July 12, 2012

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti {Review}

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: March 6, 2012
Source: Library
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 helns {R...Direct Hit, Review, TBR2012
Edit | View | Share | Deletep of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways 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 recruiting efforts, or will she be able to thwart the devilish sets' plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?
Aaaand, huge sigh of relief/accomplishment. Illuminate is one hefty book and I was really afraid to start it because I wasn’t sure how long something that big would take me, but I needn’t have worried. After getting into the story, I just wanted to devour the whole thing and forget everything else in the world.

Not only was I skeptical of the size going in, I was also wary of the paranormal factor. You’ve probably noticed paranormal reviews are few and far between around here and when they do come, it’s from a book that has really high ratings. I definitely was not disappointed by Illuminate either. The beginning did start out a bit rocky for me, though. There was lots of setup and descriptions and it all just kind of started to bog me down because I wanted to get right down to the gooey center (confession: I’m looking at a picture of a gooey chocolate cake right now, so who knows what kind of crazy adjectives I’ll come up with) of the story, but once I did get there things started to get really good.
I was nearly 100 pages in before the story really hooked me, but in the grand scheme of 514 pages that’s basically nothing.

Characters, guys. Characters, characters, characters. Agresti has created some fantastic ones in Illuminate. The side characters end up being SO much more than side characters. They’re actual a really integral part of the story. Haven’s two guy pals at the Lexington are such awesome friends I don’t even know where to begin. Even the bad guys are complex.

Haven is one supremely awesome character. She doesn’t start out all super awesome butt-kicking bad girl. Instead, she’s pretty timid and fairly average, but not to the point that she’s terribly boring. You actually get to watch her grow into a confident butt-kicking character which I found to be really refreshing. She wasn’t your typical paranormal girl who’s all “I’m scared, but I’m willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING and die for the greater good.” Instead, she’s all “I’ll fight to the death if I have to, but I’d really rather not if that’s okay too.”

And romance? Talk about a slow-build! I’m really not going to get into it because I don’t want to ruin it, but this relationship is seriously one of the most well developed I’ve ever read outside of contemp. Possibly period, ever.
The Nutshell: I realize I’m working on writing an English sized report on Illuminate, but it’s really that good. I could go on and on, but I’ll strip it down to the basics for now. 1) Fairly slow beginning, but once it gets interesting, you’ll be completely hooked. 2) Freaking fantastic characters from complex bad guys to awesome friends who are more than props in the background. 3) Haven actually grows from a timid girl to an awesome take-charge lady and the reader sees the change. 4) A slooooooooow-build relationship that is possibly one of the best I’ve seen. Ever.

Pages: 511 (says Goodreads)
Series: Gilded Wings #1
Rating: Direct Hit


  1. I loved getting to see Haven grow too! So often the heroine is either strong from the beginning or they just suddenly become all strong and capable with no idea how they got there. I liked her journey. [And I liked the romance too!]

    Great review!

  2. I AM SO EXCITE TO READ THIS BOOK. Like you have NO idea! AH! I'm happy to see you loved it as I've heard some meh things from other people :)


I adore all the comments you write. They totally make my day :]