SYLO by D.J. MacHale Review {with Audiobook Notes}

Posted August 24, 2013 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 5 Comments

SYLO by D.J. MacHale
Series: The SYLO Chronicles #1
Published by Razorbill
Publish Date: July 2, 2013
407 Pages
Source: Book – Library, 

Audiobook – Publisher for Review
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when the U.S. military quarantines his island?

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce prefers to fly under the radar. He’s used to navigating around summer tourists in his hometown on idyllic Pemberwick Island, Maine. He’s content to sit on the sidelines as a backup player on the high school football team. And though his best friend Quinn tells him to “go for it,” he’s too chicken to ask Tori Sleeper on a date. There’s always tomorrow, he figures. Then Pemberwick Island is invaded by a mysterious branch of the U.S. military called SYLO. And sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for Tucker, because tomorrow may never come. 

It’s up to Tucker, Quinn, and Tori to uncover the truth about the singing aircraft that appears only at night—and the stranger named Feit who’s pushing a red crystal he calls the Ruby that brings unique powers to all who take it. Tucker and his friends must rescue not just Pemberwick Island, but the fate of the world—and all before tomorrow is too late.  

SYLO by D.J. MacHale 

My Thoughts:  I went into reading SYLO by D.J. MacHale open-minded and a little bit excited after hearing some really great things from it from BookExpoAmerica. I was able to acquire an audiobook of this title, which, you know, just lit my pants on fire from excitement. I cannot lie, I quickly grabbed my keys, got in my vehicle, and high-tailed it to my local library to grab the print version of the book because you know I follow along in print as I read because I’m just quirky that way. 


Okay, so in a nutshell, young Tyler lives on Pemberwick Island, which is off the coast of Maine, in the Northeastern United States. The book starts off during a football game when something strange happens and as a result, a great and otherwise healthy player ends up dead on the field during a game. Then some other strange and seemingly unconnected things happen and some other people end up dead. Strange, right? YES, absolutely.

So young Tyler and a few of his friends – Quinn and Tori – decide that they want to find the answers to why this is happening. About the time they decide to play detective, a very intimidating branch of the US military swoops onto the island and takes over. They call themselves SYLO. 

ALSO – around this time, the trio of friends come across a strange gentleman that tries to give them some red crystal-type stuff that can make them run faster, feel great, etc. It’s ruby-like and seems very much like a drug, but is in great abundance down on the shore by the water. Why is he trying to get the kids to partake of this stuff? And who is he? 

So we have 1) the group of kids trying to find out answers 2) SYLO coming to the island and taking over like they would in a crisis situation and 3) this crazy guy plus the ruby crystal stuff. All of these story lines are going on at the same time. In the meantime, people are a little unnerved, frantic, unsure what to do. This is their idyllic island, a place that people come to for vacation, and nothing really ever happens here. The military is very commanding in their orders and actions, but it doesn’t seem to be anything outside of what we (here in America) see on TV when order needs to be established somewhere plus there have been several deaths that don’t really have a connection and that needs to be investigated. 

SYLO by D.J. MacHale was, I have to admit, a very confusing book for me. I had a pretty difficult time keeping up with what was going on, and this is coming from someone that takes an audiobook and literally follows along in print. What we have here is a pretty straight-forward young adult science-fiction-ish mystery type story, but I think it follows the vein of a story that would be more popular with a younger crowd, which is perfectly fine. 

As for the story itself: starting off with the football scenes was perfectly fine because I became invested in that particular part of the story, and it seemed to go for a while. But then after several chapters it completely switched gears and then there were boat explosions and the military arriving and a mysterious branch of the government. So it felt like a quick shift in another direction, still with deaths accumulating that were not explained, but she shift felt a little bit awkward and clunky to me as an older YA-loving reader. To carry it a little bit further, things felt like they were wrapping up – like the book was ending? – but it was only about halfway-ish into the story. So something else was bound to happen, right? YES. 

The story takes another turn, and another bunch of crazy stuff does happen. It is quite different from the first half of the book and had the feel of a completely different installment of the story. To me, the second half of the book was a teensy bit harder to follow than the first, perhaps because it seemed to move a little faster. The end of the book was very interesting and has what I think is a great jumping off point for the next installment in the series

Ultimately, SYLO leaves me with more questions than it answers, or at least as many more. I wasn’t able to follow along very well with the content of the story in neither the audio nor the print format and believe me when I say that I read both at the same time. However, I think that I have an overall gist of the story rather than a good handle on what the story was about – at least enough to go into the next book – but I do believe that I have a great handle on the ending portion of the story, which is the best part, in my opinion. 

The characters – Tyler, Quinn, and Tori – These are typical young people that are very confused and unhappy with what is happening around them. They – like most teenagers in situations they don’t understand – want answers and when they don’t get them, they go after them. They spend a lot of time in high-stress situations that keep them kind of picking or even sometimes fighting with one another, but ultimately they stick together. I do think that the target audience will enjoy some of the secondary characters and members of SYLO because of their individualized personalities, particularly if they choose to read this book via audiobook because they are voiced very well

The setting – I feel like Pemberwick Island would be immensely lovely and a fanastic world for a strange almost-dystopian-but-maybe-not-quite story like this one. It’s set apart from the mainland of the United States and has a beautiful coastline and natural scenery. However, I didn’t really get a huge sense of world-building for the majority of the book. I would have loved to connect with this world a little more. That being said, at the end of the book, the scene changes drastically and the world-building was really fantastic so I have hopes that the next book will have a much more interesting world to visualize and interact with, because as a reader, I do enjoy that imagery that good world-building provides in a story like this one. 
The pacing – Quick and exciting. Plenty of adventure. There is never a dull moment. There is action throughout. It was a page-turner for sure and I believe that the target audience will enjoy this aspect of the story very much. 

Audiobook NotesThe audiobook format of SYLO by D.J. MacHale is published by Penguin Audio and is 10 hours, 42 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Andrew Bates, who is new-to-me as far as voice actors go with audiobooks and was completely fantastic. I loved the way he voiced each character in this audiobook, particularly the members of SYLO – the military branch – because he made them sound like the military officers would. I did chuckle a few times at the way the young female characters sounded, but I think that anytime a male voices young girls, it makes me chuckle. Plus he read at a great pace – not too slowly. I would recommend reading SYLO via audiobook format if possible because I believe that Andrew Bates made it a much better and easier reading experience, and I am hoping that he will continue to voice this series. I recommend this audiobook as a first-read-thru as well as for re-reads. AND I will continue to watch for Andrew Bates’ name to appear in audiobooks in the future because I enjoyed his narrating very much.  

Ultimately, I would recommend SYLO by D.J. MacHale to readers that enjoy young adult mystery/thriller stories with some threads of science-fiction woven through and readers that enjoy adventures. SYLO would be a great story for a middle-school library to keep on hand for reluctant readers and male readers because I think they would enjoy it – I think they are much more the target audience, perhaps, than adult YA-loving readers. The next installment in the story, Storm, is scheduled for release in March of 2013 (and has a great cover). 

**You guys, I’d like to point out that I think that SYLO would make a fantastic addition to a middle school library or middle-grade classrooms because I think that younger readers, particularly males – especially reluctant readers – would love this one. I believe that these readers don’t care as much about world-building and plot holes and story elements – they just want action and adventure, and SYLO is a perfect story for this audience. I am sincerely hoping that SYLO ends up in the hands of these readers because I can see plenty of younger YA readers and Middle Graders enjoying this story. 


SYLO will appeal to fans of:

YA Sci-Fi/Mystery
Quick Pacing
Younger YA/Middle Grade Readers
*FANTASTIC Audiobook Narrator*
SYLO by D.J. MacHale
is currently available for purchase.

I received a copy of this book in audiobook format from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts to be published on this blog. I received no compensation for these thoughts, and they are my own. Thank you so much, Penguin Audio! 


Have you read SYLO? 
Is it on your to-read list? 


About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


5 responses to “SYLO by D.J. MacHale Review {with Audiobook Notes}

  1. I'm not one for younger YA, so I'm not sure if this is for me though it sounds great. I'll definitely be seeing how the rest of this series plays out before deciding, though. Thanks for putting this on my radar, Asheley!

  2. I ended up DNFing this one, Asheley–I didn't care for the writing style, and I guessed what was going on pretty quickly. I think you're right in that it'll probably work better for younger YA readers, I think I mentioned that in my quickie review, too! Great minds and all that. 🙂

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  3. This sounds a little confusing to me, based on your review. While I do think that there's definitely potential for it to be an interesting read, I don't think I'll be giving it a try. But I do think it's interesting that it might work for a younger audience though, so thanks for pointing that out.

  4. I got a copy of this for review too but haven't read it because I didn't find it very interesting. I wish it had been less confusing for you as that might have encouraged me to give it a try but instead I will just pass.

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