As we celebrate the holidays and the impending New Year, it is often a time for reflection. Accomplishments, delights, woes, regrets and resolutions. For us book nerds, such reflections invariably involve… well, books. Before I start to sound trite, let me explain how a recent book series brought me a renewed joy for reading.

But First, A Quick Overview.

The series was the Illuminae Files trilogy (Illuminae, Gemina, Obsidio) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Set in the future, the series involves all the right elements of intergalactic travel, evil corporations bent on hostile planetary takeovers, and wily teenagers who are determined to save the day(s). Each book involves a new teenage duo, all experiencing the same series of overall events, albeit from different times, locations and perspectives. And the really cool part is that all the stories are told through a series of hacked computer files, documents, communications and video file transcripts. The even cooler part? The somewhat dubious artificial intelligence character, AIDAN, with the equally dubious character arc.

Ok, But Where’s the Renewed Joy for Reading?

I love to read. I have loved to read since I was a small child when I would – yes – read under the covers at night with a flashlight, thinking my parents were none the wiser (as if they would have stopped their kid from READING). Fast forward to present times when my gaming-addict almost-teenager actually approached me and said, “Mom, you HAVE to read this book.” Sweeter words have never been heard.

I have been reading with my son since he was born and it has always been a favorite kiddo pastime of mine. But, inevitably, as his friends and video games increasingly beckoned, the snuggly reading sessions have grown less frequent. What I didn’t realize was that, one day, shared reading would take on a whole new meaning. Before, I would read books to him and answer his questions. But our experience with the Illuminae Files was something entirely new. We each read the books separately (he beat me to the finish line every time) and then discussed our thoughts, opinions, likes, dislikes and overall journeys through the books. He had interesting comments. Unique insights. I often found myself excited for him to come home so I could discuss whatever had recently happened in the book.

2021 may not have been an easy year overall. But reading the Illuminae Files with my kiddo was a highlight that I will not soon forget, as it reminded me that the joy of books is often maximized when shared with fellow book nerds – and even more so when that book nerd is your child. (Next, I am trying to convince him to read Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – wish me luck…)

What We Liked.

For me? It was fast-paced, involved just the right amount of page-turning intensity, and rather creatively unfolded through unique storytelling means.

For my son? AIDAN, the aforementioned dubious artificial intelligence creature that sparked many a conversation about ethics and what it is to be human. “Am I not merciful…?”

What We Liked… Less.

The “adults don’t think teenagers can possibly save the day” trope, which makes sense in book one, but is possibly just a bit tired by book three, when teenagers have, in fact, been saving the day all along.

Oh, Yes, and the Blog Photo.

As a Christmas present, to commemorate our shared enjoyment of this series, I used my Cricut (thank you for the expert guidance, Sensei Jaelithe) to make the kiddo a book-themed hoodie. I had my doubts about whether the typical “teenager” attitude would allow him to find any level of coolness here… but I was wrong. He loved it. The blog photo features the front of said hoodie, along with the cover of book one. Which you should go read… with your kid, a friend, colleague or family member. Because books are even better when shared.

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