Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi releases today and she talks with Hypable about Juliette’s growth. We also have a snippet featuring Kenji and Juliette.
Juliette has grown so much from the start of the series and even more so in Ignite Me. Did you always know where she was going, or did something about her character development surprise you?
She was so terrified at the beginning of the series; always doubting herself, never willing to believe she was worth any goodness at all. She needed other people to tell her she was good enough. But I needed her to realize that she deserved more than that. She needed to be her own biggest supporter; she needed to choose herself first. And she does, she really does. And I love her for it.
I’m so, so proud of her at the end of the series. She feels a lot like a little sister I’ve watched grow into a young lady.
Juliette has a lot of defining moments throughout the series. In your mind, is there one moment that solidifies who Juliette is?
When we meet Juliette in SHATTER ME, she’s been tossed in an asylum — locked up for almost a year; the isolation, the helplessness, and the mental fatigue have driven her nearly insane. But in IGNITE ME Juliette has a moment where she realizes she’d always had the strength to break herself out of the asylum. All along, she’d had the actual, physical and mental strength to break down any walls, real or imagined. In that moment she realizes something critical: it wasn’t the asylum that held her captive. It was her. Her own unwillingness to fight for herself. To get mad. To demand more. To stop apologizing for who she is.
That, for me, is when Juliette truly sets herself free.
Juliette and Kenji have fantastic dialogue together and are truly best friends. What made you decide to have that relationship, which usually turns romantic, remain just a really great friendship?
Juliette’s relationship with Kenji is based entirely on my relationship with my older brothers. I steal his dialogue from real, actual conversations I’ve had with my brothers, and from real, actual comments they make when we’re hanging out. My brothers are these great, gregarious, fantastic guys with so much personality I’m surprised I was able to fit so much of it in one character. But I think that’s really what it came down to for me: Juliette needed a sibling. Someone who would care for her while still calling her out on her crap. But I don’t have any sisters, so I don’t really know what that’s like. So I lent Juliette the wisdom of my brothers.
Many have observed that the titles of the books are in relation to things Juliette does or says to Warner.
“That this girl would know exactly how to shatter me” – Warner (Destroy Me)
“You destroy me.” – Warner (Unravel Me)
Was that something that was planned or just a coincidence?
“Don’t you think I’ve realized,” I say to him, angrier now, “that if I’d allowed myself to get mad a long time ago, I would’ve discovered I had the strength to break through that asylum with my own two hands?”
“Don’t you think that I think about that, all the time?” I ask him, my voice shaking. “Don’t you think it kills me to know that it was my own unwillingness to recognize myself as a human being that kept me trapped for so long? For two hundred and sixty-four days, Kenji,” I say, swallowing hard. “Two hundred and sixty-four days I was in there and the whole time, I had the power to break myself out and I didn’t, because I had no idea I could. Because I never even tried. Because I let the world teach me to hate myself. I was a coward,” I say, “who needed someone else to tell me I was worth something before I took any steps to save myself.
“This isn’t about Adam or Warner,” I tell him. “This is about me and what I want. This is about me finally understanding where I want to be in ten years. Because I’m going to be alive, Kenji. I will be alive in ten years, and I’m going to be happy. I’m going to be strong. And I don’t need anyone to tell me that anymore. I am enough, and I always will be.”
Tahereh Mafi is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Shatter Me series. She was born in a small city somewhere in Connecticut and currently resides in Santa Monica, California, where she drinks too much caffeine and finds the weather to be just a little too perfect for her taste. When unable to find a book, she can be found reading candy wrappers, coupons, and old receipts.
SHATTER ME is her first novel.