Jessica Khoury describes her sophomore novel Vitro as an "adrenaline rush on an island," and for the most part, I heartily agree.
I pre-ordered Vitro and I was not disappointed about my decision after finishing :). This novel is brilliant.
Plus, it's a companion novel set in the same world as Origin, which means that readers who are new to Khoury's work can read Origin and/or Vitro in any order they want without worrying about missing anything. Some companion novels aren't really like that--like Kristin Cashore's Fire, for example. While I enjoyed Fire (my favorite of the Graceling series), I felt that I would've missed the richness of the world if I hadn't read Graceling first. This wasn't the case with Vitro. (I did, however, find the not-so-subtle references to the events in Origin that come later in Vitro hilarious. But honestly...that's probably just because I'm weird.)
Of course, like with most novels, I wasn't enthused about everything.
But if you're looking for a solid, thought-provoking read flavored with humor and pulsing with the thrill of sci-fi-induced terror, Vitro is a novel you don't want to miss.
So, why don't you want to miss this novel?
Because The Prose. (Was fantastic.) There are great books out there that come just shy of being extraordinary to me for one reason: the prose is mediocre. Reading Jessica Khoury's prose is a lot like taking a nice hot shower after working 8 hours in the grueling sun--it's gripping, lush, refreshing, dynamic.
I lived on Skin Island with the characters as I read Vitro. Khoury is a master at weaving a multitude of "aerodynamic" concrete details into her settings to bring them alive. I say aerodynamic because her prose never drags. Few authors I've read can boast of having such skill.
Because of LUX. I love love loved (now that I'm reading it instead of hearing it in my mind it looks weird, but whatever) everything about this character--her personality, her existential struggles, her courage, her stubbornness. The chapters from Lux's POV were stunning, and once again demonstrated Khoury's finesse as an author.
The science. Was Origin believable? Sure--but it still had twinges of the fantastical. To me, immortality seems distant, out of reach for humanity despite all the research and attempts to find it. Vitro, however, feels terrifyingly close to actually happening. Like 20 years from now kind of happening. (Maybe sooner.) In other words, the issues and events presented in Vitro are frighteningly plausible.
The technology behind the scientific advancements in Vitro already exists. Think about that for a moment. It already exists! Khoury simply projects what could happen if a particular company decided to develop the technology...and if something went "wrong." I can't say much else because I'll give parts away, but I will say this: Vitro embodies the moral quandaries of this age in spine-chilling form.
Vitro is a gem of a novel with few things I could reasonably 'critique'. The one rather nebulous thing I didn't like: Vitro felt like it was missing something. (As you can see, my specificity is unparalleled.) A subtle something, admittedly, but an important something. Sadly, I have no idea what that something is. If you read Vitro and feel the same way, let me know--maybe we can figure it out together :).
Other than that, I loved the characters, the structure of the novel, the setting, the plot....
Overall, I highly recommend Vitro (though I liked Origin more...thought it had more tension, especially in the action sequences, and that it presented more [numerically] provocative themes. Also, I really enjoyed the fantastical side)!
About the Author
Jessica Khoury is of Syrian and Scottish descent, and was born and raised in Toccoa, Georgia. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Toccoa Falls College. She currently lives and writes in Columbia, SC. Jessica is the author of ORIGIN and VITRO. You can visit her online at www.jessicakhoury.com.
And guys, you can also check out some of her other work--and preview Origin and Vitro--on Wattpad!
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