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I Belong


Review: Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

Title: Illuminate

Author: Aimee Agresti

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: Gilded Wings (Book 1)

Publication Date: March 6, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 528 Pages

ISBN-10: 0547822502 (Harcourt)

ISBN-13:  978-0547626147 (Harcourt)

Reviewed by: Emmy

Synopsis:

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.

Quick & Dirty: This book is beautifully written, but about a third too long. The description buries the tension that’s needed to build up the plot, which takes a long time to get to.

Opening Sentence: Up until that point, English class had been unremarkable.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

The Lexington Hotel is being brought back to life.  It’s becoming the exclusive destination for locals and tourists.  Everyone wants in.  Based off the history Al Capone has with the hotel, the staff prides itself on the Outfit.  The Outfit, for those who aren’t Chicago locals, was the name of Capone’s gang.  While the Lexington prides itself on its rich history, Aurelia Brown is bringing it back in style. It’s beautiful, fashionable, and exclusive.  Just like her Outfit.  The beautiful, stylish group that helps run the hotel and create the image of perfection.  It might take her a bit, but soon Haven realizes there’s a lot more to the hotel, and the Outfit, than the rest of the world knows.

Haven Terra is a geeky, ambitious tomboy with no social life. At the age of 5 she was found abandoned in a ditch (a past that’s barely mentioned) and gets adopted by the nurse that took care of her at the hospital.  You find out a lot more about her life prior to Lexington Hotel in the first two chapters, which are pretty much just her going about a normal day.  Haven gets a prestigious internship at Lexington as a part of some government education plan for exceptional students.  Instead of school, for a semester she’ll be with her best friend Dante and a third intern from their school named Lance working in different capacities with Aurelia Brown.

Honestly, Aurelia is a fantastic villain.  It’s hard to find antagonists that the author has completely fleshed out, but I loved how flawed and complex Aurelia’s character was.  She has her strong moments but also her weaknesses.  And Lance and Lucian were my other favorite characters.  Lance is the most gradually characterized in this novel. He starts out as the shy skinny kid with glasses, but becomes the star of the show.  Of all the characters, he was the only one I really trusted to be on Haven’s side. His transformation is not like Haven’s, who I found a little hard to relate to.

Haven is supposed to be this nerdy loner but suddenly acquires great social skills and fashion sense when coming to Lexington. Even though the book was told from her point of view, I didn’t feel very connected to her.  This is a surprise to me too, because after 500 pages you’d hope to have a connection.  I think part of the problem is that her narrative voice is so weighed down by exposition and descriptions that I feel like I’m more interested in the hotel than in her.

Overall, I did like the plot.  It took a whole two hundred pages before I got a hint of it, but once I got there the book began to pick up some speed.  But getting there was a bit of a trial.  Agresti has built an amazingly haunted world within the Lexington Hotel, her descriptions are beautiful, but really I could have done without so many long paragraphs.  It has a bit of an angel twist to it, which was fun to read and a bit unexpected.  However, I’m still sketchy on a lot of the details of the plot that should have been wrapped up but were forgotten about.  Hopefully, we’ll get all the answers in the next book.

Notable Scene:

“I can’t believe you’ve got your own bachelorette pad and Lance and I have to share,” he said with an exaggerate pout.

“Sorry…but not that sorry.” I smiled.

“You know that dude got almost a twenty-four hundred on his SATs?”

“Why is that always the first question you ask people? If you weren’t so cute, people would really hate you.”

“Let it go, fifteen hundred.”

“I don’t test well. You’re mean.”

“Please, you love me.  Just saw a bunch of glamazons in the hall.  Can we please revisit our discussion about how everyone is, like, drop-dead gorgeous around here?”

“Must be something in the water.”

“Let’s hope.  Drink up, sister.”

“You said it.  Seriously though, what’s the deal with them?”

“You got me. Sexy, but a total snooze.  I feel like there’s no personality under their perfect shells.”

The Gilded Wings Series:

1. Illuminate

FTC Advisory: Harcourt provided me with a copy of Illuminate.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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