Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit. As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?
Illuminate was a book that I was pretty sure I was going to dislike. The cover is too girlish and cute, the description did nothing to draw me in. All in all I had made up my mind before even starting this book that it was not for me. I love YA but I like it dark and this seemed all sorts of pretty and girly. But I was wrong.
This book is not perfect; it took me a long time to get into it. There were things that were not explained well, or that I thought were not well thought out. Also, the ending was really well built up but was a little disappointing.
Yet, for all its flaws Illuminate was a real page turner. I found it hard to put down and slipped very easily into the story once it had begun. I loved the characters. Haven is strong but not in that ‘I am going to save the world way’ instead she is smart and is able to see what is around her and the danger she is in, something that often female YA characters fail at. Lance, Dante and Lucian make great supporting characters that you can really get behind.
The romance was hardly there which I think was a great idea. I find that I enjoy YA a lot more when romance is not the centre-piece of the story. The romance that is there is sweet and not overdone.
The middle part of the book was exciting and gripping but it did slow down towards the end which was a real shame. I do wish more of the angel mythology for this story had been explained, but hopefully that will be addressed in the next book in the series.
I really enjoyed Illuminate, it was not as gripping as other books of this genre but it was by no means boring. It was a good story that has potential to really grow as the series continues. After reading this I am not waiting with bated breath for the next book but I will definitely check it out when it becomes available.
If you like Paranormal YA or smart female characters then I would recommend this book. Also if you found books like Angelfall, The Hunger Games or Divergent to violent or brutal then this is also the book for you. It is not extremely violent, disturbing or gruesome.
Published March 6th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. A free copy was provided for review. Images courtesy of Goodreads.
Review by Kate Phillips