I’ve spent an entire days searching for YA novels that – like Illuminae – use text in an interesting way, but I’ve come up with nothing. Ergodic novels (which is what you want to call it if you’re being fancy) are pretty darn awesome. An often mentioned example of this is House of Leaves, but also Tree of Codes and Night Film are great examples of this. I’m a huge fan of literature that experiments with the physical properties of a book, so you can imagine how excited I was for this recommendation post. Well the excitement made place for disappointment as not a lot of YA experiments like Illuminae does. Sure, there are plenty of novels that use letters and news clippings and stuff to tell a story, but true ergodic literature seems nowhere to be seen. Please prove me wrong by leaving examples in the comments though! So with a new found appreciation for Illuminae’s experimental style we’re going to give you some other books you might want to read and some discussion you can answer with your own book club.

18267068The Art of Secrets
James Klise

A Fire Destroys . . .
A Treasure Appears . . .
A Crime Unfolds . . .

When Saba Khan’s apartment burns in a mysterious fire, possibly a hate crime, her Chicago high school rallies around her. Her family moves rent-free into a luxury apartment, Saba’s Facebook page explodes, and she starts (secretly) dating a popular boy. Then a quirky piece of art donated to a school fund-raising effort for the Khans is revealed to be an unknown work by a famous artist, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Saba’s life turns upside down again. Should Saba’s family have all that money? Or should it go to the students who found the art? Or to the school? And just what caused that fire? Greed, jealousy, and suspicion create an increasingly tangled web as students and teachers alike debate who should get the money and begin to point fingers and make accusations. The true story of the fire that sets events in motion and what happens afterward gradually comes together in an innovative narrative made up of journal entries, interviews, articles, letters, text messages, and other documents.

24724564Bats of the Republic
Zachary Thomas Dodson

Watch this video to fully appreciate how awesome this book is.

Bats of the Republic  features original artwork and an immaculate design to create a unique novel of adventure and science fiction, of political intrigue and future dystopian struggles, and, at its riveting core, of love.

In 1843 Chicago, fragile naturalist Zadock Thomas falls in love with the high society daughter of Joseph Gray, a prominent ornithologist. Mr. Gray sets an impossible condition for their marriage—Zadock must deliver a sealed and highly secretive letter to General Irion, fighting one thousand miles southwest, deep within the embattled and newly independent Republic of Texas. The fate of the Union lies within the mysterious contents of that sealed letter, but that is only the beginning . . .
Three hundred years later, in the dystopian city-state of the Texas Republic, Zeke Thomas has just received news of the death of his grandfather, an esteemed Chicago senator. The world has crumbled. Paper documents are banned, citizens are watched, and dissenters are thrown over the walls into “the rot.” When Zeke inherits—and then loses—a very old, sealed letter from his grandfather, Zeke finds himself and the women he loves at the heart of a conspiracy whose secrets he must unravel, if it doesn’t destroy his relationship, his family legacy, and the entire republic first.
The two propulsive narratives converge through a wildly creative assortment of documents, books within books, maps, notes, illustrations, and more. Zach Dodson has created a gorgeous work of art and an eye-popping commercial adventure for the 21st century.

Discussion Questions
– Discuss the form of Illuminae. Did you think it enhanced the story or detracted from it? Where there specific types of ‘documents’ you thought worked better than others?
– The book has blacked out all the swear words. What did you think of this and what words did you fill in yourself?
– Discuss the ending. Did you see it coming and is it what you wished for?

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