Yesterday 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!