Monday, July 9, 2012

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I've been putting this book off for a long time. I haven't had any particular reason for it -- I've either had something else in my hands or I have been doing stuff that isn't book (or at least reading) related.

It's both a blessing and a curse because Shatter Me is a story that I truly enjoyed. On one hand, I can't believe I waited this long. On the other, I'm glad I didn't read it at release and then have to wait *that* long for the sequel.

Curious to hear my full thoughts on Shatter Me? Read on...

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
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 first thing I want to praise here is the distinct and engrossing writing style. I have never seen anything written quite like Shatter Me before, and I definitely think a risk was taken here. But it paid off. The way that the story was written really helped me connect with Juliette and have some kind of idea what was going on inside her head.

When I first picked this book up, my thoughts were basically, "Cool. Someone's playing tribute to X-men.". While I still see the undertones for this, I found much more here then I bargained for and that is awesome. Of particular interest to me, and I will be discussing this further, was the tension that Warner brought to the story. (I really, really love Warner. I know, I have issues.)

My big problem with the plot was the ending. I won't tell you *what* happens. What I will tell you is that it was anti-climatic and it ran too long. I understand that the way it was written will set things up for the next story, but it weakened the overall punch this story had. That's a shame, because there were definitely some totally explosive moments here.

The Characters:

I like Juliette. But I don't love her. Tahereh Mafi does a great job of showing her thought process is scattered, but Juliette's moral compass is wound very tight in one direction, and with the way some of the other characters are set up this is a shame. I felt there were opportunities in the story that were not / will not be really explored because of this fact. I suppose I can understand her hate of the Restablishment, considering what they did to her. Still, it's a shame. (Likewise, my feelings about things are clearly coloring my comments here. *shakes head*)

I felt the same deal with Adam. Liked, yes. Loved, no. It's not that Adam is a character that has some fatal flaw that makes him unworthy of love. He's exactly what Juliette needed / needs. The problem, for me (not Juliette) is that he was essentially your typical nice guy thrown into a dystopian setting. Sometimes this works -- Peeta anyone? -- but here it just didn't click with me the same way.

Okay, now we get to the good (bad) stuff: Warner. He totally took over the book for me. From the moment he entered I was riveted, unable to put the book down, unable to do anything but keep going. Tahereh Mafi did not shy away from making Warner an extremely bad guy. But she did something else that I feel many authors lack the guts / understanding / I-don't-know-what to do: she made him extremely human and real. I alternated between wanting to punch him in the fact and wanting to grab him, hug him and tell him it would all be okay. His absolutely desperate need for her love and acceptance threatened to crush me. (Yes, yet again, I do realize how messed up this must make me sound. But I'm not one to brush away from the truth and that is how I felt.)

The Romance: 

Juliette and Adam are good together. 'Nuff said. That's really all there is to see.

I think that might be my problem. Here was have this incredibly tense world building, character voice, situation, etc. And then we have the romance between Adam and Juliette. It essentially becomes the book's method of providing an interlude. Interlude is important in the flow of a novel. It gives the reader a chance to keep their brain from scrambling. But interlude is also the aspect of a novel that is most likely to be scanned rather then actively and vividly read.

Your romance should not be something I view as an interlude when it's on the back of the book and being used as a selling point. I admit, perhaps for me the problem is that Warner just totally took over the book. But there is enough room for more then one character to be amazing. I found Juliette and Adam's relationship and connection too easy (ultimately) to really buy into it or care about it.

Maybe the issue with the bird dreams / bird tattoo will be addressed further in the rest of the series and make this make sense. But right now, my 'this doesn't make sense' meter is going off, sorry to say.

In General:

As many of you know, I have a really hard time reading and writing (or more importantly revising) at the same time. I sat down with Shatter Me one night out of sheer curiosity. I know this is generally not my best time to click with a book. I am 'cranky', for lack of a better description, since I am trying to fix the holes in my own work.

Despite all of this, Shatter Me grabbed me and absolutely refused to let me go. If, like me, you have not read this book yet it is one that I must highly recommend. An absolute page turner, Shatter Me served as an excellent reminder of why I read, why I write and why I blog.


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