Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


Series: The Illuminae Files (Book 1)

Published: Knopf, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Sci-fi

My rating: 5/5 stars

Goodreads description & link: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. 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. Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.” (Goodreads)

Why I picked it up: To be quite honest, the cover is what really drew me in with this one. It’s different than any YA I’ve seen, and I’m a sucker for secret documents and conspiracy theories. When I picked it up and flipped through it to see all of the different formats, styles, and “documents” it was irresistible.                    

Summary: I read this book at the beginning of the year when it first came out and again, just recently, for my book club. Both times I absolutely loved it. It’s 600 pages but reads like 200. Each time, I blew through it and was just as invested the second time as I was the first.

In a playwriting class I’m taking, one of the first things we were told was that our setting should be so alive that it should be like another character. I didn’t understand that until I reread Illuminae. The setting is so vital and active in the book it truly is like another character. I mean, it literally comes to life.  I found so much of this world to be believable. Pulling off futuristic, borderline dystopian worlds are, in my opinion, hard to pull off and Kaufman and Kristoff crushed it with this one. I particularly loved the way the authors included things like lingo (my favorite being “dusted”, personally) that made the world seem all the more authentic. The setting and environment were so cleverly used to build up the plot. I closed the book wanting more, more, more, and I’m hoping the second book in the series, Geminadelivers.

The plot of this book pulled me in from line one, and it never let go. One of my favorite plot devices is starting the story off with a huge question. It’s so hard for me to resist, because no matter what I always want to know the answer. Kaufman and Kristoff did this quite successfully, and had me frantically flipping pages until the very end for answers. It’s not easy for me to be invested in a plot when I already know what happens, and it’s not common for me to reread books at all, but even the second time I found this book investing. I still read it in a little over the week, and probably would have read it faster if I didn’t have classes. For the second time, it consumed my life. Again, I love the way the setting helped push the plot forward, as well as the unique way the story was told. This book had the most unforeseeable plot twists that continued to shock me, even the second time. I’ve never read a sci-fi book I liked, so this was surprisingly enjoyable. I loved the smooth way the plot unraveled for the reader. Overall, it was fast-paced and improved by the setting, characters, and unique way the book was written. (Trying to stay spoiler free while expressing my love for this book was nearly impossible.)

I’ve said a thousand time that I love character-driven stories, and this book is a great example of that. Whether I loved or hated them, I was definitely emotionally invested in the main characters of this story. They were all so full, and I was able to grasp a clear image of them in my mind. During my first read, I thought Kady was my favorite, mostly because she was introduced first and, though she has a bit of an attitude, she’s also pretty badass. However, during my second read (and after I already knew the entire plot of the book) Ezra quickly became my fave. I don’t know if it’s the parent-son relationship issues he has that seem to cause me to gravitate toward characters, or if it’s just the way he deals with the situation. I don’t about anyone else, but I also consider AIDAN a main character, and one of the main antagonists of this particular novel. I don’t know why, but I was surprised they had so much life. The role they played before I even realized they were a character, and how they sneakily influenced so much of the story was wildly interesting to me. With my second read, I was able to pick out the seeds and see where a lot of it began but with my first read everything this character did was a surprise. I hated them and felt sympathy for them at the same time, something I think is hard to accomplish. At first, I didn’t think there was a way for me to feel bad for them but this book is so full of twists I even surprised myself.

This is a book in which I felt the side characters were also important and full of life in their own way rather than just plot devices. I felt something for a lot of them, rooted for them, was sad/happy when they died/survived. Quite honestly, this book was much more full of emotion than I expected. One side character that’s of particular note is McNulty, whom I felt was so well-characterized for a side character. The impact he had was small but significant, and that goes for several other small characters as well, such as Torrence and Chau. Again, whether I loved or hated them, I felt something, and that’s one of the things that really makes a novel for me.

One of the things that first grasped me about this book was how unique it was, at least compared to the books I’ve encountered, especially in YA. At first, I wasn’t sure if it would really help the story or if it were just something to make the book stand out but it was executed so smoothly. The various kinds of documents push the story forward, and the constant change-up of format makes the book a fast read. The only thing I didn’t particularly like were some of the text talk portions. They were a bit cringe-worthy at times, and personally weren’t believable to me. The two authors certainly wrote as one; their voices, styles, and ideas merged together perfectly and created a gem of a book. They did such a fantastic job of revealing the plot through various kinds of documents, chat threads, and personal journals. There wasn’t a boring moment I can remember or useless piece of information given. It all fit together so perfectly, and I just loved this book.

Quotes I enjoyed:
“Look out at the nothing and feel it looking back. Then you know exactly how much you add up to.”

“Perhaps bravery is simply the face humanity wraps around its collective madness.”

“The universe owes you nothing. It had already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is if you do something worthy of remembrance.”

Recommend for fans of: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Host by Stephenie Meyer, Under the Dome by Stephen King

Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository, Thriftbooks

Find more reviews here.


5 thoughts on “Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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