Wednesday, May 28, 2014

SYLO

Something strange is afoot in Maine. Authors like to set scary, creepy, oh-my-gosh-did-that-just-happen? stories in Maine. Okay, so mostly I'm talking Stephen King and Joe Hill (and they're related, so I don't know how much of a statistical sample that is). But, are we freaking people out about Maine because it's a really awesome place and residents don't want it to turn into Disneyland 3.0, or is it, in actuality, a freakishly scary place?

I don't know, but I'm tempted to take a vacation there and find out for myself. 

Much of the tension in SYLO revolves around isolation--specifically, the isolation of the residents of Pemberwick Island, a small vacation spot five miles off the coast of Portland, Maine. It's scary to be lost in the woods, but it's even scarier when the woods are on an island and someone is hunting you.


This is actually a pretty solid middle-grade action-adventure book. it's a bit like a summer blockbuster: many big booms, many car chases, hot girls, escapes, captures, more escapes, and maybe even some aliens. So help me, I love movies in which things explode (and I really loathe romantic comedies), so I'm probably the right reader for SYLO. I can definitely see myself recommending this to kids who like superhero books: it's zippy and also addresses that age-old superhero qusetion: how much are you willing to risk to save the world?

The hero of SYLO is fourteen-year-old high school freshman Tucker Pierce (whom I kept calling Tucker Max in my mind, a neural glitch for which I sincerely apologize to young Tucker-of-the-book). He's pretty laid back. Likes the quiet life on Pemberwick Island as opposed to city life--he and his family moved to Pemberwick a few years ago when Tucker's dad lost his job. Tucker's best friend Quinn, however, wants more from life. He wants to get off the island and change the world. 

One of the things I didn't like so much about SYLO was its treatment of female characters. Olivia is the exceedingly stereotypical manipulative, unattainable hot chick. She prances around in either a bikini or a halter top ensemble in most of her scenes. If this is a Michael Bay flick, she's Megan Fox. She wants Tucker to think she likes him, but Olivia's got Kent, star of the football team, panting after her as well. Tori is the tough, enigmatic loner girl (who is also pretty hot, because girls can't be leads in a book without being hot, duh) who fascinates Tucker. She's actually pretty kick-butt (she hogties a soldier in a few seconds flat), but is also prone to rash decision making. Then there's Kent, the rich boy mentioned above who's kind of a meathead, but not really? I guess he has ... hidden depths. Maybe.

I can critique this on one level and talk about the characters, the Bad Guys, the Other Bad Guys, and so forth, but I admit: this one took me on a fantastic ride. It was nonstop action and MacHale keeps throwing monkey wrenches in the works. I actually really liked the ending and I actually ... want to read the sequel.

I know, I know. Shocking. Look, I'm not saying that this is Dostoyevskey or Austen or [insert your favorite author here], but it's fun and engaging and kids will read it. Whoa. That's the thing, right? I'm a Youth Services Librarian. I want kids to read and have fun doing so. I don't care what they read, really (unless it's something really horrible like Mein Kampf or the KKK Manifesto or some dorky Men's Rights book, in which case: no). Okay, so I care. But SYLO isn't offensive or vulgar. It's actually pretty clean.

Oh ... yeah. The plot of the book. Okay, quick rundown: mysterious deaths on Pemberwick may be related to a crystal-like drug called the Ruby. Suddenly, a division of the U.S. Navy called SYLO invades and ruthlessly quarantines the island. By "ruthless" I mean "they shoot people who try to escape." Many residents are captured and placed in a concentration-camp-like structure erected on (of all places) the golf course. Tucker and his friends try to solve the mystery, evade the bad military guys, and escape the island.

But what comes after the end?

Why, Storm, of course.

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