Book Review: Illuminated
Reviewed by Melissa Suggitt
A coming of age fantasy as emotional as it is entertaining
Imagine you’re back in high school—how uncomfortable you felt trying to fit in, racing to grow up, all the hormones, the insecurity, the vastness of the future looming ahead of you. Now picture that, but you may just be having a psychotic break. This is how Illuminated begins.
Readers are taken on a thrill ride with seemingly normal 16-year-old Nikki. She struggles to navigate her way through friendships, boyfriends, her parents’ dissolving marriage, and oh yeah, that mental breakdown she thought she was having? It’s not mental. It turns out she’s just coming into her supernatural powers. And her entire world is being turned upside down.
She learns that she’s a member of a secret society, the Illuminae, that goes back generations. Her father must do all he can to protect her from a dark threat, The Siphoner, a rogue former member of the Illuminae hellbent on immortality and controlling the world one mind at a time. High school is hard enough without the added stress of suddenly discovered psychic abilities and that someone’s coming to steal them.
This novel reads as both a fantasy and a mystery, energizing readers with a constantly updating plotline. Illuminated will have your heart racing to find out who the Siphoner really is and whether Nikki and her family will stay safe. And at the same time, the author confronts the reader with an ethical dilemma: how much control should one person have?
A coming of age story at its core, this novel expertly captures the turmoil of emotions that go with late adolescence. You’re on the precipice of adulthood, one foot still firmly planted in childhood and one tentatively taking a step into the unknown. It’s scary to grow up even with magical powers.
Author Iris Marsh has a special talent for keeping us engaged and connected with these characters. There are countless moments when a character makes a poor decision, yet you still empathize with them or at least understand their motivations. She writes her characters with layers and nuance, bringing them to life all the more.
The most exciting part of this book isn’t the fact that superpowers exist, it’s Nikki’s personal growth that unfolds through her relationships with those around her. I would have happily read this novel for the drama in Nikki’s personal life alone. Psychic powers and a truly wicked villain like the Siphoner are just the icing on the cake.
If asked to sum up Illuminated in one word, the answer would have to be fun. Young Adult fantasy lovers will not be able to put this one down. It seems as though the door is open for a sequel, too, with plenty of room left to explore this uniquely crafted world. I for one am curious to learn more about the Illuminae, Nikki, and what other adventures await as she hones her psychic gifts and attempts to change the world.
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Coming of Age
Print Length: 413 pages
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