Monday, February 10, 2014

Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

Ignite Me
by Tahereh Mafi
Read: February 4. 2014
Published: February 4, 2014 by HarperCollins
Source: Hardback purchase
Category: YA, dystopian, romance, superpowers
Series: Shatter Me #3
Find: Goodreads | Amazon

NOTE: Ignite Me is the third book in a series. Click the book titles for my reviews of Shatter Me and Unravel Me. I tried to avoid outright spoiling the final book here, but it's pretty obvious if you've followed my thoughts leading up to this finale. Please use discretion about scrolling below if you've yet to read this book. 

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.

wasn't sure if I'd even write down my thoughts, or be able to talk about this book in a coherent and constructive manner (i.e. without breaking down into an emotional rant). But I figured I owe it to myself and to those who have asked for my full opinion, to get it out there. I'd also like to find some semblance of closure for a series that I once loved so much. But I am realizing that might be too much to ask, so I must figure out how to move on regardless. 

Here goes. 

I have been a big fan and advocate of the Shatter Me series since it began. I remember being glued to my computer one weekend waiting for chapters to unlock in the first book. The story of a broken girl misunderstood and trapped in a cell. Her chaotic, poetic language and even the strikeouts, completely riveted me. I preordered a copy instead of waiting for it at the library, which was rare for me at the time, and I ate up every minute of my reading experience when it finally arrived. Shatter Me was one of the books that made me fall in love with YA, and I couldn't wait to find more stories that would capture me as firmly as this one did. I read it organically before I started blogging or even reading reviews, and the feeling of going blind into a story and discovering the treasures hidden there was magical. 

Unfortunately all of that magic has been effectively stolen away from me in the wake of the overwhelmingly disappointing series conclusion that was Ignite MeFor me, I think the worst thing about Ignite Me is how much it tries to cheapen and invalidate my experience reading Shatter Me. Everything I once thought was wrong, far beyond what we already discovered in Destroy Me. All my reactions to the characters were incorrect. It sanitizes and simplifies, destroying the complexity of the characters and story in general. I felt like this was an attempt to erase or rewrite the past in a way that felt forced and overdone. To me, Ignite Me was so much less than Shatter Me and its strong sequel Unravel Me - even in the quality and poetry of the writing, and I truly cannot figure out what happened. 

I want to take a break here to tell you what I DID like about Ignite MeI liked Kenji and James, though I wish the latter had been able to do more than just provide tension breaks.  Although I preferred the Boy Not Chosen, I was fine with who Juliette ended up with and Mafi is very good at writing romance. Everything else in this story was a mess. I truly believe this book could have had the same ultimate result - the same guy chosen, the same amount of growth for Juliette and the same larger accomplishments - and done it respectfully and well.  But that did not happen. 

As for what didn't work for me: First this book has very little plot or forward momentum. Instead, it gets stuck in an endless cd skip of Juliette's relationship drama.  Anything regarding Juliette's feelings or her love life is given an extreme amount of weight. Anything about taking down the Reestablishment or controlling/understanding powers or solving bigger world problems is pretty much glossed over quickly and is fixed too easily. Most secondary characters aren't given much to do. 

I also finally noticed the lack of general world building in these books, or rather, I finally realized that my larger world building questions were never going to be answered. We still know very little about this society and the Reestablishment, as well as the origin and scope of these individual's super powers. This is one of those issues that I was able to overlook at the beginning of the series, but could no longer ignore by the time I got to the third book. 

Regarding the two guys vying for Juliette's attention, it is not an exaggeration to say that everything about their past behavior was overjustified or re-explained in a new way. To the point that the characterization - and some previous story elements - no longer made sense to me. They both went through a Total Transformation, so much so that they were altered beyond recognition. And it wasn't even that they changed. No, we were told that our perspective was wrong about everything. This happened on such a grand scale that the characters lost all their credibility for me. I felt like a lot of this direction was forced and manipulated and way too backended. The series was poorly constructed if this was the direction all along. I don't mean who Juliette chooses in the end, I mean who the characters are by the end of the book. 

Let me reiterate something I've said many times before. In a love triangle*, it matters so much less to me which team ultimately wins than how it happens. How much respect is given to the characters, which I believe is surprisingly lacking in this story: for all involved parties. I'm just going to say it. I did not appreciate the effort to totally whitewash one character and completely debase the other one until he lost all dignity and integrity. It was unnecessary and insulting (I know that sound's harsh, but it's how I feel). The same ultimate end could have been achieved without it. 

So much potential in this book went unrealized in the wake of altering our views on characters. It's impossible to discuss without spoilers but too many plots didn't go anywhere or were forgotten or glossed over in order for Juliette to realize the 'truth' of the men in her life. Everything served that purpose in this story. I just felt this desperation to convince the reader of certain elements. It was unnecessary and overkill, and made me want to push back. It wasn't even that, but the story kept rehashing the same points over and over again to the point it became ridiculous. When this was still going on 300+ pages into the book (of a 408 page story), I wrote in my notes: "We get it! When is the part where we actually take out Anderson?"

As the majority of reviews and chatter I've seen about Ignite Me have been wildly positive, I've had to come to terms with the fact that this just wasn't the book for me. This makes me sad, because I really, really wanted it to be. But clearly I'm the Other Guy in this relationship, and with one last paragraph, I know it's time to bow out. 

I read Shatter Me before I found this amazing bookish community to share in all of my reading experiences, and it was a very personal/solo experience. But I was able to read Ignite Me with a group of friends, who discussed, ranted and analyzed the story all along the way and after with me. That was, by far, the absolute best thing about reading this book. Despite what is, for me, a disappointing conclusion, it is something I'd never want to erase. Thank you for giving me that, ladies.

Love Triangle Factor: Unbearable
Cliffhanger Scale: Series Conclusion 

*You can see my definition of a love triangle in THIS post. But let me reiterate that I believe how the reader perceives a story is sometimes more relevant than whether an author thinks they've written a love triangle. If an author/publisher is pushing their series as having a love triangle with 'teams' that the heroine and, as a result, the readers are encouraged to choose between, the story has entered love triangle territory. From Unravel Me to Ignite Me, this series became a very big love triangle. 


  1. OH NO! *hugs* I do wonder what happened, especially since the other two were so very strong. Did life get in the way of her writing? Did outside forces exert too much influence? A total transformation in the final book, especially when it doesn't work in any way with the rest of the series, is not a good thing. At all.

  2. I have so much love and respect for this review. Yes, after a year that has passed since I read Shatter Me, I realize how poor the world building and action really was in that book. It's more like a contemporary novel with a love triangle set in a futuristic world with some supernatural elements rather than a compelling dystopian. For me. I liked the writing, though I was very confused by all those references and metaphores. I hear that this (strikethroughs and such) were basically all left out of Ignite Me. I understand on some level--the character growth, supposedly, but since it was such a crucial part of the series and this world, it should still be there, even if in very few places. Like, she doesn't doubt her thoughts and decisions anymore? What? Why? How? Doubting is the key to success, because if you don't doubt in anything, don't question anything, then you're blind. Questions are wisdom and so is questioning oneself. Anyhow, the love triangle and turning everything upside down--even though I haven't followed this series intimately after reading Shatter Me, I still don't get how this could have happened. I liked one review I read where the author of the review said that "why couldn't she have said to X that she loved him, but she wasn't in love with him. She's only 17 and doesn't know who the love of her life is and right now, Y is what she needs in her life. She loves X, but would rather be friends than lose him forever, but would idk... like let him go if he couldn't do friends?" That's how I see a love triangle being solved not by trashing one party and, as you said, whitewashing the other. It's completely ridiculous. I know that everything in life isn't the way we first see them, but come on! Show some respect to people who rooted for the other guy. Give him a decent ending not this shitty one. It's like killing off one competitor for the girl's /guy's heart and "solving" the problem of letting the loser down "easily". It's just.. I don't have any words. I won't (probably, most likely, 99%) read anything by Mafi ever again. I just don't have the heart and mind to do that when you invest so much of your time and money and heart into something in order for it to be crushed and then laughed at. It is insulting and we all knew what Juliette's heart it was sailing towards, but still, this could have been solved so much better. Well, it's purely my opinion, I'm sure that most people disagree with me since my instagram feed is filled with "THIS IS THE BEST OH MY FEELS AND SOBS AND LOVE AND (well.. without spoilers) YYYYYY FEELS" O.o

  3. "Everything I once thought was wrong, far beyond what we already discovered in Destroy Me. All my reactions to the characters were incorrect."

    In some cases, being wrong as a reader is fun. I enjoy going along making assumptions and then BAM! The author is all "you couldn't be more incorrect" and I just sort have to smile and tip my hat to them. I know what you talked about above is not that kind of being wrong however. It's the kind that seems to invalidate the emotional experience of the previous books, and that just leaves me feeling sad and confused. I'm not going to be finishing this series Lauren, I don't want to be left feeling that way, but gorgeous review as always!

  4. You know how I feel about this book all too well. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have been able to get through it. I was thoroughly disappointed in this book and I couldn't look past all the things that were lacking to find a silver lining. This book left me angry, disappointed and sad. What a waste!

  5. Okay, I finished my review so I can read this now. lol

    Your review is so eloquent and well written, basically everything I wish mine could have been. Well done, Lauren. I hope it help give you some closure. <3

  6. Lauren, thank you. Thank you for writing this review and for sharing it.
    I have a lot to say, though I'm still not sure how to express it, but a lot of it is frustration and disappointment. Reading your review helped to focus and clarify for me a lot of where that is coming from. I really appreciate seeing this perspective represented because it is one I share but not one I've seen much of since release.

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  8. Lauren, I know how disappointed you are by this book and I feel your pain. You really wrote this review in a constructive manner (unlike the ranty email I sent you a few days I really felt like I was the only one who did not like this book. It is a shame because I LOVED Shatter Me. I'm wondering if Mafi comes out with other books (I hear she's working on something) if you'll be reading them.

    I was way too emotional about this book. I either need to: 1) stop letting books make me so emotional and angry, or 2) stay far far away from books that are likely to trigger my emotions in a bad way. This review is helping me get over my "heartbreak" for this series. Thank you!


  9. I think your review is so much more eloquent than mine. You just named all the things that I was feeling. For more than 80% of the book, nothing really happens, it's more prep, which bugged me, but wasn't the straw on the camel's back. It's during that 80% of the book, Mafi undermines the characters in the book. Everything I thought I knew was not only wrong, but didn't feel real.

  10. I just wrote my review last night and I felt the same way you did, that the author really want us to agree with who Juliette chooses so she pushes so hard and basically rewrites history. It was so convenient and manipulative and it didn't need to be done to justify that. I actually reread Shatter Me and Unravel Me so it was fresh and the way both characters were portrayed compared to the revisionist version we get in Ignite Me is pretty ridiculous. I still enjoyed the book, but that part really annoyed me. And you're right about the lack of forward momentum. And what about the ending (not the personal part, but the Juliette part)? Really? How realistic is that? I mean, yes, we all want Juliette to finally stand up for herself and be strong, but still. I thought it took that a bit far. Great review! ~Pam

  11. *hugs* I know how much you've enjoyed this series, Lauren, and I'm so sorry it didn't work out for you! It's such a disappointment, but the points you make are valid and the 180 degree change in characterizations seems difficult to rationalize.

    After reading this review of yours, I think I'm better equipped to make a recommendation regarding Dennard's debut trilogy. It doesn't feature a love triangle. It has a relatively strong world-building foundation. Its characters are dynamic and share meaningful relationships. With all of that said, though, I didn't enjoy the final two installments. I struggled a lot to understand the MC's agency in the second novel - she seemed a very changed character from the first book, without much reason - and while aspects of the conclusion were strong, it could have done with polishing. I don't think you'd be missing much if you skipped it, frankly speaking, and I know you'd struggle with the death at the end as it's similar to a death in another trilogy I know you disliked. If you do decide to pick it up, you won't waste too much time with those three books, but I wouldn't wholly recommend it for you, Lauren. I think we both just need a break from trilogies, period. Love triangles or no love triangles, they all seem to spell disaster. :/

  12. I've been having difficulty getting into these books. Shatter Me just didn't have me going insane, and Unravel Me was the same. However, I'm a masochist. I had to know whatwas going to happen in the end. Ignite Me and Unite Me will be here tomorrow via UPS. I was hoping to dive right in, but after your review and two others of similar feelings,i will continue on with my other books that I've put off for far too long. Nice review!

  13. I for one loved Ignite Me *cowers in a corner* (please don't come after me with pitch forks) I reread the entire Shatter Me series from the beginning before reading this book so I was able to properly transition into the story. I was firmly team J and (the one choosen) since the start (which is a shocker I KNOW) So I was happy about it. I also liked how the book spent it's time making the transitions these two characters had to make from enemie/friend/boyfriend-girlfriend things. To me it worked.

    "I truly believe this book could have had the same ultimate result - the same guy chosen, the same amount of growth for Juliette and the same larger accomplishments - and done it respectfully and well. But that did not happen. "This sentence in your review is so true. Without naming the character who was destroyed in IM I felt like the story could have been the same had his character been treated differently in the series. This character did change A LOT and I get why a lot of his shippers are angry but at the same time I feel like this series was always about Juliette or even J and (boy who got the girl but shall not be named). The other boy was a stepping stone, merely an obstacle to get by. Which may not be the nicest thing to say but I feel like it may be true in this case. I also have to admit that a certain novella really set up one characters sudden change in this book. Had I not read that novella I would have been a bit Angier at the direction Mafi choose to take with that character but I did read the novella, and it did set me up for the change this character had in IM so I could live with it.
    Great review Lauren, I'm glad you got all your feelings out and had a chance to vent. I'm sorry this book wasn't you're favourite and that you kind of felt cheated in a way. I get why you did and wish I could have spared you from that.

  14. As I have yet to read Ignite Me (...or any books in this series past Shatter Me), I just skimmed through your review. I know how excited you were about this series and this conclusion, and so I'm sorry that it ended up being such a disappointment for you, Lauren. All of your criticisms are things that bother me a lot, too, so that doesn't bode well for me continuing with this series.I enjoyed Shatter Me well enough, but I am unsure whether I will be continuing with this series. My guess is no, as one of my biggest pet peeves is with dystopians that masquerade as romances. If Mafi just wanted to write a romance featuring teens with supernatural powers, then fine. But there's no reason it has to be set in a dystopian world then.
    I am glad that you were able to find a silver lining in all of this through your interactions with other bloggers. That's always a good thing. Now hopefully the next book you read/discuss with tons of other bloggers is one that you also end up loving!

  15. As someone who didn't overly enjoy Shatter Me or Unravel Me, I really enjoyed Ignite Me. While I had a lot of the same issues as you - too much focus on Juliette's relationship drama and the classless treatment of one of the romantic interests - I was so happy that Juliette was finally accepting and embracing herself and her abilities, that I managed to gloss over my issues.

    I had an entire section in my review, devoted to explaining why I felt Ignite Me would upset its loyal readers, which I deleted because of how long my review would have been with it. But after reading your reaction, I feel like I hit the nail on the head (at least for some readers), in terms of being made to feel like they were fools for believing in Shatter Me/Unravel Me.

    While I enjoyed the end to this series, I think if I had been a true fan of the first two books, I would be crushed by the direction Ignite Me took, and the carelessness with which this series (seemingly) was planned out.

  16. I'm so sorry that you weren't able to enjoy Ignite Me Lauren, although I was able to enjoy this book a bit more then you, I can understand the issues that you had with the book totally. Although we were on opposing teams, I also didn't like how Mafi had transformed one of her characters. I actually really liked this guy and didn't understand where this all of a sudden change came from. I remember this happened with me with another series I loved and I was utterly horrified. It's especially sad when you start off loving a series, but unfortunately it goes downhill for you afterwards. Thank you for your honest review Lauren. Here's hoping that you will find another brilliant series which will blow you away (and this time the entire series will)

  17. I hate that this book was such a disappointment for you, L. BUT I'm so happy you wrote this review. I think--no I know--there a lot of readers out there that feel the same as you, or share some of your concerns at the very least (like me!) I love the points you made about lack of world building, especially in regards to just how all these powers came into being, because YES--it's something I always wanted to know more of and am so irked that it will now never be delved into again. I agree with your thoughts on how both guys totally transformed--and worse-- how we the reader were then told that we were essentially completely and irrevocably WRONG about our earlier assumptions of who they were and what their actions meant. And yes, yes, yes to whitewashing one and debasing the other. Why? Why is that necessary? Why can't the girl just make a logical decision without making one of the guys the "bad" guy? I mean in life where someone, girl or guy, has to make a decision between two people, how often is one of them super good and the other super bad? I know black and white make for good drama--but I also KNOW it's possible for an author to end a triangle WITHOUT doing that--if you're characters are strong enough and if your story is good enough than you don't have to make one party the villain for readers to accept the heroine's decision. Enough said.

    Most of all I love your final paragraph because I feel the same way. So glad we could all shout and scream and let it all out together:) xo

  18. This does not make me happy at all, Lauren. I loved Shatter Me but if this installment totally negates the history of the characters I feel I've invested in a fraud. My personal theory is that the author saw the guy she originally picked as the winner didn't come out as the popular choice and so went back and readjusted the overall story. I hope that makes sense because I don't really know how to say it any other way without spoiling. Very disappointing and yet I bought my copy last night. My husband read the first two and wants to finish the story. I don't know if I will or not. :(


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