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Book review: Series opener, 'SYLO,' keeps readers guessing

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 4:20 p.m. MDT

"SYLO" is by D.J. MacHale. (Penguin Group) "SYLO" is by D.J. MacHale. (Penguin Group)

"SYLO," by D.J. MacHale, Razorbill, $17.99, 416 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

New York Times best-selling author D.J. MacHale, who penned the Pendragon series, begins another book series with the young adult novel "SYLO." From the opening lines to the very last page, MacHale keeps readers flailing in a hazy fog of mystery while skillfully zipping them along through an exciting plot at breakneck speed.

Through the eyes, ears and voice of Tucker Pierce, a 14-year-old freshman football player, MacHale plots a complicated story set on tiny Pemberwick Island off the coast of Maine in present day America. Between the strange man that tries to sell Tucker a new performance-enhancing drug, the several unexplainable deaths of islanders and the sudden and the strange government takeover of the island by a branch of the U.S. military called SYLO, Tucker's peaceful life on Pemberwick Island quickly erupts into an explosion of intrigue, lies and suspicion that veers far away from normalcy.

D.J. MacHale is the author of "SYLO," which comes out July 2. (Deseret News archive) D.J. MacHale is the author of "SYLO," which comes out July 2. (Deseret News archive)

But even amid all the bizarre events that rudely intrude on Tucker's life, he manages to find himself facing the same issues any other 14-year-old might face: how to talk to, flirt with and attract girls — two in particular, Tori and Olivia. With the love triangle complete and the mysterious and hostile military law ruling the residents of Pemberwick, Tucker and his best friend Quinn are thrown into the roles of investigator, spy, rescuer and escape artist all in the course of just a few days.

With this first book of a planned three-book series, MacHale issues a challenge to his readers. "Readers should be aware that there are plenty of clues scattered throughout 'SYLO' that point to the larger story and the truth about what is actually happening. … My challenge to readers is to recognize these clues and piece them together, along with Tucker, to try to get to the ultimate truth."

In short, he's taken the classic whodunnit, told it through the voice of a 14-year-old and expanded it to three books; but rather than making the reader ask "who did it?" he forces the reader to ask "what in the world is going on?"

Those who liked the Maze Runner series or who just like a fast-paced exciting young-adult mystery novel will probably like this book.

Readers who become angry when a story doesn't actually end and leaves more unanswered questions than answers may want to wait until all three books come out before starting this one.

"SYLO" has some mild language and some violence. The relationships don't go beyond kissing.

Email: nsorensen@deseretnews.com Twitter: sorensenate

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