of telling instead of showing. I wish this was done differently because it threw my reading momentum off. Nobody wants that.

All in all, I probably enjoyed this book a lot more than I did. I loved it when the characters questioned themselves, I loved the questions it made me ask about humanity, I loved the location and the mystery that shrouded Skin Island, but I struggled with the flat characterization and strange writing style. However, Khoury has the ability to be great, and I certainly can't wait to check out her third novel when given the chance. I recommend this novel to sci-fi fans who want a unique read that makes you think. However, it's very polarizing. I can easily see why some people will adore it and others will hate it.

3 stars


  1. I actually liked this better than Origin, I think b/c Jim and Sophie had history.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

    1. I liked ORIGIN a little more because I was more attached to the characters!

  2. I haven't read Origin- would it be necessary to read it before Vitro? The idea sounds cool, but the writing sounds weird. The end part especially, long speeches of scientific explanation? They better be interesting. Anyway, I'll keep an eye out for Vitro.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

    1. Vitro actually takes place before the events of Origin, so you can read them in any order you want!

  3. AAAAH VITRO!!! I can't wait to read this!!! I enjoyed Origin and this one sounds great! I'm glad you liked it even if it wasn't a favorite. :D Great review Lili! You have impeccable taste in books. :D


  4. I have heard so many good things about Origin, but I have not read it for myself. Heavily science based stories are very new territory for me, and I don't naturally gravitate towards them. I would love to start, since I think I would enjoy them. But knowing that the companion novel isn't as good, worries me. Can I read the first without having a need to read the second? Sigh. I will probably end up reading both, regardless! Thanks for the great review!