Illuminae / Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Title: Illuminae

Author: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, October 20th 2015

Pages: 602

Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.23395680.jpg

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Wow, this book took me on a wild ride. I was skeptical about this book before I picked it up, and even more skeptical through the first hundred pages. I had heard great things about Illuminae’s epic plot and unique format, but I began my reading with lower expectations. I wasn’t sure if the patchwork of documents, IM messages, emails, case files, and surveillance videos would draw me in as much as a traditional narrative. But half-way through, I was hooked. Like a film told  with “found footage,” Illuminae revealed itself slowly, with suspense layered on top of suspense. Every time I thought the plot had taken its last twist, something else went wrong—and something shocking was brought into the light. 

Like the build of the plot, the characterization took me a while to click with me. From page one, the authors thrust you into this sci fi world. I’m not an avid reader of science fiction, but I adjusted to the format and the setting quicker than I thought I would. The characters are what took longer. I missed the descriptions, the actions, the expressions of these characters. There are many different characters but the two we follow closely are Kady and Ezra. Despite just reading the short-hand messages of the characters or third-party descriptions, they became familiar to me. I ended up loving how smart and stubborn Kady was, and Ezra’s joked had me chuckling to myself. I gasped during the action scenes. When the characters faced turmoil, I was in tears. The plot prevailed through the obstacles the unique format of this book presented. 

Two-page spread from Illuminae

Romance in young adult fiction and subsequently, science fiction, could often lead to an array of clichés and tropes. I groan whenever this happens to a good story, but it’s safe to say this didn’t happen in Illuminae. Despite their young age, I found the relationship between Kady and Ezra to be a realistic one. They were both parts playful and serious with one another, and their banter was incredibly enjoyable. That being said, this is definitely not a character-driven novel. The plot is full of action and twists and unimaginable situations. The authors did an amazing job creating suspense and intrigue with minimal dialogue and description. The format added a great challenge for them to be able to emit such intensity and they definitely succeeded. Once I hit the half-way point, I could not put the book down. I needed to know what could possibly happen next—to Kady, to Ezra, to the many who fall victim to the Shakes. This book blew me far, far away, and I’m still reeling from turning that last page. 



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