STORIES | 5 reasons you will love The Illuminae Files

It is time, boys and girls.
It is time for me to sink back into my book blogger ways and discuss a recent favorite read of mine.
Aren’t you oh so excited?? (You better be, damnit. I worked hard on this post.)

Today I providing 5 simple reasons you will love The Illuminae Files by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. (Or at least the first book in the series.)

Illustration of the first two books in The Illuminae Files by Asti Stenning


Yes, fuck. I love that there are cuss words in this kick-ass bitch of a book. (Whoa Asti, whoa. I think that’s enough there. Your mom reads these posts.)

I was a teen once and, while it may be shocking to hear, I cussed. F-bombs, b-bombs, a-bombs, they all came out of my mouth – especially in high-intensity situations. So, as silly as it may sound, I actually love that there is a YA book out there in which cussing is a regular occurrence for the teenage MCs because it makes it feel that much more real to me.

But don’t worry! If you’re averse to cussing and rather turn a blind eye, this series does a good job of censoring itself. It’s like watching TV with all the “bleeps”. The cussing is there and you can easily figure out what bad word is being used, but if you rather pretend otherwise you can just admire all the random █████ marks blocking those naughty words and fill them in with your own fun alternatives like “fudge” and “witch.”


Books that throw you in the deep of things and remind you that something is always around the corner are my favorite. They keep you on the edge of your seat and that anticipation of just waiting for things to blow up is absolutely delicious to me.

With both Illuminae and Gemina, the first two books of the Illuminae Files, you get regular countdowns alerting you to what is on its way. There’s a sense of urgency on every page because you can’t help but wonder if the characters will sort things out before the time runs out.

Even beyond that though, you get other little indicators of trouble such as the ever-growing blood stain from pages of Hanna’s sketchbook in Gemina. (Don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, it is brought to the reader’s attention on page 17.) Details like that keep you glued to the story as you wonder what role they play and how it will get involved in the story later on.

Photograph of Marie Lu's Illustration in Jay Kristoff's and Amie Kaufman's Gemina featuring a dark mark that looks like blood
Page 31 of Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, Illustrated by Marie Lu


One of the most notable things about this series, and the one thing I think I was a bit apprehensive about going into it, was the fact that this story is told through a file of documents. It’s not just a narrator telling a story. There are chat logs, surveillance footage summaries, unipedia (aka wikipedia) documents, sketchbook pages, maps, and even just pages in which the words themselves flow around the page to illustrate movement or action or something more.

It’s a bit of everything, but I think the authors do a great job in ensuring it all serves a purpose in progressing the story and I really like how much personality is still attached to each file. Even if it’s just some unknown person describing what they’re seeing on camera monitors, there are bits and pieces of attitude here and there that make it a lot of fun to read.


Speaking of attitudes, can I just say I love the characters because they’re spunky? (Wait, does anyone even use that word anymore? Hm.) They’re sarcastic and sassy and inappropriate. And while I think all of that may drive some people crazy, I think it’s actually quite reflective to how ridiculous teens can be. (Add in the fact that it even goes beyond teens to a certain something else in Illuminae and LOVE!!)

Plus their interactions! Some of my favorite parts of these files are reading the interactions between the characters because they don’t hold anything back. For me, it was just so good.



The last thing I’ll tell you in hopes that it’ll convince you to pick up this series is that you really can just stop after the first book. While the two stories published so far are loosely connected, the second book features a different set of characters and scenarios than the first.

It’s not a HUGELY different story, and in fact I feel like that’s where some readers truly struggle with when it comes to the sequel (they feel like it’s just a weak rinse and repeat of the first), but there were enough differences to keep me engaged and in love with this series as I continued.

Let’s Chat

So there you have it! My review/rave/read-this-now post about The Illuminae Series by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. Let me know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t read this book yet, does this sound like something you might like? And if you have, what did you think of the series? I can’t wait until the third book, Obsidio, comes out next year!

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26 thoughts on “STORIES | 5 reasons you will love The Illuminae Files

  1. Hello! I have been reading all your posts, just haven’t had time to post an actual comment, sorry! I love when we agree on books! I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the layout of the books with documents etc. but I think it works so well. I love being kept on the edge of my seat. I also really liked the conversations between the characters. Bring on book 3!


    1. Geesh Chantelle, no time to comment? How rude. 😉

      But yes, it’s one of those rare occasions I both like a book and we actually agree! Yay! 🙌🏻


  2. I love love loooove this series so much I COULD JUST CRY. And yes I say “spunky”.😂 So much spunk omg. And sass. The sass levels and the cursing are actually my favourite things haha and I think the blanked-out-ness drew more attention to how much they swore? But whatever. I loved it! ❤ And I love that it wasn't pretending that teens don't swear heeh. AIDAN though is my favourite and that's probably a concern but yet. There you go.
    Although the Gemina cliffhanger = not okay. NOT OKAY. Pls come faster book 3. ❤️💔


    1. It’s funny you mention the blanked-out-ness drew more attention to how much they swore because I didn’t think about it but I definitely agree. It’s also a bit silly because really, adults are adults and wouldn’t actually be bothered to go through 600 pages of documents just to black out cursewords like that, would they? But still, if that’s the only way to get regular cussing approved in a YA book, I’ll take it. I had no problems filling in the blanks. 😝

      YESSSS TO AIDAN! I didn’t mention him specifically in this post because I was trying to talk about the two books together and he doesn’t really make an obvious appearance in Gemina (I mean, he does, but nowhere near the sass level as I’d prefer.), but he was definitely my favorite part of Illuminae and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens with AIDAN (and everyone else) in the next one. I will say though that I didn’t really feel it was a cliffhanger? Like yeah, it’s a “if you want to find out what happened you need to read the next one”, but I wasn’t dying from it because I still felt like Gemina wrapped itself up fairly well. Either way, yay for the next one hopefully publishing this year!!


  3. Ahh! I’ve heard so many incredible things about these books, it’s rather a wonder I haven’t read them before. (Also, can I get a fuck yes for swearing teens? 😉 ) Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Asti – they look absolutely fantastic & I cannot wait to pick them up ASAP. ❤



      I hope if you do pick this series up you end up enjoying it as much as I do! I always imagine you reading much softer and emotion-riddled things because you’re such a pure soul, but if you have room in your heart for a silly and fun teen space adventure you may like it. (I don’t have a way with words like you do so it doesn’t take too much to entertain me. 😉)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It actually bothered me to no end that the curse words were blacked out. I wanted them there! I also swore a lot as a teen. xD

    I did prefer Illuminae to Gemina, mostly because the plot felt very similar, but I didn’t connect with the new protagonists. I also missed AIDAN. I hope the third book will feature my favorite AI more prominently! It still was an exciting read, though, and I did end up enjoying it.


    1. Haha, I would’ve liked them to just be there, sure, but it didn’t bother me with the black outs. Though it is a bit silly to think that if they were actual documents someone would go through and black them all out. Wouldn’t only adults be looking at these? They could care less about cussing.

      Yes to AIDAN. I only didn’t mention AIDAN in my post because a) I was trying to talk about the series as a whole and AIDAN wasn’t too relevant in the Gemina and b) I’m not sure if discussing AIDAN’s evil kick-ass self is considered a spoiler? But love me some AIDAN and also really hope he plays a bigger role in the next one!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. YES, YES, YES! This is one of my favorite series so I am so glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. Kady was such a fierce protagonist and her romance with Ezra was perfect. ❤ Plus AIDAN and the worldbuilding were mind-blowing as well. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤


    1. Yes, I love how everyone who has read the series and commented has also loved it. Will hopefully encourage anyone who visits who hasn’t read it to pick it up! I really hope AIDAN plays a big role in the third book. By far my favorite character of the series!


  6. Yay!! I also absolutely enjoyed this series (how could I not, what with Jay Kristoff attached to it and all). I love how it’s not your typical format and it just works so well for the story. I tell everyone to read it. I’m glad you enjoyed it too! And sorry I don’t comment much, kind of having a bit of a rough time over here.


    1. No worries Jenn! I definitely know what it’s like to get behind on commenting when life hits you in the face. If you ever need someone to chat to though, feel free to message me!

      And yesssss, such a good series. I can’t wait to read the third one (and I really need to read more Kristoff too! I love that he’s got all these stories he’s working on. The Lotus Wars is a fav 🖤)


  7. NOOO I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A DIFFERENT SET OF CHARACTERS. Although I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it in Gemina, gah.

    But yes to all your swearing and flailing about the first book. Yes.

    Also I AM HERE. ON YOUR NEW BLOG. YAY! 😀 I can’t believe I didn’t comment sooner, life has eatened me I supposed


    1. If it makes you feel better, the characters from Illuminae DO crop up in Gemina. They’re just not the focus. They may take center stage again for the third book though? I feel like that’s a thing.

      Haha, don’t worry about not commenting sooner. It’s only taken me a month to respond to this one (whoops!). Life gets in the way sometimes. 😉 But yes, welcome! And I hope if you decide to stick around you enjoy it (though it is a bit different than anything I’ve done before).


  8. That’s so exciting! I got the two books on my birthday (way back in October. Which means, the next one may come out next birthday, perhaps?). Will fangirl after I read this series with you, for sure. I am intimidated by the sci-fi-ness of it. But, Tome Topple is around the corner, and I am hoping I get the chance to try these books.
    PS: How many days till you see the fiance? Will he find the hat for your dad? SO MANY QUESTIONS!


    1. DINAAAAA, sorry it’s taken so long to reply to your comment. Got lost in the excitement waiting for Dave to arrive, and then he was here, and then I had to get over him not being here. It was a lot for my mind to take in. 😛

      Anyways, yes, read the books! I’m not sure if you got to them during Tome Topple, but if not, do keep them high on your TBR! (Though if you rather wait until the third book publishes to read them all at once, I wouldn’t blame you.) They may look like super long scary reads due to their size, but because it’s a mix of documents and not just plain text on a page it actually doesn’t read slow at all. And the sci-fi-ness? Well, it definitely has sci-fi elements, but language-wise it’s not too much of a focus. I feel like the relationships and drama are the main thing.

      And now that Dave has been here I can answer the questions: he’s gone but he’ll be back August 19th for a couple weeks (so we can get married!!!!). He could NOT find the exact hat my dad loves 😦 but he did grab a different one from the same shop and my dad seems to be happy with it so we’ll consider it a success.


  9. I’ve been NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDING to read these books since Illuminae released but I’ve been waiting for a hardcover to go on sale (I never buy hardcovers, what is wrong with me?) because it’s just so DANG beautiful – but expensive, and I am just a university student after all. Let’s all wallow in my self pity.


    1. Awww, definitely will add some sad sorrowful tears of my own to your self pity wallow pool. I get it though, money is money and hardbacks are hardbacks. It IS definitely a beautiful book though, so I do hope the hardbacks go on sale for you soon! (And hey, the silver lining: waiting to even get started on the series means you might get to binge them all at once without the miserable feeling of having to wait like some readers 😛 )


  10. Haha Asti I love that you’re so yourself on this blog. You make it so much fun to read your posts.

    How good is this series?! I agree and I also love the format of how this series is written. I love that they swear, I love that it’s censored, I love the illustrations, and I love the story lines of both books. I mean I agree with how everyone is saying that Gemina is a “weak rinse and repeat of the first book”, but I too fell in love with Gemina’s story. I still really enjoyed it and I loved the sciencey parts.

    Although in Illuminae I LOVED AIDAN. AIDAN is the best villain. I mean I love how he was used in Gemina too. Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman write amazing books together.

    Love this review!

    Jordon @ Simply Adrift


    1. Haha, I honestly have no idea how not to be me in my posts. I look at some blogs and their posts read so professional and insightful, and I’m just like “BLEEGHHH THESE ARE MY THOUGHTS DERP DERP DERP BYE.” But hey, I’ve learned to embrace it. People will either like my nonsense and stick around or they’ll go running in the opposite direction. The one thing that can pretty much count on though is that if we ever meet IRL they’ll have a good idea of what to expect!

      Yes to the Gemina thing. It’s very similar to Illuminae and those readers who are expecting something totally different and exciting are going to be disappointed. But I still enjoyed it. Now if the third book (I can’t remember the title right now though I do think it’s been announced) is ANOTHER rinse and repeat, well, that might suck a bit more. But I feel like since things are starting to tie together between the two we might be heading onto a new path. Maybe?

      Yesssss AIDAN. I didn’t quite LOVE him as much in Gemina, but Illuminae for sure. I feel like that was a total Kristoff creation. AIDAN’s voice reminded me of Buruu from his Lotus Wars series at times (if you haven’t read those, I highly recommend it)! So, so good.


      1. Embracing it is definitely the way to go! Hahaha I love it, at least you’re a super interesting person that has opinions and is not afraid to be herself!

        Obsidio! Ohh actually it sounds like a spell from Harry Potter lol. But it also sounds like an awesome title. I hope the story line mixes it up a bit, but then I also think I’m loving reading how two people help save other people from one threat, while there’s another unknown threat happening that the readers know about but the characters don’t know about. The two characters kinda fall for each other and maybe-probably kiss. Then there’s a twist that no one expects, and everyone’s like ‘OMFG!!! DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?!’ and then it ends with another twist that you were probably expecting but it’s still awesome. So if it’s still kinda the same, I know I will still love it. Lol.

        I haven’t read Jay Kristoff’s Lotus War series, I remember trying years a go but I never quite got into the first book and I haven’t tried it again. Same with Nevernight actually 😦 But I’m loving his co-authoring books!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ooh I am definitely going to be giving Nevernight a try because I do seem to like his work, but I’m sad to hear it didn’t work for you! Do you have a review on the blog for it? I’ll have to check because I’m curious now. TBH, the main thing that pulled me his Lotus Wars series is Buruu. Did you get to that part in the first book? He made that series for me and I absolutely love him.

        And yes to Obsidio. Either way I think I’ll be happy. I’m not too much of a critical reader and really, why fix it if it works? 😉


      3. I got an eARC of Nevernight, but Nevernight is the kind of book you need to read as a physical book. Part of the fun of it is that there are lots of footnotes. In the eARC the footnotes were pages ahead or pages behind the page where they were footnoted (Does that makes sense?), so I was constantly flicking backwards or forwards to see what the footnote meant. It gave me a headache, so I put it down and decided I would try and pick it up again as a physical book. But I’ve just never gotten round to buying the book or joining the library here to get it out.

        Although, I tried to have a look for books at the library and there were like none. There were hardly ANY YA books on the shelves! It was so depressing 😦 Like do kids here get to read YA? I couldn’t figure it out. And I was so surprised because I thought a big city like London would have an amazing library system! I feel like I’m missing something here. Because it doesn’t make sense that the library system sucks.

        My point was, I didn’t read far enough in to leave a review!

        As for Lotus Wars, I don’t think I made it that far. I think I was too young to appreciate the style of his writing and so I put it down after a chapter or two (I think) because I couldn’t wrap my head around the language. I think I may try and pick that series back up at some point, I feel like now that I’m older I will be able to appreciate it more. Saying this is making me feel suuuuper old. It’s like I turned 27 and became a grandma hahahaha. And I only turned 27 last month lol.


      4. Ah, I didn’t realize Nevernight had footnotes! That sounds like a right pain trying to sort them out in an ebook. I don’t blame you for giving that up.

        Whaaat, no YA books at the library? How sad. Teens deserve to be able to read YA just as much as kids get their books and adults their own. And yeah, you would think it’d especially be easier in a big city like London. How strange. Maybe they just focus their YA resources into select libraries? I don’t know. I’d be disappointed.

        Fair enough with the Lotus Wars series! If you decide to pick it up again (now that you’re older ;)), I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, but if not that’s fine too!

        I do get what you mean about feeling suuuuuuper old too. I’m actually turning 28 next week and it’s like – whattt?! I’m almost afraid to reread books I loved before because I can’t help but wonder if my old fart brain won’t be as impressed with them as it was when I was younger. XP


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