Back to top

Girl with a plan

Cover of Ignite Me
A review of Ignite Me by Taherah Mafi

The world has gone to hell. The environment has collapsed, as has the economy. World-wide, all governments have fallen to the martial law of the Reestablishment, which is run by a single Supreme Commander. The globe is divided into numbered sectors, each with a ruthless leader, all resources are seized, all citizens mercilessly catalogued and controlled. At the same time, the changes in the environment have caused super-human adaptations, and a set of gifted people and their families have formed an insurgent group at an underground base called Omega Point, with the goal of ultimately toppling the Re-establishment. They haven’t figured out how they’ll do it, or how they’ll manage to lead after, but even anarchy would be better than living under the Re-establishment’s jackboot. And then, they find a girl whose touch is lethal. A slight, fragile, teenage girl who can smash through reinforced steel and concrete if she gets mad enough; a girl who can punch the ground and cause an earthquake. A girl named Juliette.

Awesome, right? Let me begin by saying that the Shatter Me series is one of those love-it or hate-it stories (Ignite Me is the third and final installment). I almost hated it. Almost. The writing in the first book, Shatter Me, was a turn off: it's populated by excruciating metaphors, scratch outs, and internal rhymes that read like a bad slam poetry. I wanted to attack it with red pen, which made it hard to appreciate what was awesome about the story. But I kept reading, because while the writing wasn’t perfect, when it came to immediacy and emotion, this series punched above its weight. Hard. I was also compelled by the idea of a teenage girl so powerful she could literally destroy the earth (like, annihilate it) in a world where power is a tightly controlled commodity. Both sides want to control her, and she spends Shatter Me and Unravel Me in a state of shell-shocked confusion, sure only of what she doesn’t want to do and afraid of being used as a weapon. I kept wondering, what would happen if Juliette realized no one could ever force her to do anything? What would happen if she was able to overcome a childhood of abuse and a stint in solitary that nearly drove her insane and became a whole person? What happens when ultimate power is given to someone who doesn’t want it?

Ignite Me finally answers these questions, and it is really, really satisfying. What amazed me with this book is the massive turn-around in the writing. No more scratch-outs, no more cringe-worthy metaphors. And Juliette herself is the focus—not her co-dependent relationship with Adam, who was the first person she could touch without killing, and not her abilities and who would get to use them—her self. I loved the turn this story took toward actualization, and how completely Juliette takes control of her power and her life. Of course, this plays out in the romantic plot first: Juliette re-examines her feelings for Adam. And I loved that this was both necessary and bittersweet. I cared most about whether Juliette could become a whole person on her own. The ending was fast. While there is plenty of action leading to this point, Juliette taking control of her life is the true climax of the series. She's not helpless anymore. She’s not afraid or crazy or dependent. She knows what she wants to do (you know, save the world), and she has a plan. And it’s awesome.


Aug 4, 2020