‘Illumine Her’ is Sieni A.M.’s debut novel. It is set in contemporary Samoa and tells the story of a young woman struggling to find her place in the world. The book is categorized as a Young Adult Paranormal Romance.
After being away for three years and graduating from college in Fiji, Alana Vilo finally returns home to Samoa. Trying to forget about her father’s death, she starts a new job as a nurse. Not long after, everyone at her workplace anticipates the arrival of a rich benefactor who wishes to donate a large sum of money to the hospital. Alana is surprised when Chase Malek turns out to be an incredibly handsome young man, strangely knowledgeable of local customs and traditions. When she witnesses him reviving a patient who was pronounced dead a few minutes earlier, her curiosity becomes awakened. But before she can ask Chase any questions, he leaves the island.
Their paths cross once again when Chase comes to her house and Alana learns he will be the best man at her sister’s wedding. This time she gets a chance to find out some of his secrets. As they enjoy each other’s companionship, they discover that the feeling they share is love. Unfortunately, it seems that their relationship is not meant to be.
If I were to sum this novel up, I would say it is full of unexpected twists and turns. Every time you think you can finally predict the ending, you are hit with yet another surprise. Fantastically plotted, well-paced story draws readers in from the very first page and doesn’t let go. Somewhat slow beginning turns out to be a great introduction. It sets the scene and describes the place so vividly that you almost don’t have to use your imagination.
Yes, Samoa. The country plays a big role in this book. Apart from graceful depictions of lush landscapes, Sieni A.M. makes constant references to the islands’ culture, traditions, and practices (ifoga for example). The use of Samoan words, which are explained at the beginning of the book, makes the whole novel even more realistic.
As for the characters, I must say they are lacking in variety. All females as well as all males are basically the same: kind, sensitive, caring, loving, courageous, honourable. Despite their issues and emotional turbulences, Alana seems to be the perfect woman, Chase – the perfect man. There is absolutely no one who could spice the story up. But of course this doesn’t mean that the characters are not believable, because they are. They are actually very easy to identify with, and this may certainly be quite appealing.
The novel is exceptionally well written. Its clear and simple language embellished with occasional bouts of gentle humour makes it a very pleasant read. Even the parts with long and flowery descriptions are not overwhelming – they only enrich the story.
‘Illumine Her’ is, without a doubt, a fantastic book. It explains different types of love: between a man and a woman, between a parent and a child, between brothers and sisters, between friends. It teaches us an important lesson: we should all find our place in this world, and when we finally do, we should always strive to improve. An amazing novel. Highly recommended.