Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
This dystopia novel is the last of a trilogy featuring Juliette, a formerly mentally fragile girl with superpowers. In Shatter Me, she is in solitary confinement because she accidentally killed a child just by touching him. That makes her go a bit nuts, understandably. In that novel, she falls in love with Adam and is held captive by Warner, who is introduced as a villain but becomes a love interest. At the end, she escapes and joins a group of rebels. In the sequel, Unravel Me, she trains along with other superpowered youths at Omega Point, and tension builds in the love triangle.
My initial assessment of the trilogy was that it was like Twilight in emotional intensity, but more empowering in its underlying message, and this conclusion confirms that judgment. Much (but not all) of the drama comes from the romance plot. Juliette recognizes that her feelings for Adam were dependent on the time and place where they developed, and that they might not fit anymore. She fell for him because he was the first person to treat her like a human being, not because they were be particularly well-suited to each other. What a mature way to look at a first relationship. Juliette especially doesn’t like the fact that Adam seems to prefer her former, more needy self. Warner, on the other hand, wants her to be strong, and encourages her to train and be independent. When she finally chooses, she says it’s not about either man but about her own vision for her future, about avoiding stagnation and passivity. It feels like a rare development for a YA romance: that the good guy lose out to the bad boy; that the love triangle results in the reassessment and abandonment of a first relationship, rather than its testing and strengthening. I really enjoyed these progressive, feminist aspects of the romance plot, and noted that it didn’t make the story any less romantic or sexy to have a heroine who wasn’t passive.
The fact that Juliette has problems and goals beyond her love life is also important. Though she began the series as a fragile flower, Juliette ends by leading a successful revolution. And what I think is even more remarkable, she tells her fellow revolutionaries that she will be the one to lead the new government when the Reestablishment is defeated, and no one protests. I was hoping she’d turn into a bad ass, and she totally fulfilled that promise. The book is probably 50-100 pages longer than it needs to be, thanks to some fluffy make-out scenes and training montages filled with sexual tension. But anyone who likes this genre would do much better to pick up this series instead of several others out there.