Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series is an incredibly unique, somewhat polarizing experiment in teen angst combined with dystopia and science fiction. I’ve been a fan since the first book, which won me over with its unique prose and sense of immediacy. The series comes to a close with Ignite Me, a book I can basically say nothing about without spoiling major plot points. So I’m not going to talk about the plot – I’m just going to jump right in to my thoughts on the book, keeping this spoiler-free as much as possible!
One of the things Mafi has maintained throughout the Shatter Me series is a sense of being in Juliette’s head in real time, feeling her emotions alongside her. As Juliette has grown as a character, her voice has evolved as well. While Shatter Me saw rambling repetition and strikeout and the kinds of metaphors you really had to work to wrap your mind around, Ignite Me finds a newly empowered Juliette with a much stronger voice. Her emotion and unique expression is still there, but it’s toned down substantially. I enjoyed the progression in Juliette’s narrative throughout the series and found myself really appreciating Juliette’s confidence and perseverance.
It should be mentioned that Ignite Me, and the series in general, are not really dystopian or science fiction books in the purest sense. Yes, there are elements of both, but that’s not really where the heart of the story lies. The world-building is limited, the sci-fi aspects are mostly confined to specific parts of the story where they apply directly, and the general sense of revolution is lacking. Mafi’s strength is really in building dimensional characters and relationships, and those threads are really what drive the story forward. The grander plot slips off into the background often, which I didn’t mind a bit because, let’s be honest, I’ve read plenty of dystopian series and I’m happy to have a different spin on it.
Ignite Me is filled with fantastic dialogue and character interactions, and Mafi’s writing style is so immediate and addictive it really is challenging to put the book down. These two things alone are huge point-winners in my book, so I found Ignite Me to be an incredibly satisfying reading experience. Mafi still has room to grow in terms of fleshing out her plot and building to a climax. There are so many mini-climaxes throughout the series, it makes it difficult to get much suspense out of the end. However, with the way the words bounce you along the page, there really is never a dull moment. Reading Ignite Me feels like a sprint, invigorating throughout but a bit abrupt at the finish.
The thing I find most amazing about this series is how Mafi is able to evolve her characters in such a way that I’m constantly reassessing how I feel about them. And I mean that in a good way. Every character has depth, even if you don’t realize it initially, and as a reader you are forced to reform opinions about characters as you go. I did take a bit of issue with how she handled one character in particular – this character didn’t evolve so much as turn on a dime – but it was dealt with as the book progressed, to the point where I eventually felt okay with it. I know I’m being vague; it’s all in the interest of not spoiling anything.
Oh, but I will happily spoil just one little thing: Kenji is still around, and is still one of the best things about these books. Sometimes Juliette is just so wrapped up in her own drama that she needs a reality check, and Kenji is always around to offer it, much to my satisfaction.
I’m assuming if you’re reading this review, you’ve probably read the first two books in the series and just want an idea of what you’re getting into with the third, and whether it’s going to live up to your expectations. The short answer is YES, I think it will. I enjoyed Ignite Me more than Unravel Me, and I loved finally seeing Juliette take some initiative after being a somewhat fragile character earlier in the series. Ignite Me really gave me a sense of satisfaction – if you’re looking for resolution for your favorite storylines, you will find it, and you will (probably) be happy with it. I certainly was.