I’m a fan of Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s work. A big enough fan that I do my very best to attend their book launches when they’re in Sydney. Not only are they Australian authors (support #LoveOzYA) but they’re also hilarious to watch live, bouncing off each other with an ease that’s evident in the writing they do together.
Thanks to a somewhat unique name and the amount of times I’ve been at their signing table, they actually recognise me, which always gives me a thrill. Amie and Jay are on their way to being YA SF superstars. Actually, scrap that. They are YA SF superstars and you only need to pick up one of their many books to see they’re worth watching.
On Wednesday night at the Sydney Kinokuniya bookstore, they launched their book Obsidio, the much anticipated final novel in the Illuminae Files trilogy. I took advantage and brought all the books I’d bought since the last signing I’d attended and I wasn’t alone. I’m pretty sure, on average, each attendee had at least 5 books each for Jay and Amie to sign. The queue was epic, but as always, Jay and Amie took the time to chat with each person and get a photo or two.
Now onto the Illuminae Files themselves. Never fear, no spoilers here.
What I love most about Amie and Jay’s books is that every character is depicted in shades of grey. There are no good guys and bad guys, at least not in the traditional sense. Technically, every single person living on Kerenza is illegally there and thus a criminal in the eyes of the law. Even the supposed antagonists have a softer side that Amie and Jay introduce with a light touch. My favourite is one BeiTech Industries soldier’s love of animals, shown beautifully through a single action. At times it’s honestly heart breaking and while you definitely dislike some characters (Gemina has a whole bushel of characters that you can love to hate), Obsidio in particular rubs away at the white and black until only blurs of grey are left.
Amie and Jay are also doing incredible things with narrative structure, presenting each book as a collection of documents such as surveillance transcripts, spaceship schematics, drawings and journal entries. I presented a paper on this at the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research in 2016, which you can check out HERE. When I first started reading this series, I was sceptical, worried I wouldn’t be able to get into the story. Not a problem at all. I love having a bird’s eye view as everything happens, switching between characters with an ease that’s surprising.
I’m sad I’ve reached the end of the Illuminae Files, but satisfied. What’s particularly awesome is that Amie and Jay are already working on their next collaboration so it won’t be long until I’m reading more of their fantastic writing.