In one sense, books are like cakes--the recipe may be more enticing than the taste. Magic, time travel, mature love and teenage confusion (strange mix, but Peretti made it work without being too creepy), mad scientists, doves, etc. Decent writing for the most part, but too choppy and disjointed at times.
"Illusion" provides nothing too challenging to ponder. Even the villains were a bit bland. Yes, poor soul Mandy thrown for a loop, and then having to figure life out in a decadent and evil world. (But not too decadent, and she gets lots of help.) Prayer, God and church were inserted like jelly beans every once in awhile, as much for background as breakfast and lunch--they get the characters through the day, even if the morsel is as appetizing as a bit of fast food.
I'd given the novel four stars for the wonderful descriptions of multiple timeline existence alone. However, I can't bring myself to give four stars to a book that I kept wanting to end already. Seriously, it is 150 pages too long. For example, pages and pages of Mandy's magic act. One or two, okay, but they went on and on. I love watching magic, but the true wonder is in the trick on the eyes. Through reading, my imagination has been taken to distant planets, beheld fantasy worlds with mighty wizards, marveled at the words of real magicians such as Houdini, Penn & Teller, and Derren Brown. Those pages and pages of cute coins and spinning hulu loops became boring. The story didn't create a world I enjoyed dwelling in for that long. Dane was depressing, Mandy was interesting--all the other characters are highly forgettable. The time machine concept, I liked.
Still, I know folks who will love this novel, and I'll give my copy. For modern Christian literature, this is one of the better novels I've read.