Joelene Reviews: Tahereh Mafi's - "Shatter Me"
For 264 days Juliette has been locked away from the world; forced to glean what little she can of it through the small window in her cold cell. In that time she has seen and spoken to no one. That is about to change. She is to receive a cell-mate.
Adam is terrifying to Juliette. He has not been isolated for 264 days; he is perfectly comfortable talking to people. And he expects her to answer. Juliette’s social skills have dried up more with every day that she has been alone and finding them again feels beyond her capabilities. But Adam has the same eyes as a boy she once knew and she slowly begins to trust him.
Mafi is a brilliant writer. Her descriptions drag you into the story and hold you there. She does drift across into monumental hyperbole, but it suits the story. Juliette has been stuck in a cold, concrete cage with minimum amounts of food for 264 days; everything that happens to her is infinitely larger in her mind than in reality. In isolation, Juliette’s mind and imagination are the only things she has to keep herself sane. The exaggerated description emphasises this mindset perfectly.
The main supporting characters, Adam and Warner, are both written as perfectly as Juliette. In Adam, readers can see all the sweetness that Juliette can see, and the vulnerability that she probably can’t. Warner can’t be faulted. I want him to die, painfully, and that is all that is really needed to count a villain a success. Though it goes further than that. Warner’s existence, the very fact that he is alive, threatens Juliette and, because I like Juliette, it threatens me (or my reading pleasure, which is basically the same thing).
Shatter Me reads like two different novels melded together. The genre, writing style and characters all undergo a shift as the book progresses. What starts out as wonderfully written dystopian sci-fi becomes much more paranormal romance. Both Adam and Juliette change too quickly in pursuing their relationship. Despite the strong characters and engaging plot-line, Mafi does not seem yet have enough confidence in her writing to allow them to stand on their own. Adam and Juliette gravitate toward each other, not needing stereotypically romantic moments to show readers how strong their bond is. Theirs is a sympathetic, believable relationship and would have been stronger had the writing of it been pruned back.
What I do love about Shatter Me, is that it is wholly Juliette’s story. It is told in her voice, the writing steeped in her personality and emotions. Further than this, she is forced to play a part in the action. There isn’t someone waiting in the wings to keep her safe. If she doesn’t act, she and others may die. Though she doesn’t grow drastically in the first book, there is plenty of room for her to progress in later books.
As a young adult dystopian novel, Shatter Me stands out from the crowd. It has found its own voice and pace, trail-blazing a new path rather than following one that already exists. Because of this, the characters and situations feel real and it’s harder to predict where their path is leading. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey with Unravel Me.
Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi
Allen & Unwin (November 15, 2011)