Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

SUMMARY: Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.


The Short Version:
Enticing and chaotic, Shatter Me is the perfect blend of dystopian with realistic elements and bold, engaging characters. Centered on a truly interesting and sympathetic character, with some of the best overall development and personal progression, but building the side characters just as strongly, Mafi’s talent with not only the story but the characters as well shines. With an absolutely distinct and unique narrative style, a well crafted plot, and a multitude of subtle intricacies that make this book memorable and mindblowing long after the fact, this one breaks all the rules in all the right ways.

The Extended Version:
Juliette is unique and distinct in the most endearing of ways, starting out as a clear product of someone who has been cast out by not only society but her own family, and has rarely felt the touch of another. Locked away in isolation at the opening of the book, her mental state, internal narrative, and weak personality are easy to understand and heartbreaking. As things start to progress, however, Juliette shifts and changes, growing stronger not only physically but mentally as well in a way that cannot be pinpointed to any one of event but has an astounding overall effect. The shell she's become, the hopelessness that resides in her, and the weakness that is starting to drag her under are easy to see from the start, yet the determination in her also resonates. Despite being a broken mess, she has this incredibly ferocity to her, refusing to let her past and isolation define her, and so much of where she ends up at by the end of the book comes purely from herself. She is easily one of the most well done characters, from start to finish.

Adam is determined and perceptive, having a softness to him even in the roughest of situations that makes him easy to like. The way he responds to Juliette, and the growing emotion between them, go far to build both their characters and progress the plot without being reliant solely on that. Adam has this underlying intensity about him that isn't immediately obvious, this focus in his eye that both defines him and transcends him. He doesn't carry a hero complex, nor does he try to subdue Juliette simply because she's a girl, but rather lets her be on his level and doesn't let the stigma against her keep him from really getting to know her.

It's easy to understand why Juliette seems to fall for Adam so quickly, considering her past, and the almost visceral way she internally reacts to being touched. Not having to fear killing him, and trusting that he won't use her ability for his own purposes, Adam provides some very basic but much yearned for comforts for Juliette. Yet what sets this romance apart is not the fact that there is an inherent element to drive them together, but the way they both shift and change, adjusting to and falling for the other. Able to take the other into account, yet not throwing all caution to the wind, they find a system that works for them even in the face of everything else going on. Broken apart but perfectly pieced when together, Adam and Juliette are by far one of the most endearing couples around.

The basic concept behind this one is fantastic, and Mafi does a stunning job weaving the effects and nature of Juliette's power without giving immediate and obvious explanations behind it. While the overall plot with The Reestablishment and the bigger dystopian elements was not necessarily immediately unique compared to others of its genre, the driving force behind Juliette and the stunning characterization certainly help make up for it. A little slower in pace, but rich in character development, this one is much more mental and emotional than action packed. There are, however, plenty of small elements and twists added in that show not only the level of thought and intricacy that have gone into this book, but will make a reader grin with new appreciation at each one. With clues both subtle and blatant at the bigger things to come, this book closes out its main points while still leaving readers wanting more and ready for the next step.

The writing is absolutely unique, essentially breaking all the rules and doing it right. There is such vivid voice and life in Juliette, not only hinting at her own level of disconnect and insanity, but giving her depth and intrigue as well. This book is, in a lot of ways, rambly, but it's not so much a turn off as something that gives unflinching insight into Juliette's state of mine, and is certainly a style specific to this character and pulled off in large part because of who the character is and what she's been through.

With absolutely stellar characterization and an achingly beautiful writing style, Shatter Me is a stunning debut. Though slower overall in plot, and stronger with the internal and mental components, this one will still keep readers intrigued and engaged. Holding a huge amount of depth, most of which is subtle yet powerful, Shatter Me will taunt and lure readers from page one.

Source: ARC borrowed 
Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 352 pages 
Publisher: HarperCollins (November 15, 2011)


  1. This is getting great reviews!

    I'm embarrassed to say I've never read dystopian. I need to make a pile of to-read ones. Thanks for the rec!

  2. I'm glad to see you enjoyed this one as well. I did find the start was slow, too but by what happens at the end I think the sequel is going to be amazing! Awesome review!

    Xpresso Reads

  3. The cover alone is intriguing. Thanks for the review.

  4. You know, I'd been on the fence about this one, but reading your review is tilting my mind toward the Yes category. I love dystopian, but no one really made me excited for this one, so I have to thank you for that!