Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
By: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20th, 2015
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.
BRIEFING NOTE: 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.
You know you have a quality series when the librarian in charge of the YA section compliments your choice of reading material. Just saying. I’d been meaning to read this series when I got a chance…but that chance presented itself during a quick browsing section of the library teen room. I walked out with Illuminae, and Gemina also, just to be safe.
Just for reference, I think I devoured this book in less than six hours. Granted, this book is not a difficult read, but it does look intimidating, to the tune of 600 pages. What’s fascinating is that it’s not laid out in a typical book format, but told through a collage of documents made to tell a very specific story. It’s difficult to read sometimes, especially when they play with black pages, but it’s a VERY cool way to tell a story. From that alone, I was hooked. Once I met Kady Grant, sassy pants teenager and hacker extraordinaire, I had a suspicion that I wasn’t going to put the book down until I finished it.
Kady and Ezra are two fantastic characters. Kady especially–from the moment she admitted to running over ‘a few–I lost count’ enemy soldiers to save her wounded ex-boyfriend, I was her fan. Not that Ezra isn’t just as awesome of a character, honestly: the star jock turned star pilot. But he worships Kady, and rightly so. I thought it was a fantastic twist that the story began with the tale of them breaking up, and proceeded from there. (Spoiler: the breakup doesn’t last).
I also love the kind of gumption that they have–both of them are survivors, first of Kereza and then of their refugee trip. If it weren’t already admirable that the two of them survived the invasion of their planet, they both display a kind of resoluteness that puts the adults around them to shame. Ezra recovers from losing his father, makes up with Kady, and throws himself into becoming a fighter pilot. Kady, meanwhile, throws herself into hacking various parts of the ship, in the (correct) assumption that the top brass are hiding something.
The other thing that I loved about this book was the fact that it sent adrenaline pumping through my body on a regular basis. The plot was somewhat formulaic, but the suspenseful parts left me holding my breath, desperately hoping things would turn out OK for Kady and Ezra, and that their little fleet would survive. There were so many ups and downs that it was both dizzying and engrossing, how deep into the book I was with them. After all, between bioweapons, self-aware AI, a battle cruiser on the tail of our brave heroes, and the struggles of teenage love, there was a lot of heart-pounding moments to be had. But it never felt overwhelming or gimmicky, which I really liked (even the zombies-on-a-spaceship part).
And I thought the love story was original and heartwarming. I loved how when we met them, Kady and Ezra were basically already in love, they just needed to get over a few snags. Seeing them do that made my heart melt, how they crossed the barriers they needed to, and ended up all the stronger for it. And, as I mentioned, I love that Ezra, the big jock, was the one who was wearing his heart on his sleeve. It was his efforts to reach out to Kady which made things happen, and his assistance that gave her the boost towards greatness.
Because Kady is the incredible one here, she’s the heroine–the antisocial hacker, not the fighter pilot jock, and if there were anything that could make me love this story more, it was that. Kady is the badass of that relationship, and Ezra would be the first to admit it (even as he’s decorated with numerous medals for his own prowess). But frankly, I also love this because it’s about two teenagers surviving despite all conceivable odds, doing better than the adults, and making the world a better place in the process.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.