THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. TREAD LIGHTLY…
Date Published: February 4th 2014
Format: Hard Cover
The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love”
Juliette now knows she may be the only one who can stop the Reestablishment. But to take them down, she’ll need the help of the one person she never thought she could trust: Warner. And as they work together, Juliette will discover that everything she thought she knew-about Warner, her abilities, and even Adam-was wrong.
In Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi created a captivating and original story that combined the best of dystopian and paranormal and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” The sequel, Unravel Me, blew readers away with heart-racing twists and turns, and New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia said it was “dangerous, sexy, romantic, and intense.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and climactic end.
Number of Days It Took to Read: 1
Cover is beautiful just like the others.
The Writing Score: 4 out of 5
Recommendation: Causal Perusal
Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable
Rating: 3 out of 5
Nobody likes endings. We cling onto the things we love because we don’t want them to run their course. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid we’ll forget them, forget the memories and feelings they were around for as we lived our lives or that we’d be forgotten as readers who were given a look into the lives of these fictional beings.
Shatter Me was the first book I read when I got back into reading for fun again after a year and a half hiatus. It stood out to me because of Mafi’s experimentation with crossing out words and the premise of a young girl who’s been in isolation for almost a year. There were powers, a sick world and the search for human contact. Unravel Me, its sequel, was filled with beautiful imagery and words that I either wanted to devour or throw onto my wall and admire. Two days ago, the third and final book had hit the shelves making it the end of the line for our girl with the deadly touch and the people we all saw her meet.
Mafi has gone on record countless time saying that this series is, at its core, about a girl trying to find herself. It started with Juliette in isolation and should end with her finding the strength to stand on her own. Not self isolation and loneliness but being able to be alone and essentially love herself with confidence. Ignite Me, however, felt like a book that catered to the fans who’ve been asking the question they felt was important, “Who will she be with?”. It’s a fair question to ask and one that I don’t fault anyone for asking but as the primary and urgent one to be answered? No. I said from the beginning that from the way the book was headed (and the themes that Mafi seemed to be hinting at) the most perfect outcome for her would be that she chose no one. That was the ending I thought Juliette deserved and one that felt consisted with her character. She had the power to change the world that had locked her up into a much better one. This was not the case. She ended up with Aaron Warner.
Before I get to the complicated feelings I have with this decision, let me begin with the issues I had with the book overall. I felt like the book as the final installment was anti-climatic. Unravel Me had set up a chance for the book to climax and for Juliette to put into practice this new found inner strength she keeps telling the reader she has. The first 2/3 of the book was essentially the same discussion being had again and again with no real forward movement of the plot or of the characters’ development. Juliette would establish her agency, Adam would spit on that agency because 1) it was at odds with the delicate girl he met in the first book and 2) it was linked to a potential romance with Warner who he hates, Juliette would be upset at his hateful words, Adam walks away and repeat. There’s also the: Juliette tries to get emotionally closer to Warner, Warner doesn’t trust it because he believes he’s either undeserving of it or that Juliette is searching for an ideal version of himself that doesn’t exist, he pushes her away, she’s sad, he does something touching/romantic towards her and repeat. Even with Kenji , there’s the: he teases Juliette, asks her if she’s stupid/ridiculous for [insert action], asks what she sees in Warner, asks her to go easy on Adam and repeat.
While that was going on, they were planning for a “war” against Anderson by converting Warner’s soldiers to their side which all happens near the end which just feels rushed and more like a wish fulfillment tacked on than what the series was building to. Even the revelation (and subsequent repercussions/reactions) of Warner and James finding out that they, along with Adam, are brothers felt like a deus ex machina (at least on how easy it was for Adam’s rage fueled hate against Warner dissolve into civility). The characters also felt inconsistent or on some kind of loop.
The book is telling us that Juliette is powerful. Physically, she is. Emotionally? I wasn’t convinced of her new found agency because it was so tied up with her two romantic interests. She even goes on to say that she should and is more capable in leading the group over Castle which I thought was a huge stretch since nothing in the second or even in the third book suggested that she had leadership qualities (brute strength doesn’t make you a leader). Who a character ends up with shouldn’t be the all important question that is answered in young adult books. The answer shouldn’t be based on who the reader wants to be with but who is the one that feels right for the character. Someone who inspires, encourages and essentially makes the character a better version of themselves.
The book is telling us that Warner is not such a bad guy after all and should be with Juliette. Warner as a character feels like a round peg being forced into a square hole. He was a really bad (yet interesting) guy in the first book. Then the novella, Destroy Me, came out trying to get readers to sympathize with him as a character which, in my opinion, failed because we were ultimately told how to feel rather than shown. I felt a little less antagonistic towards him in the second book but not enough to empathize or become a romantic possibility for Juliette. In this book, I saw what Mafi was trying to do with him but it was out in the distance and not within reach. She told us why Warner was great for Juliette as opposed to Adam and man, if she showed us, it would be an interesting place to take the love triangle model. Alas, I just didn’t believe it. There was a bomb dropped that all the bad things he did in the first book were all about perspective (i.e. the kid in the first book wasn’t real but a part of an elaborate simulation) and ultimately erases his villain past conveniently with only the residue of his I-Don’t-Care-What-People-Think attitude left to make us think he’s not completely reformed. That was too much of a stretch for me to make given the evidence previously presented compared to the ones now. Again, I didn’t believe it. Also, it made him less of an interesting antagonist in the first book by doing that. The only time I believed Warner as a more complex character was that scene when he’s on the floor after finding out his mother died and being comforted by Juliette. It made me mad that Mafi had it in her to show such a scene and didn’t put more of them in her last two books to develop Warner more fully. So why does Warner make such a great match for Juliette? He believes in her, he encourages her agency and never doubted that she had the power to be great. Yet, why couldn’t this have been shown?
Adam, I felt, was consistent in how he saw Juliette and their relationship. I guess it got lost a bit because they kept repeating the same conversation throughout and I didn’t seen any growth. If anything, the moment Mafi decided to focus on Warner/Juliette it felt like Adam was like a wounded dog being pushed aside. I saw him as not a romantic choice for Juliette in the second book but, once that was determined, he was no longer a character or an agent in the final book’s larger plot.
Kenji. I love Kenji SO MUCH but even he got caught in the loop. I liked there was more character stuff at the beginning for him but then he dissolved into the one dimensional clown in a snap. I always wished I saw a more natural friendship between him and Juliette but, again, that fell victim to the book’s structure.
What happened to the dystopic world? It was also prey to the book’s focus on romance. I’m surprised I don’t know this dystopic world as well as I know Hunger Games’ Pan Am or Divergent’s Chicago. I didn’t think this book would have an ending where all of the world leaders are brought down but I wasn’t expecting a lackluster, unsatisfying ending against a foe that was made legendary and a war that was referred to throughout the book. Overall, Ignite Me fell into the same hole that Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess did. It spent half of the book (if not more) setting up for the actions when the set up has already occurred in the previous books. I’m really disappointed with this one.
A. A. Omer
The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.