Ignite Me Discussion

Ignite Me DiscussionYesterday I reviewed Ignite Me, which if you haven’t noticed happens to be my favorite book right now, and my favorite book that I’ve read so far in 2014. I have so much to say about it that I needed to split my review/discussion into to sections: one without spoilers, and one with spoilers. Today’s post is not spoiler-free, so if you haven’t read the book: you have been warned! Specifically, I will be discussing my feelings on the result of the love triangle, and why I believe Mafi made the right choice. If you haven’t read the book, but still want to see what I thought of it, click here and you’ll be taken to my spoiler-free review. Okay, ready?

You sure? Last chance to back away. I warned you!

I’ll disclose this fact right away: I was 100% a Juliette and Warner shipper. I think the two were perfect for each other, and I could hardly contain myself when Juliette finally admitted that she loved him. This was me:

So I’m happier than could be when it comes to the conclusion of the love triangle between Juliette, Adam, and Warner, despite the fact that many (including several friends of mine) hated it. If you’re a Juliette and Adam shipper, sit down because I am about to present to you a persuasive essay longer than the ones I wrote for my college professors. It will be split into three sections: 1) An analyzation of Warner, and how he relates to the themes of the series as a whole, 2) A close look at Adam’s character in Ignite Me, and 3) Why, ultimately, Warner was the better choice, and the important theme rooted in Juliette’s rejection of Adam. You are welcome to take water breaks – it’s dissertation time.

Section One: Warner, Brokenness, and Parallelism

This series’ main theme is rooted in brokenness, and finding a way to rebuild yourself from the pieces. It all started with Juliette in Shatter Me, when she escapes from the asylum. Her fragility is a huge part of the first half of Unravel Me, until she begins to mold herself together into something far stronger in the second half, and continuing her self-reconstruction in Ignite Me. If anyone asks me for a book with a strong female protagonist, I’m pointing them to the Shatter Me series. Strong doesn’t always mean kick-ass and unbreakable; strength is finding the courage to pick yourself up and fight despite the despair, even if it means having a friend carry you.

The great thing about this series is that it’s not just Juliette who is broken: Warner is every bit as broken as Juliette. He just shows it in a different way. And I’m sure you all know that, but I needed to point it out again, because it is so important in relation to the series. Warner has daddy issues that go to the ninth level of Hell, has completely isolated himself from friends and intimate relationships, and and to top it all off lost his mother (she may have still been alive in Ignite Me, but she wasn’t truly present) at a very young age. He’s had no one to guide him, and has only ever had this ultimatum: live up to his father’s expectations, or suffer. And that right there is enough to drive anyone to desperate lengths.

Let me get this straight: this is not an excuse for Warner’s actions; his psychopathic behavior in the first two books is undeniable. But just like Juliette, his circumstances left him shattered and grasping at anything to keep himself together. Both endured repeated trauma, and just as everyone reacts differently to a situation, Juliette and Warner reacted to their trauma in very separate manners. Warner’s resorting to murder and an iron-fist leadership based in fear is a coping mechanism; Juliette’s silence, depression, and anxiety is her method of coping. Obviously, if you experience a trauma, you wouldn’t go out and kill someone, would you? (Hopefully not.) I’m not even going to try to convince you that Warner’s coping strategy is the right way to go about things.

But here’s where I make my point: Juliette was taught to seclude herself, to internalize. Thus: silence, depression, anxiety. Warner was raised to kill, lead, and destroy. Thus: aggressive displays of power, harshness, and all around douchebaggery. If that was all they knew, then the natural progression would be to embody and act upon what they were taught. So why is Juliette the “fragile, sweet girl who needs to be saved” and Warner is the “psychopath who needs to be put down”? Hint: it’s a romanticization of depression and “smallness.” Warner deserves a second chance and someone (i.e.: Juliette) who is willing to push past his maladaptive behaviors and search for the true Warner hidden beneath, just as Juliette had Adam (and to a larger extent, Kenji) to draw her outside of her old shell.

Now for my final point in this section: Warner’s healing and journey from brokenness is just as central to the Shatter Me series as Juliette’s is. Warner wants Juliette to live, not just exist, as shown in this quote from Ignite Me:

“You deserve so much more than charity,” he says, his chest heaving. “You deserve to live. You deserve to be alive.” He’s staring at me, unblinking. “Come back to life, love. I’ll be here when you wake up.” – pg. 58

Even if Warner doesn’t believe he deserves to truly live, he wants that for Juliette, and that wish starts his own healing process.

Section Two: Adam, Expectations, and Errors

Don’t get up in arms: this is not an “I hate Adam” speech. In fact, I’m going to admit right at the start that I really underestimated Adam and was stunned by his growth towards the end of Ignite Me. In Shatter Me, he was the ultimate white knight (which is why we all fell in love and thought he was the one for Juliette). Unravel Me saw the petulant side of his personality overtake every other good part of his character, and the self-centered attitude continued through the first half of Ignite Me. In the latter half of Ignite Me, however, he demonstrates an acceptance, and a maturity as he comes to terms with the end of Juliette and his relationship. Despite this, I don’t think Juliette should have waited for Adam to work through his issues, because I believe his maturity came in part by observing Juliette and learning from her moving on.

Ultimately, my reason for believing that Adam is not suited for Juliette boils down to this: their relationship was holding her back from blossoming. Adam’s attitude is rooted in surviving, accepting Juliette’s neuroses as permanent and treating her as if she wasn’t capable of more. In addition to this, I had several issues with how he treated Juliette, both while they were together and after they separated, and they can be split into two short points:

  • Adam’s focus is on himself, and that selfishness leads to mislabeled priorities. In the middle of a crucial meeting, with everyone else present, Adam wants to stop and carve out a moment to have a row with Juliette. Could he not have waited five minutes and then asked to speak with her privately? The “I want what I want and I want it now” attitude is one that Adam retains and exhibits several times in the first half of Ignite Me.
  • When he is rejected, or doesn’t get what he wants (again: selfishness), he throws a fit. And instead of rationally processing through his anger, he resorts to name-calling and petty fist-fights.

Ultimately, Adam couldn’t love Juliette completely because he only saw the shattered girl from the asylum: he couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she was working through her insecurities, while he was still holding on to his own from his childhood.

Section Three: Final Thoughts

Whether you like Adam or Warner, there is a crucial point that is more important than the endgame of the love triangle. Mafi really reinforces her original theme, and main storyline of Juliette finding her confidence and believing in herself, through the result of Juliette choosing Warner. Just like Juliette realized in Ignite Me, she had fallen for Adam in part because he was the first to show her love, and she thought he was the only one she could touch: she loved him by default. Warner always gave Juliette a choice; Adam simply expected it because he saved her. 

The realization that your first love isn’t always your forever love is a really important lesson to teach YA readers. Too often in YA novels, the boy that saves the girl is seen as being “owed” something, usually the girl’s eternal dedication. As shown with Juliette and Adam’s relationship, you can save someone, and once that crisis has passed, realize that maybe you’re just better suited as friends, or even as casual acquaintances.

The ultimate beauty in Warner and Juliette’s relationship is that they choose each other, in full acceptance and knowledge of the reality of their own personal struggles. They didn’t go into it trying to fix each other: they realized that they were broken, that they were faulty and maybe a bit crazy, but that they would love each other despite their shortcomings. I think this quote (found on tumblr – unknown source), sums up Juliette and Warners’ relationship perfectly:

“You are not broken – a bit fractured. I can see your light through the cracks.”

What Do You Think?

First of all, if you made it all the way, congratulations. You deserve a medal for reading all of that. Hopefully I didn’t ramble too much, and at the very least we can have some heated debate in the comments below. So now I will pass off the baton to you: how did you feel about the ending of Ignite Me? Who did you want Juliette to pick in the end? Tear apart my argument, if you want – go crazy!

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18 thoughts on “Ignite Me Discussion

  1. I’ve only read Shatter Me. It wasn’t my favorite, and so I didn’t read the others. But after everyone started raving about how the series gets progressively better and better, I think I need to reconvene my decision, lol! Sounds like this series is stellar!! I’ll have to continue on. Great discussion post, Kayla ❤

    • I completely agree with that statement: Shatter Me was a bit odd, but from there Mafi refines her style and starts to progress in a fantastic direction! At least give Unravel Me a chance, I think. But Ignite Me is, for sure, the best of the three.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I have to admit, I’m one of those annoying people who didn’t care either way about the relationship. After reading Ignite Me I’m SO happy that Juliette picked Warner. I can see and understand completely why she did so. I think Tahereh Mafi is a brilliant writer. It’s astounding how well every character has developed throughout the series. Great discussion post. Very thoughtful and considered! 😀

    • We’ll keep you, despite your non-shipping ways 😉 I think that’s my favorite part about Mafi’s writing – every character is a person, not just a two-dimensional stock image to use for one scene and move on.

  3. O_O Wow… You actually convinced me to pick up the series again. Now, I’m not going to go and fall in love with Warner completely (boys who hurt babies are a no-no for me), but I feel like I can look past that and try to understand him. Admittedly, I kind of found him to be a biiiit laughable when I read the first book, but it seems that Warner becomes a really great character, and so does Juliette. Your essay was just amazing, Kayla 😀

    • *pumps fist* Mission accomplished! I don’t care if people still don’t like Warner as much as they like Adam; I just want them to recognize the incredible depth that Mafi has given Warner! Warner’s a total asshat in Shatter Me; he’s a totally different person in the second half of Unravel Me, and all of Ignite Me.

  4. Such a good post, this sums up my feeling on the love triangle perfectly. In some ways I think that Adam was like the side of Tobias which was only visable in Allegiant, too controling and becoming very explosive. Warner however feels that he has no choice which is the difference with him. I loved this conclusion but I just wish for more!

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  7. Okay, let’s do this.

    1. First of all…I can’t even believe that you were able to contain all of your flails long enough to write that masterpiece essay of the intricacies of the series. I mean, seriously, it was so good. And I completely agree with every single word! I just think that if I had sat down and tried to write that…it would’ve just come out “ajsdfkashdfkahsd…just go read it.” 😛

    2. Brent and I just watched Anchorman last week. Honestly…I couldn’t even finish it haha. It was so weird. Parts of it were HILARIOUS. But other parts I was just like WTF is happening?! haha. (This whole part is obviously referring to your GIF, not anything to do with Ignite Me.)

    3. “Strong doesn’t always mean kick-ass and unbreakable; strength is finding the courage to pick yourself up and fight despite the despair, even if it means having a friend carry you.” I HEART YOU. I heart you so much. This quote is amazing and so true.

    4. “The realization that your first love isn’t always your forever love is a really important lesson to teach YA readers.” YES. So much yes. I hate that so many YA novels have the main characters fall madly in love with each and it’s just like…happily ever after. It’s setting up teenagers to fail! This barely ever happens in real life. And if we were to think that YA was a realistic microcosm of real life, 90% of teens today would grow up and marry their first boyfriend/girlfriend because they randomly found their “true love” at 16 years old. It’s bullshit and it honestly pisses me off so much. I have this unpublished discussion post about it on my blog that I’m dying to one day finish and post. I just have so many feelings about this topic. I love reading and books so much, but I feel that many YA writers fail at presenting relatable circumstances and end up giving teens unrealistic expectations for life and love.

    5. I’m so glad that you get that this series isn’t really about the romance…it’s about the putting back together of a broken girl. Juliette is so strong and inspiring. She is a great heroine, and I love this series so much. And even though the main theme isn’t the romance…I love the romance, too! Oh my gosh, I was SO happy that Juliette ended up with Warner. I’ve been shipping them forever, and the ending was just perfect 🙂

    • 1) It took me nearly two hours to write this and not flail xD

      2) I actually haven’t seen the Anchorman! I just really liked the gif

      3) Awwwww thank you!!! I didn’t even know that could be called a quote – I don’t usually think that my writing is that great!

      4) You really should finish that post! I want to read all your opinions!!!

      5) I’m really glad that Mafi made this series about Juliette, and not primarily the romance. It’s so important to me to see stories that aren’t just love – there is so much more to life than romance!

  8. WARNER. WWAARRNNEERR. WARNER, WARNER, MY BB, WARNER. I LOVE WARNER, YES I DO. I REALLY DO. MY WARNER BB.
    Yeah, that pretty much would have been my essay.
    I can’t believe the amazingness that is this post. And I read it in its entirety! Which is special because I can get bored with blog posts really easily >.<
    Everything you said. I support it, I second it, I yesyesyes.
    YOU SO WISE AND SO YOUNG, KAYLA. *CLINGS TO YOUR LEGS* ILOVEYOU, WIFEY.

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  10. A) I totally agree that Juliette and Warner should have ended up together. You’re absolutely right about the way they fit together and the way their individual growth led to a very interesting and dynamic relationship. And the point about first love not necessarily being the one I also agree with and thought was good.

    B) I think you’re probably right about the points Mafi intended to make with Adam’s character. I just couldn’t get on board with how his character was handled because of…

    C) in the second half of Unravel Me and almost all of Ignite Me I felt his character became one dimensional. And to me it didn’t feel like he was a flawed “person” it felt like he was a poorly written character. For hundreds of pages the only thing he did was get angry and yell and it was the same fight over and over. In Ignite Me there’s several lines that mention how irrational his anger is (even to him) and how it only comes out when she’s in the room to the point where I was expecting it to be a side effect of being near her our the influence of someone else’s power or something. There’s even that moment where Kenji comes in and gets angry and I thought that’s when they were going to figure out who or what was affecting them. Finally, I decided that Mafi wanted to create a 180 degree turn for each of the main characters and the only place for Adam to go was from white knight to irrational jerk.

    So, it wasn’t that I was bothered by how it all ended up at all. I probably wouldn’t even entirely be bothered by Adam turning out not to be a great guy, if he had been as dimensional and well developed as the other two.

    Then again, I might reread the first book and change my mind entirely 🙂

  11. A) I totally agree that Juliette and Warner should have ended up together. You’re absolutely right about the way they fit together and the way their individual growth led to a very interesting and dynamic relationship. And the point about first love not necessarily being the one I also agree with and thought was good.

    B) I think you’re probably right about the points Mafi intended to make with Adam’s character. I just couldn’t get on board with how his character was handled because of…

    C) in the second half of Unravel Me and almost all of Ignite Me I felt his character became one dimensional. And to me it didn’t feel like he was a flawed “person” it felt like he was a poorly written character. For hundreds of pages the only thing he did was get angry and yell and it was the same fight over and over. In Ignite Me there’s several lines that mention how irrational his anger is (even to him) and how it only comes out when she’s in the room to the point where I was expecting it to be a side effect of being near her our the influence of someone else’s power or something. There’s even that moment where Kenji comes in and gets angry and I thought that’s when they were going to figure out who or what was affecting them. Finally, I decided that Mafi wanted to create a 180 degree turn for each of the main characters and the only place for Adam to go was from white knight to irrational jerk.

    So, it wasn’t that I was bothered by how it all ended up at all. I probably wouldn’t even entirely be bothered by Adam turning out not to be a great guy, if he had been as dimensional and well developed as the other two.

    Then again, I might reread the first book and change my mind entirely 🙂

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