Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015. Hardcover/Hardback. 599 pages.
I genuinely don't know how to start this review because there are just so many thoughts racing through my head about this book, but I will do my best.
I've seen Illuminae around the book community for what feels like ages now, even though it just came out last year, and now that I've read it I'm also mad at myself for not picking it up earlier. I think it was mainly because I'm not normally that interested in futuristic worlds or high school romance (which, by the way, is not an adequate classification for Illuminae). Illuminae basically follows the story of Kady Grant and Ezra Mason as their planet is invaded and those remaining from the attack must battle for their lives. Oh yeah, and a horrible plague has broken out that essentially makes people violent and crazy. This book is made up of classified documents, IMs, surveillance footage transcripts, and transcripts from crew members.
First off, it's just utterly brilliant. I love novels that try to break through the binds of traditional presentation and do something different, but it's often heard to achieve without coming across overly cliche'd or try-hard. Fortunately, Illuminae is one of the few that pulls off this feat remarkably well and thus created a truly breathtaking story as a result. The only other book that comes close to invoking somewhat similar feelings as Illuminae by using unconventional formats and typography is Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, and even then there is still much difference between the two books.
This book took me on such a roller coaster of a ride that I feel like I'm still feeling the aftereffects. The characters are all absolutely brilliant, which I'll admit was something I worried about due to the setup of the book; I wasn't sure if it allowed for the development of many characters. Well, I was needlessly worried. I fell in love with Kady and Ezra, as well as a few of the minor characters that we are introduced to as well. Everyone is so animated and each character has a strong, exciting personality that makes it hard not to become fully engaged with each one. I thought the romance element would bother me, but it was surprisingly entertaining and didn't drive me completely crazy; I instead enjoyed watching the growth and the strong bond that lay between them despite their past and current situation. I'm also very intrigued by Ezra's mysterious family and I'm hoping Gemina delves into that whole situation more deeply, which I assume it will.
I also really liked exploring the theme of artificial intelligence and the potential impacts it can have upon a society when things don't always go according to plan. I feel like that entire aspect of Illuminae brings up so many great potential discussion points that really need to be had.
In order to make sure this stays spoiler-free, I'm going to leave much of the rest of my analysis of the plot out because this is definitely a book that thrives on the element of surprise and the unexpected.
Illuminae will make you laugh, cry, cringe, and gasp in horror as you continue to uncover this tragic, incredible story page after page - and it's all completely worth it. Overall, I am definitely giving Illuminae a well-deserved five stars for creating such an in-depth, captivating story that kept me on the edge of my seat and for making me so excited for the next installment (this August!)
Side note: I loved the shout-outs to various authors and such. When I came across the casualty list, I thought 'I bet the author's names are in there' - and yep, they were! There is also a movie poster at one point, and more fun authors names can be found there as well. So very clever - I love little easter egg type things.
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