Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (The Illuminae Files #1)

Genre: Science Fiction, YA

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

Source: Purchased

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This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. View Spoiler »

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Have you avoided reading ILLUMINAE because of the hype? Are you holding out on reading it because you don’t have the time right now? I was just like you until earlier this week, and now I’m here to tell you: don’t make the same mistake that I did. Here are 5 reasons to read Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s ILLUMINAE.

1. Kady Grant

Kady Grant is a snarky, low-key genius with a massive chip on her shoulder – but you’d be testy too if your planet had been assaulted by a fleet of spaceships and you were forced to flee, pursued by said enemy. Separated from her parents and her closest friend – and ex-boyfriend – Ezra, Kady’s left to fend for herself aboard the Hypatia, a vessel in the fleet of refugee ships gunning for the nearest safe port. From corrupt leaders, to biological warfare, to an increasingly erratic AI, Kady is a heroine who can handle it all. Added bonus: instead of using physical force, Kady uses her hacker skills to fight back. Definitely a contender for one of my favourite YA heroines of 2016.

2. Ezra Mason

Ezra is a jocky, cocky guy with a heart of gold, still pining for Kady from aboard the vessel Alexander when their miniature fleet of ships reaches a critical point: fight or die. Swiftly moved through fighter pilot training, Ezra is forced to grapple with the reality of the fleet’s dire situation while grappling with the loss of his beloved father. In typical teenage guy fashion, he deals with his feelings by making jokes; his crass humour was a welcome break from the barrage of insanely tense scenes in ILLUMINAE, and his dogged persistence in winning back Kady was charming. In some respects he’s kind an average guy – maybe even a bit of a tool – but in a story full of exceptional people, it was a welcome change of pace.


That erratic AI I mentioned earlier? Meet AIDAN, the supercomputer consciousness responsible for guiding and operating the Alexander, a military vessel armed with nukes. As events spin wildly out of control and the ship takes multiples hits, AIDAN begins to spin wildly out of the crew’s control and starts to develop a distinct personality. The contrast between AIDAN’s ease at mimicking human speech and behaviour patterns and its complete inability to reckon with the capricious, emotional nature of humanity was fascinating (and kinda terrifying) to read about.

4. The Format

ILLUMINAE, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is an epistolary novel, told primarily via written documents rather than traditional narration. Chat logs, reports on video surveillance, military reports, and AIDAN’s internal code processes are all vital to the story, and I had a ton of fun looking at the redacted passages and curse words. The pages where text is used to make shapes might seem gimmicky at first, but I thought it contributed a lot to the feel of the story. If you enjoy books told in a diary format, then I highly recommend this one!

5. The “Dialogue”

Okay, so there’s very little “traditional” dialogue in ILLUMINAE, but the chat logs between characters are amazingly well done. Normally when I see authors trying to imitate teens’ texting patterns it just looks cringe-y and out of touch, but Kaufman and Kristoff really capture the tone and style (despite their own slang terminology) of modern texting. The chat logs between Kady and Ezra, and Ezra and his pilot friends about Kady, were my favourites. They struck the perfect balance between dragging one another and genuine communication. Other authors, take note!

With all these reasons to read ILLUMINAE in the last weeks of 2016, how can you possible refuse?

Have you read ILLUMINAE? What do you think of epistolary novels? Let me know in the comments!


    • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    • 6 years ago

    Agreed on all points! This book was an amazing discovery and it went a long way toward reconciling me with YA characters: Kady and Ezra wormed their way into my heart and I cared for them very deeply. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book of this series… 🙂

    1. Kady and Ezra were so loveable! I’ve heard that the cast in book 2 gets a couple really memorable additions, which makes me even more excited to dive into it. Here’s hoping that we get to Gemina ASAP! ????

  1. I know, right? I was a little skeptical of this at first because it was literally EVERYWHERE in the months before its release. The publisher marketed this book HARD. You couldn’t help but be aware of the massive hype around this book, but even knowing this, I knew I had to give it a shot. I was also glad to see it wasn’t just entirely all gimmick, there’s actually something to this! I liked the sequel even more too 🙂

    1. Oh my god, I know! The marketing department kicked it into high gear for this one. I’m actually really glad that I waited a while before picking it up, because the hype had died down and I was able to have a lot of fun with it. Eeeeeee, yay! I can’t wait to read Gemina!

  2. This sounds really cool! I wonder if AIDAN is inspired by the classic 90s video game antagonist, SHODAN ( ). Anyway, I’ll definitely have to give this a read.

    1. Whoa, cool! I had never heard of SHODAN, but after reading up on it I bet you’re right and AIDAN is a nod to that! Thanks for always dropping your video game wisdom. ????

    • Greg Hill

    • 6 years ago

    Nice post! I like the 5 reasons format. 🙂 Loved Kady too, Ezra wasn’t bad, and AIDAN was just… scary at times! And the dialogue/ format especially- very well done. I need to get to the next one!

    1. Thank you! Kady is such a badass. I think she might be one of my favourite characters of 2016 — as for Ezra, he was kind of average but I thought that was his appeal. Yes, I’m dying to read the second book too! Hopefully we’ll both get to it soon.

  3. Ah, these authors are so much fun in person, but I’ve fallen out of love with the hard scifi genre in general. Is weird that I cheer for the authors every time I see a good review, even though I don’t read their genre? LOL

    1. Oh wow, you’ve met them? I’ve heard good things! I’m kind of having the opposite journey with sci-fi: I never used to read much of it, but I’ve been branching out a bit more recently.

      HA! No, I’m exactly the same way. Hurrah for good reviews of books by authors we’ve met in person! ????

      1. I’ve seen them at a bookcon/showcase of sorts here in Sydney. They’re wonderful together and they play off each other so well!

  4. I think you may have reinvigorated my excitement for this book so yay! I won a signed copy about a year ago and then failed to get around to reading it. I’m glad I have it to hand to give it a go at reading now. I certainly like books which are told in a different way because they make it more interesting and I do tend to struggle getting into sci fi books a lot of the time so making it different is good. I love the sound of the characters as well. The fact that much personality managed to get through when this isn’t told with a normal narrative is pretty damn impressive. I’m off to start reading.

    1. YAY! I’m so glad to hear that, Becky. I know you’ve already read it (because I’m caught up on your Sunday Summary posts now, LMAO) and wasn’t it great??? I NEED to know what happens in Gemina. Apparently it’s even funnier and shippier than Illuminae!

      I’ve heard from a number of people that the audiobooks for this series are really well done, which is hard for me to picture…but I’m intrigued, so I may try listening to Gemina!

      1. It was awesome! Why didn’t I read it when I got a copy back In January? I hope Gemina is as good. I bought myself and gave it to my mom to give me for Christmas (so it’s almost like I’ve not bought new books). I’m hoping it is good and how can it get more shippy? I don’t understand.

        I can imagine the audiobook being fantastic if done right. I’m not an audiobook person (my brain tunes out too easily, the most I can manage is an hour long podcast and that’s a struggle) but I would be tempted to listen Illuminae to see if it changed the experience.

  5. I knoooow, I so have to read it

    1. You do!!!! It’s so much fun, and really creative!

  6. I had so much fun reading this one too! I was scared too of all the hype but I think it lives up to it for sure. The reasons you mentioned above are definitely why this worked for me too, especially Kady & Ezra. And how insane was AIDAN? I had a very love-hate relationship with AIDAN. I was fascinated, and simultaneously disturbed. I still need to read Gemina, but hopefully soon!
    Lovely review, Danya!

    1. The hype was a bit overwhelming, so I’m glad I waited to pick this one up until it died down…although I guess by the time I did read it the hype for Gemina was just beginning, LOL. ????

      AIDAN was nuts! The sequence of “error” messages that would crop up every time he showed any kind of human emotion was really interesting but it definitely gave me the creeps, too. I’ve heard a ton of people say that they liked Gemina even more than Illuminae, so I’m really stoked to read it!

  7. In truth I didn’t pick up this
    book when it was released for two reasons. Firstly everyone raved about unique
    format of this book, so it looked like I would miss a lot in e-book. Secondly
    everyone raved about this book. All I saw in my feed was Illuminae. I tend to
    avoid hyped books; I pick them up months, even years later. So I definitely avoided
    reading this book because of the hype. Thanks for you enthusiastic review, you
    are very convincing. I especially intrigued by AIDAN. Several of my friends
    highly recommended the audiobook, so I’ll probably go that route.

    1. Oh yeah, I would definitely caution against reading this one as an ebook because I think a lot of the unique formatting stuff would be lost. Although I’ve also heard from friends that the audiobook was really well done (which is hard for me to picture), so maybe the publishing team was able to pull off the ebook version too!

      We’ve got the same approach to hyped books, Ksenia! I’ll still read them, I just need some time to forget about all the hype so I can enjoy them, hahaha. AIDAN was such a fascinating character — certainly one of the most unique ones that I encountered this year!

  8. I love Illuminae! I wasn’t sold on the idea of a story being told via metafiction, but Kaufman and Kristoff did an AMAZING job with this one, and Gemina. I can definitely see the hype killing these books for some readers though. I’m glad I picked up Illuminae really early because I definitely would have been affected by the hype. But in essence, it’s solid (and awesome) science fiction in YA lit, and I love it!

    Wonderful post, Danya. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. I’m actually kind of a sucker for metafiction (maybe it’s because I did an English undergrad and we read a lot of it??) so that was the aspect I was most excited about! I was a bit leery of the sci-fi genre when Illuminae first came out though, so I’m relieved that I discovered my love for it this year because that convinced me to pick it up.

      Hype is such a double edged sword: it’s so important for readers, but I think it often kills the excitement for bloggers and people who’re involved in publishing in other ways. But thankfully the hype was deserved in this case! ????

  9. I recently finished Gemina so it’s hard for me to remember all the plot points of Illuminae, but I totally agree. This is an awesome series with so much excitement and drama. Although I have to say, Aidan was my LEAST favorite character, for some reason.

    1. I’m so jealous that you’ve read Gemina! I mean, I have a copy sitting on my shelves…I just have to read a bunch of backlog ARCs before I can get to it. *pouts* Hahaha.

      Oh, really? Yeah, I guess I can see that. AIDAN definitely shows up kind of out of nowhere, and its character development is pretty abrupt. But it worked for me!

  10. This book was so much fun! I’m listening to book 2 right now and it’s just as good!

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    1. Oh man, I’m really intrigued by the audiobook version of this series now! I may have to try alternating between reading and listening to Gemina just so I can see what they’ve done with the format in audio.

  11. Gahhhh am I the ONLY ONE who disliked this novel?! I feel like I should re-read it to see what I missed, but I won’t because I remember all the things I disliked, haha. It just pushed all the wrong buttons for me. I think I rated it with 2 stars? Oops.

    And I hated the format. 😀 This was the wrong book for me.

    I generally love epistolary novels! I recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which I can’t recommend enough! It was my latest 5-star read (I still have to review it).

    1. I mean…maybe? LOL. You’re definitely the only one of my friends who disliked it openly, at least. But it’s kind of fun being the one naysayer sometimes, right? It means you get to have at least one good rant. ????

      Oh noooo! Hahaha. Well, I’m a big lover of epistolary novels and metafiction, so clearly it was the right choice for me. Reading this made me want to read something in a letter or diary entry format…I’ll definitely check out The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! I’m pretty sure that my stepmom read that for a book club a while ago, and I think she liked it!

  12. so happy you loved this one, I have Gemina shamefully sitting on my dresser that yells at me everytime I pass it to pick it up already! Great Review!!

    1. It was such a fun read! I’ve already started pushing it on all my friends, haha. TORI! You’ve gotta get on that ASAP so you can let me know what you think of it. ????

  13. Fantastic reasons why you should read Illuminae! I totally adored Kady and Erza! And AIDAN totally blew me away. I hope you enjoy Gemina! Great review (:

    1. Kady and Ezra were so freaking cute, in that “oh, highschool *smh*” kind of way. AIDAN was insane! Truly an unsettling antagonist who sort of morphed into a hero?? I’m still not sure what to label AIDAN, haha.

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