A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gemina is the sequel to Australian co-authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's best-selling space thriller Illuminae. Like the first book, this one's told through a collection of chat and video transcriptions that follow two imperiled teens who must work together to save the people around them from certain death. Readers familiar with the series will know to expect a large body count, as characters die from being executed at close range; in explosions; from being ejected into space; and, in this installment, from a group of starving alien parasites desperate for their next meal. Since the book is a series of document transcriptions, strong language is blacked out, although it's easy to tell which curse words are used. There are references to a sexually active teen relationship as well as ongoing suggestive comments between members of another couple, but only two kisses are described. Protagonists Hanna and Nik are both roguish characters with an iffy connection (he's her drug dealer), but they rise to the occasion to show they're brave, resourceful, and smart allies.
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What's the story?
GEMINA: THE ILLUMINAE FILES, BOOK 2 follows the catastrophic events of Illuminae from the perspective of a new teen duo who must defy the odds to save the people around them. When we left the story of Kady and Ezra, they had narrowly escaped the destruction of the Alexander on the small research ship Hypatia, which carries the only survivors who know that an interstellar mega-corporation was responsible for the attack on their now-destroyed mining colony, Kerenza. The Hypatia's only hope is to land at the Heimdall space station. On the Heimdall, Hanna Donnelly is the station commander's beautiful and privileged daughter with a secret penchant for the drug that Nik Malikov, nephew to a crime boss, secretly sells her. Unbeknownst to them, on board the Heimdall is a corporate spy who helps a ship full of elite assassins land to make sure the Hypatia never makes it -- but first they must neutralize or kill everyone at the station. Having survived the initial takeover because of their drug deal, Hanna and Nik work together, with the help of Nik's wheelchair-using hacker cousin Ella, to be like the Spartans vs. the corporation's Persians.
Is it any good?
Equally as intense as Illuminae, this space sequel raises the stakes of the game between a big bad corporation and the indomitable determination of teens who refuse to stop fighting. While Illuminae is about figuring out who's behind the assault on Kerenza (and the deadly bio-weapon unleashed on the fleet), Gemina is a race against the clock. Readers already know who's to blame (BeiTech Industries) and why the black-ops agents are so cold-blooded (they're paid security warriors sent to clean up their boss' mess -- meaning make sure there are no witnesses). Hanna and Nik are very different lead characters compared with rule-following Ezra and truth-following Kady. Perceived as a princess and a criminal, Hanna and Nik defy the assumptions about them to work together and take on the BeiTech assassins, not to mention a group of murderous alien parasites accidentally set loose on the station. These two aren't together when the book starts, but they team up quite perfectly, each using their years of strategy games and martial arts (Hanna) and juvenile-detention-honed street smarts (Nik) to their collective advantage.
Hanna and Nik don't have the "first love" history that made Kady and Ezra's romance so compelling. But they do have a will-they-or-won't-they charged banter (and of course that age-old setup of the privileged girl and edgy guy) that keeps their interactions fun to read. There's a pretty big complication in the form of Hanna's junior officer boyfriend Jackson, but love-triangle haters should be pacified by how the authors resolve that obstacle. Adding to the hilarious conversations between Hanna and Nik is Ella, a tiny but fierce hacker reminiscent of Kady. Because cousins Ella and Nik belonged to the House of Knives crime family, neither of them is officially on the Heimdall census, making her hacking abilities even more difficult to track. And for those who miss Kady and Ez, never fear, for they make a prominent appearance in the last third of the story. Although one can easily read Gemina via e- or audiobook, there's a particular thrill to reading this pulse-pounding series, with all its found documents, illustrations, graphs, and schematics in print. Bring on Book 3!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Gemina. How does it compare with the violence in Illuminae?
Does this installment have role models? Who are they? What character strengths do they exhibit?
What are the advantages of reading an "epistolary" book, where the story is told through letters or documents? What are the limitations? Do you think it's confusing?
How does the romance in this Gemina compare with the central romance in Illuminae? How are Hanna and Nik different from Kady and Ezra? They're both opposites-attract love stories, but this adds a class/status (the bad boy and the princess) theme. Does it work?
- Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: October 18, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 659
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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