First in the Sylo series
By D.J. MacHale
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
It was before I started blogging, so no one here knows that I was a fan of the Pendragon series. (Albeit one who was perpetually disappointed it wasn't more Arthurian. Oh, those initial expectations!) Thus D.J. MacHale's name was enough to make me pick up a dystopian novel.
However, SYLO isn't much of a dystopian. There's certainly creepy government control, but it happens here and now. Jimmy Kimmel is still a thing. It's more of a thriller with possible aliens. (No one in the book mentions that it could be aliens until the end, but I am betting on aliens. Because aliens would be awesome, that's why.) It takes place on Pemberwick Island, an idyllic tourist destination in Maine. First, people start dying, possibly due to a strange new performance-enhancing drug. Second, they get cut off from the mainland by a branch of the US Navy known only as SYLO, led by Captain Granger.
Tucker Pierce and his friends Quinn and Tori Sleeper know something funky is going on. Given that they're a curious bunch of fourteen year olds, they soon have their noses in everything. They also keep crossing paths with Kent, an older football superstar, and Olivia, a hot tourist trapped with the townies. It's not exactly the dream team, but Tori in particular is very capable. I liked the balance MacHale struck between Tucker being a level-headed kid and wanting a bit of glory.
There's nothing particularly complex about SYLO. But I enjoyed it quite a bit - MacHale knows how to keep the pages turning. I'll definitely be back for STORM after the game-changing ending, and I'll have my fingers crossed for aliens. Why aren't there more aliens in YA right now? I mean, there's THE 5TH WAVE, but aliens are always great for conspiracies, and battles, and strange regulations. They go perfectly with the dystopian craze.
Don't expect genius, but do expect an absorbing plot and fun characters. MacHale's middle grade fans should be fine reading this YA effort, although there are a few deaths younger fans might find upsetting.