SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but I truly hate reading a book after I’ve heard nothing but great things about it for months. There’s always this sense of pressure and rarely does a book live up to the hype. Shatter Me was great, but not as great as other bloggers and reviewers had led me to believe it was. Tahereh Mafi has created a unique dystopian scenario with three compelling characters, two of which completely command your attention and don’t often falter in intensity. After a ripping first half, though, the second half ultimately falls flat and the story doesn’t exactly support the strong main characters. Do not let that deter you. Shatter Me is the first in a trilogy (obvs) and as Mafi grows as a writer, I look forward to seeing where she takes the story next.

Juliette Ferrars has a fatal touch. In a book full of metaphors and lyrical descriptions, there is no ambiguity to this statement–Juliette’s life has been a bit like this:

The last 264 days have been different. She has been locked in an asylum and has not interacted with another person since her incarceration. No, I haven’t confused my words. Juliette has been locked away because she committed a crime–albeit unknowingly , she killed a child with her touch. To keep her from hurting others, she has been isolated. The excruciating pain of not being able to touch anyone has made Juliette a dark and damaged person. A life without human contact damn near made her go insane, until she gets a cellmate. Juliette is wary of Adam, her new cellmate and the boy from her past. In such a controlled environment, it’s quite convenient that Juliette has been placed in solitary with a familiar face.

The world as we know it has come to an end; the Reestablishment have taken control in a time where famine, disease and poverty are rife and society has effectively crumbled. It wouldn’t be a dystopian novel without these elements, and it certainly wouldn’t be a dystopian novel without a source of resistance. When it is revealed that Adam is linked to the enigmatic Warner, the son of the leader of the Reestablishment, Juliette learns the truth behind her cellmate’s sudden appearance. But Juliette is stronger than the looks, and has learned to defend herself under harsh and cruel circumstances. Her strength is unexpected to most, and sets the stage for a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing story.

Ultimately the hero of Mafi’s story is the writing itself. The writing flows well, the story is succinct (for the most part) and the various strikethrough text sections give a deeper insight into Juliette’s thoughts and feelings–the deeper and more intimate things that she can’t even admit to herself to are revealed to the reader and it’s a technique that absolutely works. The three main characters are well conceived and Juliette and Warner in particular demonstrate clear motivations for their actions. I was surprised by the intense sexually charged scenes, for a young adult novel. Not that it’s not awesome; it’s just that so many novels play it safe and Mafi really knows how to push the boundaries. Simply put, the characters are real and relatable and even when evil are very, very likeable.

Shatter Me is a tale set in a very bleak world but our protagonists are fighting for a better world. When it’s all said and done, I’ll be very surprised if you’re not cheering them along. I sure was!

Share this:
%d bloggers like this: