Illuminate by Aimee Agresti: Review

Back from my break! Here's a rant for you :)


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.


Note: I underlined stuff. Just for fun.

Illuminate wasn’t very illuminating. And I MUST STOP reading books that will make me write them whiny, barbaric reviews that goes against my non-whiny, gentle nature.
This one almost ended up being a DNF. I finished it only because I was too freaking tired from all the exams to go to the effort of actually buying a new iBook or finding something from the library. I want to make a bitch-face at the book for looking so damn pretty, and then failing miserably to instill one shred of interest.
PLOT SUMMARY, a. k. a, What Passes for a Plot
Haven, Dante and Lance are interns at the Lexington Hotel-, which is not open to the public yet, is managed by a creepy lady named Aurelia, assisted by the handsome Lucian and a group of robo-zombie-people called the Outfit. Haven’s unknown origin and a book that speaks like Yoda are the basic plotlines of interest. There is some weird kind of soul trade happening. Oh, and Aurelia is muttering stuff about Haven having a lot of super-speshul powers to a mysterious guy named Prince (two guesses as to who he is. Yep. Prince of Darkness). To avoid spoiling this for you, if you even want to read it after my sort-of spoiler-free dissection of this book, I will avoid mentioning who Haven is and anything else that might actually have been an illuminating surprise. Sorry for the bad joke.
First few pages:
We are dropped right into the middle of a class, and Aimee Agresti sums up what seems like every YA author’s idea of a boring hour in an American high school in what seems like a sentence with 60 enormous words. We get a terrific insight into Haven’s character at the very beginning, which confirms what is easily revealed as the book proceeds: SHE IS TSTL. (Too Stupid to Live, if you are new to this thing) God, if you can’t make a simple decision whether or not to answer one damn question in class because of its psychological implications, I feel sorry for the world that has been dropped on your fragile shoulders by the literary Gods.
Oh, and her name is Haven Terra. Just saying.
Next few pages:
New stereotypes pour in, the storyline is set-up and Haven tells us all about her ooh-so-super-speshul past. So let’s put one confused parentless (um, she does have a foster mom but that doesn’t count because she ain’t super-speshul) girl, one utterly stereotypical gay best-friend, and the good-looking-geeky dude together, and let’s give them a scholarship. Oh, wait, no. It’s an internship program. At the awesome Lexington Hotel. Which isn’t open to the public yet. And this is DURING THE SEMESTER. Doesn’t it matter to the school that these kids are missing out on their education- to do what, really? Click photos? Arrange books in libraries? Cook?
The hotel setup is great. Hotels are naturally scary places, according to Stephen King, and a luxury hotel that isn’t open to the public yet could have been downright creepy, if Agresti had put her mind to it. Instead we get descriptions. Descriptions atop descriptions. Everything is shiny and new and the characters that flit by are nothing more than colorful streamers, and there is NO. SOUL. AT. ALL. to any of this. It’s almost as if Agresti was writing a brochure. (You know, maybe this book should have been a companion to some creepy hotel.)
Haven is boring. She does these random things that make no sense, follows instructions from a book that writes itself (the wise Arthur Weasley once said “Don’t trust something if you can’t see where it keeps its brain”) and basically is so boring that I fall asleep all the time, wishing Agresti had picked a pluckier heroine, or at least someone whose sweet self-effacing goodness doesn’t splash all over the book and suffocate me.
I get a mild flicker of interest when a group of robo-people-zombies called the Outfit show up.
Flicker of interest is then drowned by chapters and chapters of GODDAMN IT, NOTHING IS HAPPENING.
(Falls asleep writing the review because it requires thinking about the book.)
(Wakes up slapping herself because she HAS TO FINISH. For the sake of her followers, *waves* she HAS TO FINISH)
Things I don’t care about in this book:
I don’t care about her mystery, and I don’t care about the book that speaks in a weird Yoda tone. If a book started behaving like Tom Riddle’s diary, I would flush it down the toilet- literally. Especially if the supernatural entity writing it has no sense of humor whatsoever.
Lucian, Haven’s immediate love-interest at the Lexington, simply creeps me out because I keep thinking of him as this huge guy towering over Haven, a simperingly gorgeous fellow who’s gunning for her somehow. I don’t care about her best friend Dante and I don’t care about cute-geek Lance. I don’t care about super-hot Lucian because by now I’m brain-numbed from all the descriptions of his “over-chiseled” face. (Really, Ms Agresti? Over-chiseled?) I don’t care about Aurelia because I don’t like her over pretentious name or manner. I don’t care about the book-that-writes-itself because it can’t make a damn joke, or give a proper answer- all it does is SET UP. SET UP. SET UP.
The book now falls into a literary rut from which it tries to get out by throwing a few splashes of action and some good description, some nice tricks (once I even say “ooh, really?” and then smile at the book because I’m so happy for you, book! I’m so happy you made me actually invest one second of my reading time actually liking you!) but in the end fails miserably because there is nothing quite new about it. (I could tell you the similarity that a lot of ideas- not even the big ones, the little details- used here has with various other YA books- including Harry Potter and several other “angel” books)
Nothing you couldn’t get out of reading better, smaller books.
The term for what Lucian says Haven is actually made me laugh. I was imagining these bright golden diodes, for some reason. Get it? Diodes, illuminate? Snicker-snicker.
Now stuff happens in the last half of this book- I can tell you that. There is some angst and some action, parties and changing photos and villainy and the Prince of Darkness and whatnot, but it’s all pretty procedural. Bang-boom-sequel.
In Conclusion:
My issue with this book is basically with the untapped potential of it. The scope for horror, passion, and glam-glitter-fizz in this book is beyond me, because I can think of a thousand ways to write it and Illuminate is not the way I would have chosen. And that’s what really pisses me off. Because it could have been good. If thirty thousand words had been edited out of it, and a little more thought given to character and plot development, it could have been good. But it wasn’t, not for me. And Illuminate has left me so underwhelmed that I will not torture myself through another book in this series. This is it for my journey with Haven Terra.
Thank God this is over.


  1. That Arthur Weasley quote popped into my head, too, as soon as the book started "writing" to Haven. I also had a really hard time finishing Illuminate and agree that it needed better editing.

    1. It needed three or four revisions. Yoda book :p Thanks for the comment.

  2. Honestly- this was terrible. Not the review (that was fun!) the actual book. Can't believe I even got through this. TSTL heroines are a red alert now. Come visit sometimes- I've got a love for SK too!

  3. Oh thats so sad!
    I havent read this book, and Im glad.
    It almost hurts to read a book that you know could have been amazing but it just was poorly executed and then turns into a horrible book! so very sad.
    oh well
    I still enjoyed your review

  4. Aw, bummer this one was boring and uninteresting. On the plus side, your review was very entertaining. The MC sounds dumb and boring (love the Arthur Weasley quote! LOL), so that's no good and the plot sounds nonexistent. There is no way I'd read a book this long if it's that boring. So thanks for the tip!

    btw: I seem to have been unfollowed from your blog (as well as others) which is annoying. Thankfully, I was able to notice that I was no longer following you so I could follow again. The same cannot be said by presumably quite a few other blogs that I am no longer following but can't recall now... damn.

    1. Any place to slide in a HP quote and I'm there.
      And that just happened to me too. Bother, really. Glad you noticed :)


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