Book Review: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)- Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)

Author(s): Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files (book #1)

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction 

Format: Hardback (599 pages)

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

My Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars 

Book Depository: Illuminae

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. (Goodreads)

Hi again! Back again with another review of a book I finished last month. This book was one of my most highly anticipated reads for this year. I really, really wanted to love it, because the hype and praise it has received have been astronomically high. But it fell short for me, which really broke my heart. Let’s get into why I only gave this book 3 stars:

First of all, it wasn’t because of the style. I LOVE reading books that have unique/different formats, and when I initially heard that this book would be composed of dossier files, emails, paper reports, illustrations, etc, I was thrilled. I find that kind of storytelling amazing, and the book did not disappoint. Everything was very impressive, authentic-looking and quite frankly, the finished product was beautiful:



Some people didn’t like the way the book was written. To me, the style and illustrations were the redeeming quality of the book. It made me feel like I was watching the action unfold, and that was a definite bonus. So, what gives? Why 3 stars?

Well, there’s the plot. I love space operas. I love science fiction. I love futuristic stories set in times of technological advancements, aliens, AI and space travel. This book had all of that, and more. The plot promised an exciting and fast-paced read, and for the most part it delivered, especially with the style. But for all the excitement this book promised, it just fell a little flat for me, and one of the main reasons is execution.

This book could have been amazing, if it allowed itself to be. I cannot stress this enough, and it has kept me up at night. This thought hit me when I was a quarter way through, as I literally stopped reading it and said the words aloud: “this could have been amazing.” I think the problem this book has is that it’s a little…immature. Establishing it as a YA book was a mistake, as well as centering the plot around the romance between two teenage protagonists. The writing style was quirky and witty, when it could have been more serious. If the book didn’t try so hard to sound comedic, and if it took the case files and email reports seriously, it could have been a terrifying, exciting read about a dangerous situation in a futuristic setting. Instead, it read like a set of John Green characters running around in space. I’m not hating on either the book or John Green though, I promise! Just trying to set the scene.

I did really enjoying reading about the crazy AI who takes over the ship, as well as looking into the hacked communication between the ship leaders, and all the space battles and action scenes. But again, they were a little too rushed and definitely too YA-like to be taken seriously. It’s hard to get into the seriousness of the situation when every second page is filled with teenagers flirting, all while a deadly virus spreads around killing people.

Also, the plot was a little all over the place. I spent a good portion of the book confused, because it’s difficult to throw a reader into a story like this and expect them to understand the entire backstory, motivations and conflict while trying to cram it into report file exposition. So in this case, the whole email/web page/government report thing didn’t really work. Because a flirtatious email between Kady and Ezra trying to explain why their planet was attacked in the first place works less well than a straight-to-the-point, third person narrative.

There were some awesome moments, too. The AI? Fantastically nuts. The battle against the virus? Seriously exciting to read. That huge plot twist? Left me devastated, and then devastated again (in a good way!) But I do wish the authors picked one plot line to follow. Trying to juggle the initial invasion, the space chase, the virus, the AI, AND the relationship between Kady and Ezra was too big of a task to handle, and the rushed aspect of the book showed that. Trying to give characters personalities through emails worked to an extent, but I felt that Kady and Ezra were more caricatures of teenagers, and less like actual people.

So, overall, not a terrible read. I would still recommend it, because I know I’m just being picky with the whole YA-immaturity thing. I really feel that this book could have been outstanding if it were written for adults as pure science fiction though, even retaining the teenage leads. I’m going to read the sequel because I’m curious to see where the story goes, and I really hope that I enjoy it more than Illuminae.

And that’s a wrap! Sorry for the morose review, I just really wanted to love this one. What do you think? Do you agree with me about the YA aspect making the book a little immature? Do you like the style? Let me know down below! Thanks for reading 🙂


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