Sylo, by D.J. MacHale (Razorbill, July 2, 2013, YA), is a book that ticks like a time bomb.
All is calm in the begining. Tucker Quinn is happy with his life on an island in Maine. He wouldn't mind living there forever. But when the island turns into a govenment occupied prison, it's just not the same. Especially since military forces have cut the island off from the outside world, and aren't shy about useing violence to keep people put.
Without explaination, his island has turned into a dystopia. There are secrets. Lies. Strange chemicals washed up on the beach Possible UFOs. People dying. People he loved becoming strangers. And Tucker and his friends are pushing back at the mysteries that have come crashing down, risking their own lives. But answers are hard to come by...and the questions, ever more ominious, keep coming...
Though it sounds "Exciting!," and there are indeed fireworks of frenetic action, this book takes its time. The suspense and horror of not knowing what the heck is happening, only that it is bad, bad, bad, is what makes it a page turner. It ends on a cliffhanger...one that I feel really begins the true story. I want to find out what it's all about, and then come back to this one, reading it again with the perspective of one who knows the answers...
The ample time MacHale gives himself to tell the story gives him room to make Tucker and his allies into interesting characters, reacting in believable ways to the dire situation in which they find themselves. Their actions and reactions are so much the heart of the story that it almost falls into a favorite category of mine-books in which resourceful kids must fend for themselves because the grown-ups aren't there. (The grown-ups are still there on Tucker's island, though. They are just either part of the consipracy/mystery/military tackover, or helpless, or dying, or, at the best, only of minor usefulness).
And here is that author, D.J. himself, picking up on my thoughts about character, almost as if he knew what I was going to write (I wrote my bit before I read his bit, and vice versa):
SYLO isn’t really an “end-of-the-world” story, though it’s been called one. It’s more of a mystery where the end-of-the-world (as we know it) is only one of many possibilities.
I usually do write stories where the stakes are huge. I think that’s because I have global themes running through each tale and therefore the consequences need to be appropriately massive. (Besides, it’s fun to write stories with such monstrous consequences)
But I believe that “small” stories also run through my books. Going back to the concept of character-driven adventure, I try to create interesting characters who are going through very real and relatable conflicts in their normal lives. I’d like to think that these characters would be interesting to read about even if they didn’t get involved in the massive conflict. That’s what makes a really satisfying read. If you care about your characters and are interested in who they are and what their lives are about (the small stories) then once they get involved with earth-shattering conflicts (the big story) you’ll be right there with them and truly care about what happens to them.
D.J. MacHale is the author of the bestselling book series Pendragon: Journal of an Adventure through Time and Space (which I must read someday), the Morpheus Road trilogy (so spooky that it was too much for fainthearted me), and the whimsical picture book The Monster Princess. He has written, directed, and produced numerous award-winning television series and movies for young people including Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Flight 29 Down, and Tower of Terror. D.J. lives with his family in Southern California. For more, visit www.djmachalebooks.com and http://www.djmachalebooks.com
The next stop on the Sylo blog tour is at The Compulsive Reader on Wednesday, July 24th!
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher
(I have another giveaway ongoing right now--win a signed hardcover of The 13th Sign here!)