On Reading

"When you read a book, you don't just read, you journey. This is why at first, one is always regretful upon nearing the last page, thinking that it all ends there. But it is when we look into our minds after reading that we find the new world we discovered and with dawning realization see the truth of the matter:
...that the journey never ends."

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi

I have never attempted to organize my thoughts when I'm writing a review fresh after finishing a book, and I won't attempt it now. So you'll forgive me, if this all turns out to be a jumbled mess in the end. I also can't promise to not spill anything, I'll probably be spilling my entire head into this, but I'll still do my best, of course, these books deserve it--and more.

First off, can we all just stand up and give Tahereh Mafi a huge standing ovation and a round of applause? I'm serious. Get out of your seats and start clapping all around the place. This woman is one heck of an author, who is relentless in reaching out to her fans, whom she knows love the books as much as she does. Some authors write to relay the story of the characters in their heads, some to please readers. Often, only one of these scenarios happens. But Tahereh manages to do both so incredibly well. I've read in one tumblr post that it's still unbelievable that Ignite Me isn't just 'class A fan fiction' because it caters to the readers' wishes through and through. It's like she's read all of our minds and grants every wish, all the while still staying true to the characters' personalities. Granted I would've loved it more if there was some kind of a face-off between father and all of three sons, or some conversation with Anderson, just so it doesn't seem easy, but onto the books!

Now, I would have to admit that the strikethroughs in Shatter Me drew me in and caused me great interest, but surprisingly, I don't miss them in Ignite Me. I loved how Juliette isn't ashamed of her thoughts anymore, as she was in the previous books. I guess being shot at and surviving really just changes you for good. But Tahereh's writing style goes way beyond just the eye-catching strikethroughs; it's really with the elegant poetry in prose form that she manages to capture you. It's riveting, actually, how I find myself almost running to catch up with Juliette's thoughts because sometimes they're just too striking, too powerful, and so painfully accurate I have to back up and internalize. It's virtually impossible to read these books, really read them, and not find yourself, at one point or another, reflecting and relating it to your own life. As a quote collector and enthusiast, these books, were of course, heaven to me. However it's also a dangerous thing; to live and drown the book in quotes would undoubtedly impact the plot. But Tahereh manages this unique balance of having you go through the plot in your head and at the same time have you teetering on the edge of just about philosophizing everything around you with her writing. Her writing, I believe, is the most important component of this series, the main factor that sets her books apart from all the other dystopias out there, next to her amazing characters. There's nothing quite like it, or at least quite as striking--if you'll forgive the pun.

I said that aside from the writing, the characters also set these books apart from others. This is because her characters are so incredibly complex and twisted (make no mistake, I mean this in a good way) that you really just marvel at what they all accomplish throughout the course of the series. They develop, all right, some in the most unpredictable of ways. Adam, for example, who I could never have thought was capable of such anger, like Juliette, probably because we saw him in our heads with Juliette's perception--that is, kind and sweet, caring and protective. I marvel at how in Shatter Me, all these attributes made him endearing, and I of course rooted for him. How my feelings for Adam developed in the same way that Juliette's did. That's pretty amazing to me, because then it means in my head I understood Juliette, that she was written in so real a manner I actually thought her thoughts (although I could never be that lyrical and poetic, not in a million years, my thoughts are usually just a mumbo jumbo of anxieties and joys and worries), and felt her feelings. I admit that in Unravel Me, it became a bit too much and even to me, she was annoying. But don't worry guys, she makes up for it in Ignite Me, and she makes up for it good.

Kenji is so deeply endeared to me, simply because I think he was there as a representative of all of us. Guys guys he was so fangirling over OTPs and interfering like we would and prying and listening and taking care of our babies and keeping things together and making fun and he has our sense of humor and he's a great best friend and wow, I totally lost it there. So much for keeping it together. But yeah, you get the general picture of how I see him. Kenji. Wow I'll miss you.

And of course, Aaron Warner Anderson. Who's so strong, firm, admirable, disciplined, vulnerable and passionate all at the same time. Who was as vital to Juliette's growth as Juliette was to his own. I'm laughing at myself because I'm attempting to describe him in this book, in the entire series, actually, and I'm not sure if there's even a way; if it's even possible. I have never, I'm surprised to say, disliked him in Shatter Me. I mean sure, there were some moments there when I wouldn't mind if he loosened up a bit and showed a bit more emotion, but I had for him a kind of fascination that wanted to make sense of his actions, because there is no way someone could accomplish such acts if he didn't firmly believe in them, and everything they stood for. I wanted to know how he justified his actions, his motivations. It was confounding. He knows himself and he doesn't, he's both capable and incapable, calculating and ruthless and so in tune with his emotions he doesn't even know it. You just, you feel for this guy. It's impossible not to. After reading the novella, Destroy Me, I knew I was screwed. I was ashamed because I knew then that secretly, in Shatter Me, I wanted her to want him. Because I like this guy. And Juliette doesn't. And I was bound to get my heart broken, blah blah, what's new? I'm a reader, this is basically my life. And so it's just so relieving, to have him be given a piece of happiness in Ignite Me, after having been through so much. But just to clear it all up, I have come to a surprising realization during the course of reading Ignite Me. It's that Warner has been a gamble, a bet, an investment. His existence as a character was a risk Tahereh took in the beginning of the series. With his revelations only happening in the third book, it was entirely possible for people to overlook him, to ignore his importance. But he was the key; the ace, if you will. Tahereh gambled, and to me, she won.

I'll most probably be reading the series again, because I'm sure with this new knowledge of how it all goes down in the end, I'd see more of the subtle hints and cues to the characters' personalities that I may have overlooked, on purpose or not, for the sake of keeping my heart safe. I'll be reading again for the sake of shedding light to the purpose behind these characters' actions, with a totally different perspective. I'll be reading them again, and I can't wait.

I read Shatter Me and Unravel Me by borrowing them from the library, and I'd given myself the stipulation that if Warner and Juliette end up together, I'll buy the entire series. But I realized I wasn't willing to wait for my library to get a copy of the book, that I wanted to know what happens, good or bad, and it's this feeling that made me realize that if I feel so strongly about a book, so concerned for the characters, then this series must mean a lot to me. And so I bought them all, right after Ignite Me came out, not knowing what will happen but bracing myself, with fear and excitement. I gambled, and I won, and I can't be happier. Thank you, Tahereh, for the Shatter Me trilogy.

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