Illusive, by Emily Lloyd-Jones

IllusiveSometimes when I’m talking about books here, I’ll say that a book reminded me of some other books or in my recommendation I’ll say “For fans of x or y or 7.” Sometimes I do this because I think people who liked x will like the book I’m talking about, sometimes I do it because I worry that if you just read y you won’t want to read the book I’m talking about for a while in case of accidental overdose.

This book was sold to me on the first premise: “X-Men meets Ocean’s Eleven in this edge-of-your-seat YA sci-fi adventure about a band of ‘super’ criminals.” Let me tell you, this is wrong on almost all counts.

YA? Yup. Sci-fi? Sure. Adventure? Why not.

On the X-Men slash “super” criminals front, the comparison is that there are people in the world who have superpowers ranging from creating illusions to reading minds to completely controlling someone’s free will. Said people are subjugated and corralled and made to work for the government because of course they are, but a) there’s, like, seven powers that everyone gets, b) the powers are side effects of a vaccine rather than mutations at birth, and c) there is certainly no Xavier Institute for Higher Learning here. So… not quite.

On the Ocean’s Eleven front, I guess the comparison is that there’s a heist going on and a team must be assembled, except that a) there’s way more than one “heist” going on, b) the “team” is almost entirely assembled from the start, and c) the heist doesn’t actually matter in the end.

Edge-of-your-seat? I kept reading because I wanted the book to be what it promised, but it was kind of a slog.

The book as written was actually fairly interesting. There’s a girl called Ciere who can make illusions, and she uses that power for criminal activity because the other option is being a slave to the government. At the very beginning of the book she’s robbed a bank, and she soon finds out that that was a mistake when the mob comes to get their money back. Ciere embarks on her next criminal enterprise with one eye toward the mob, but things soon start to go south, again.

There is excellent world-building in this book, with Ciere’s chapters in the present interspersed with chapters about Ciere’s past and how she ended up where she is and chapters about Ciere’s crewmate, Daniel, who has been detained by the government and then recruited by one of those free-will controllers to do his bidding.

The rest, though, the characters and plot and writing in general, were just kind of okay. A lot of the tension in the book relies on people not understanding each other even though they’re supposed to know each other, and while that makes sense with guarded criminals to a point, the book goes a little too far with it. And there are a couple of Extra Special After School moments that made me want to barf a little.

Overall, it’s a solid effort, and when taken on its own merits it’s a pretty decent book. But whatever you do, do not expect X-men crossed with Ocean’s Eleven, because it’s just not.

Recommendation: For fans of teens doin’ what teens gotta do, people with super powers, and books that are their own thing.

Rating: 7/10

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