Book Review: Defy Me

Title:Defy Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Romance, Dystopia, Fiction

What It’s About: Juliette is in Oceania, stolen away from her friends by her biological parents.

Warner is hidden in a room, alone, though he has access to a little bit of sunlight and a sink.

Kenji is in the asylum, surviving as best he can based on Juliette’s stories of the place.

Juliette is hysterical after the loss of her friends, and when her parents try to talk to her about everything, she keeps asking about Warner. Instead, her mother, Evie, has her placed on the surgical table and begins running tests and trying to erase her memory. Juliette asks about Emmaline, and in her mind hears the word “Dying,” but doesn’t know if it’s real or a hallucination. At the end of the torture, Juliette still remembers her prior life as Juliette, but also remembers herself as Ella–memories of her time before Sector 45 coming in hot and heavy–memories of Warner, and of the other children of the supreme commanders.

Warner sits in the dark cell for two weeks, being fed poisoned bread made to muddle his thoughts, but he quickly realizes that he is in Oceania, and also is smart to calculate how long he can go without food before he completely weakens. In his mind, memories surface of the many times he has met Ella and Juliette, and he realizes that he’s been in love with her for a very long time, but that it drove his father nuts.

Kenji is surviving in the miserable asylum, wondering who is screaming and why, realizing that this is very similar to the one that Juliette was in. As a result of their conversations, he knows what the opening of the doors to his cell mean, and he does his best to take the quick shower. When he returns to his room, he gets knocked out by a syringe. Next thing he knows is he wakes up when the plane lands, with Nazeera talking to Anderson in the cockpit. Anderson walks out, and Nazeera sets Kenji free, saying that she had to be tracking Anderson.

Juliette is constantly watched by Evie, not let out of her room in the building unless Evie is with her. Juliette, now going by the name Ella, hides in the bathroom to get some respite from Evie. She thinks back to her time as a prisoner in Warner’s base, and decides that this time around she will accept everything–pretend to have lost her memory in order to get Evie and Max to trust her so that she can escape. Evie brings her a yellow dress to put on and Ella puts it on, after presenting Evie a big fake smile. Evie doesn’t quite trust that Ella has Juliette’s memory fully forgotten. While Evie is out of the room, Ella hears that voice in her head, which tells her to run. Ella runs, realizing that it must be Emmaline is communicating with her, and it is Emmaline who leads Ella back to the lab where Emmaline is being held captive. She has been submerged under water for so long that her body is breaking down while her mind has been getting stronger, but Emmaline still manages to pass onto Ella everything that she knows, everything that has been happening, including revealing that she is the one who has been waking up all the children of the Supreme Commanders to the truth by unblocking those memories that have been erased. Emmaline is so strong mentally that Evie and Max could never find a serum that would work on her mind to erase them out of it. So Emmaline knows and now Ella know, so Emmaline asks Ella to kill her. Of course, Ella doesn’t want to and promises to come back for her, but their time is cut short when Evie shows up wielding a gun and yelling hysterically. Ella, who now has her powers back, runs through Evie, and rips her heart out. She leaves Emmaline behind, and runs through the hallways until she finds Kenji, who renders her invisible and takes her to the plane.

Warner is thinking of his escape, when the door opens and his father walks through the door. They go to an office, where Anderson tries to talk to him, telling him to get over Juliette and that he’ll never see her again. Anderson tells Warner that she is dead, and shows him the video of her thrashing about and screaming. At that point, Warner becomes emotionless. He tells his father that he has been remembering things, that his memories are coming back, and he sees Anderson blanch in terror. And then Warner kills him, by throwing a letter opener at Anderson. He runs away, but it isn’t long before someone catches him and knocks him out with a syringe. Next thing Warner knows he is waking up in the operating table, and he grabs a syringe, when Max comes in. They talk momentarily, but Max is waiting for Evie, so he won’t tell Warner anything. Anderson shows up and for once he has respect for Warner. It turns out that when Anderson stole the twins, he took them to Evie so that she can replicate their healing abilities and give it to him, so he now is able to heal. Suddenly the alarms go off, and Max has to run off, while Anderson tries to handle Warner. Ibrahim, the supreme commander of Asia shows up and tells Anderson that Evie is dead. At the same time Nazeera, who is invisible, tells Warner that she will meet him outside. After a moment’s conversation, Warner makes a run for it, and gets shot. Outside, he takes a moment to use his father’s healing powers to heal his gunshot, and then together with Nazeera, they make their way to the plane.

Kenji, Ella, Nazeera, and Warner meet up on the plane, and take off. While Nazeera and Kenji are piloting the plane, Warner and Ella catch up–she begins to call Warner by his first name Aaron, because she remembers everything and think it’s only fair. Warner comes to the realization that he cannot live with out her, and is about to ask her a question when Kenji interrupts them. Nazeera sets the plane on autopilot and they catch up. It is also revealed that Kenji and Warner do care for each other as friends, even though they don’t want to admit it. All of them agree that they need to watch the plane, and Kenji and Warner take the first watch, so they go into the cockpit, where Kenji tells Warner about movies and romance. Ella and Nazeera on the other hand catch up about their lives, and Nazeera tells Ella how she came to the truth of who they were–she has been hacking into her parents’ databases, and Emmaline helped her find out the truth. Nazeera said that she didn’t remember or recognize Ella until she saw the scar on her hand, which Nazeera created when they were little and they were playing with real swords at her parent’s house.

Suddenly, the plane’s engines are shot out, and Ella comes up with a plan–Nazeera can fly, and Warner can use Nazeera’s powers to help them fly as well. So the only choice for them is to jump out of the plane, which is precisely what they do. They land in a sector and are immediately surrounded by people–two of them come out of the crowd, and one of them is Castle. The other is his daughter Nouria. They welcome the group to The Sanctuary, where they also see Haider and Stephan, the son of the Supreme Commander of Africa. Some truths are revealed about the rebels, Emmaline, Evie, and Ella’s attempted murder. The group is taken to their quarters, and Ella and Aaron have a lovely time together, and Aaron proposes to Ella, despite warnings from Kenji that he should get her a ring. Ella, of course, says yes. They are interrupted by Kenji who tells them to come out to the dining pavilion, and Ella tries to get Aaron to go out to them saying that their friends are waiting for them. But he doesn’t believe her.

When they finally make it out, everyone sings happy birthday to Aaron, full with a cake and some candles. It’s Aaron’s birthday, and Ella had promised herself when they got out, she would do everything she could to make Aaron’s birthdays a thing to be celebrated, to undo all the pain his father brought to him by his lashing in all the years past.

My Verdict: My heart literally broke for Aaron and Ella–all those years they have tried to be together, find their way back to each other, and each time their memories were removed, and they were made to forget each other. Furthermore, the cruelty of these parents doing all of these things to their kids in order to become in charge of the whole world. I feel terrible for Emmaline, and while I wouldn’t want to see her die–I would like to see Ella and Emmaline heal together–I also realize that realistically, her body is so deteriorated from all those years in the water, that she wouldn’t stand a chance. She also is smart to realize that if she isn’t killed, she can continue to be used, so her life would always be in danger. As a result, it makes sense why she would ask to die–for her it’s the kindest thing that she could do to herself.

All of the memories that Ella and Aaron share in this book, which are memories that have been “removed” by the Reestablishment, show the level of abuse they both went through under Anderson. It’s interesting to see how with the return of their memories, Ella and Aaron are stronger in their convictions to be together, and also to fight back against the people who treated them really badly. They have become stronger, but also softer personalities–showing that emotion is sometimes a strong reason to fight for something, but that love is the strongest emotion there is and it can over come; it will bring people together even if they don’t know why.

Whether that is true or not in real life, is a different story, but for Ella and Aaron they are looking for ways to heal separately and together, as well as to help each other heal. It’s very endearing to see how Ella tries to make up for years of abuse by a cake–it’s a small gesture that is the start of healing, but of course everyone knows that healing takes a lot longer.

More than anything, I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

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