Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

Ignite Me is the final installment in the Shatter Me trilogy. This novel is essentially a love triangle that focuses mainly on the relationship between Warner and Juliette, with the fight against the Reestablishment reduced to a mere setting for the love story.

Juliette Ferrars awakes to find herself in Warner's bedroom at his military base. As commander of Section 45, he has a large living and training area. She has been saved from her mortal gunshot wound by Warner who used the twins, Sonya and Sara to heal her. Warner, who is the only one who can touch Juliette, was able to transfer their power to save her. Juliette however, is more concerned with what the outcome of the battle for Sector 45 was and if her friends are still alive.Warner tells her that battle is over and that Omega Point, the home of the rebels, has been destroyed and all her friends are dead.

Juliette is horrified to learn that Adam, Kenji, James, Castle, Brendan and Winston have been killed. The twins have been taken by Warner's father, Anderson. Filled with anger, hurt and hate, Juliette decides to kill Anderson and destroy the Reestablishment. Warner offers his help.

Warner reveals to Juliette that he has been waiting for her "to be ready" to fight back against the Reestablishment. He tells Juliette that he designed an elaborate scheme to trick his father into studying her. Warner's mother was sick - she could not touch anyone, not even her own body. He hoped that Juliette's condition in which no one could touch her, might offer him answers to his mother's condition. Warner's father has her locked away in his house, where she is drugged. When Juliette was captured, she did not react the way Warner expected - that she would fight back. So he needed to push her to do this and use the abilities he was certain she had; he developed a simulation that appeared to have a child in danger and which forced Juliette to break out of her cell.

Juliette is deeply relieved to know that this was a simulation but at the same time angry. She comes to realize that she must lead the resistance. As she spends time with Warner, Juliette begins to realize that he is not the monster she thought and that he cares deeply about her. She tells him that she loved Adam and explains that he was the first person who was kind to her. But Warner insists that Adam was in love with who she was, a quiet, timid girl.

Warner takes Juliette to Omega Point to see the damage and there they meet Kenji who has survived. He tells Juliette that most of their group survived the bombing and are living at Adam's house. There Juliette meets Castle, Ian, Alia, Lily, Winston, Brendan and Adam and his ten year old brother, James. Nine survivors of Omega Point.

The surviving rebels believe that Warner will come back to kill them, but Juliette explains that he is not the cold-hearted murderer they believed. Juliette finds Adam and the survivors willing to give up and no longer interested in fighting back. Adam tells Juliette all he ever wanted was just her. But for Juliette this is no longer what she wants. She has changed. Juliette is not longer the timid girl she once was, afraid to use her abilities, afraid of her own strength.

When Warner arrives at Adam's house, Juliette, Adam and Warner have a huge confrontation. Adam no longer wants to fight against the Reestablishment, while Juliette and Warner are convinced they can now win if they combine their abilities. This leads to a huge conflict between Adam and Juliette with Juliette forcing Adam to face the truth about their relationship.

The rebels, along with Juliette must now decide whether to take this last chance to destroy Anderson and the Reestablishment, to trust that Warner will not betray them.

Ignite Me is essentially a love story about a girl discovering herself with the help of a young man whom she thought was her biggest enemy. Juliette's journey began in Shatter Me with her overwhelming fear of her supernatural abilities, a timid and immature girl who is ashamed of who and what she is. With Aaron Warner Anderson's help, his belief in her and his love for her, in Ignite Me,  she learns her abilities give her a superior strength that is to be accepted and developed.  He also tells her she deserves more than what Adam Kent was offering her. Warner tells Juliette "You deserve so much more than charity...You deserve to live. You deserve to be alive."  This gives Juliette another reason to confront the evil of the Reestablishment head on. The title of the novel is a reference to the passion Warner has for Juliette.

However, Warner felt like a manipulative man who was determined to get what he wanted - Juliette, and who had no qualms about killing certain types of people - men who abuse their wives and his own meglomaniac father. Adam, who from the beginning was honorable towards Juliette, is portrayed in Ignite Me as an angry, disillusioned man. There seems to be no regard that he has been through a devastating battle which saw most of his friends killed. Unlike Warner, with his status, his wealth and his military position and someone who has been largely protected from the effects of war, Adam is battle-shocked and traumatized. Juliette is harsh in her treatment of him, although she thinks she's being kind and caring towards him. The Juliette we knew in  Shatter Me , who was so concerned for others, now simply moves on from Adam. She no longer needs him.

This leads to the one of the biggest disappointments of this novel - the complete transformation of the three main characters, Warner, Juliette and Adam. None are the same as what they were in the first two novels. Warner, the monster in the first novel is now the passionate, tender lover and Adam, the caring hero becomes the battle-scarred cynic.

Ignite Me will certainly appeal to fans of romance as the angst and sexual tension between Warner and Juliette, which dominates throughout most of the novel, finally develops into full blown passion.  Mafi's story becomes completely bogged down with Warner and Juliette's love affair, with little development of the storyline. The action of the rebellion really takes a back seat to their love affair, with the take down of Anderson and Sector 45 accomplished in the remaining forty pages of this four hundred page  novel. It all seems just too easy and too neat.

It was also difficult to come to a good understanding of the world that Warner, Juliette, Adam and Kenji inhabit. We know there are over five hundred sectors, all of which they will eventually have to conquer in order to overthrow the Reestablishment. Mafi provides scant details on the rest of their world and how people live day to day.

The best novel in this series was Shatter Me, which set up an interesting premise of a group of people with X-Men like powers in a dystopian world. The series never fully lived up to expectation for me and became hopelessly bogged down in a love triangle.

Book Details:
Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
New York: Harper    2014
406 pp.

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