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 is an exciting saga of a teen’s first taste of independence, her experience in the lap of luxury, and her discovery she may possess strength greater than she ever knew. ~ From GoodReads
Haven Terra is living the typical teenager's life. Great school, great friends, great "family"...life is good. Except for the fact that she was abandoned as a baby, left with scars on her chest and back. Luckily Haven was taken in and cared for by Joan, a nurse, and her coworkers. When Haven and her best friend Dante, along with classmate Lance, are whisked away for a once-in-a-lifetime internship at a soon to be opened hotel/nightclub in the Chicago, it's a dream come true.
Once the internship begins, the fact that something is "off" is quickly evident. Maybe it's the fact that The Outfit, the beyond glamorous staff, act like freakish robots? Or the mysterious book that seems to be communicating with Haven? But how about the fact that Aurelia, her boss, and Lucian, Aurelia's next in command, act plain creepy? When Haven discovers the secrets behind this dangerous group, she faces it head on, determined to save herself and those she loves.
Once again, I find myself at odds, opinion-wise, between myself and so many other readers. The cover is beautiful, with the right amount of foreshadowing. A cover like that is sure to put a book on my radar. And a lot of bloggers I know have read ILLUMINATE and have given it glowing reviews. So I was excited to read this one. I was primed and ready to love it. But, it just didn't happen, for several reasons.
First, I didn't feel a "hook", a strong plot line that grabbed my attention and demand that I read this book. I knew what the hook was supposed to be. It's actually spelled out in the synopsis. The framework was laid out so slowly that I became bored. I knew danger was coming, but I honestly just wanted Haven to get a clue and get on with it. There wasn't this big "aha" moment, where things suddenly got real. Everything Haven learned was through eavesdropping and thinly veiled hints during conversations.
Another aspect to the story that did not connect with me was the love interest. Upon arrival at the hotel, Haven meets Lucian. Lucian is of course, impossibly gorgeous, wealthy, charming...you know what I'm saying. I just didn't get it. I don't care how hot I am for a guy, if he always cancels dates, disappears for days, and asks me to give him my soul, that's a huge dealbreaker. But maybe that's just me. Not Haven. She falls hard for Lucian and keeps seeing him despite his efforts to damn her for eternity. Sigh. And yes, it may be possible that the devilish Lucian will have a change of heart. Even so, that's a bridge too far to cross, in my opinion.
My biggest issue with ILLUMINATE is the fact that the story moved so slowly. Much of the "action" was Haven running errands delivering chocolate, or learning the various duties of her position. She did lurk through the tunnels and crawlspaces of the hotel, but not a lot came of it. The revelations, what there were of them, came so slowly that I found myself easily distracted from the story. Even the big events didn't wow me.
I know I sound like a complete grouch after writing this (grumble, grumble). That is never my intention. I wanted to love ILLUMINATE. The author does have a nice writing style. The words and dialogue flowed extremely well. The book had some beautiful passages. I liked Haven, Lance and Dante, for the most part. Overall, though, I found ILLUMINATE to be too long and too slow to suit my tastes.
"After a thing like that, worry becomes more than a reflex; it becomes an umbrella shadowing daily life, hovering closer every time someone gets home late or doesn't call when they say they will."
For an alternate viewpoint, here is a very positive review of ILLUMINATE.
Hardcover, 531 pages
Expected publication: March 6th 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books
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