Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“‘You can’t touch me,’ I whisper.
I’m lying, is what I don’t tell him.
He can touch me, is what I’ll never tell him.
But things happen when people touch me.
No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.
But Juliette has plans of her own.
After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.”
Thoughts: Shatter Me has such potential. Opening up with Juliette in captivity for an unknown reason, the reader is immediately drawn into her fractured mind and limited understanding of the world at large. Unfortunately, the story loses plausibility quickly, and the reader is left disappointed at its decline.
Juliette starts out as sympathetic but devolves into the annoying. What makes her a difficult character to enjoy is the constant crossing out of words and phrases. Reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls, while the reader understands what the author is trying to show with this technique, it is used to excess. These asides would work better if they were not crossed out but rather continued in a stream of consciousness vein, as Juliette is obviously someone struggling to maintain her sanity in the beginning, which is where the struck-through phrases are most prolific.
The dystopian portions of Juliette’s world are truly some of the best parts of the novel. Warner is a hypnotic character with enough mystery to attract even the most discerning reader. The world in which Juliette lives is only briefly described, but what is uncovered is all the more interesting for its realistic potential. From what little the reader glimpses, Ms. Mafi has created a world which is all too possible.
The largest weakness is the story itself. Outside of the scenes with Warner, the rest of the story becomes a cross between a paranormal teen romance, dystopian fiction, and a superhero story. There are scenes towards the end that are downright laughable, as someone actually describes Juliette as looking like a superhero. In fact, Juliette’s inability to touch people is either a direct ripoff of the X-Men franchise or inspired by it. Adam, as the ubiquitous love interest, remains a flat, nondescript character that is supposed to be attractive for his mysterious and painful history and his gorgeous appearance. While their relationship is steamy, it feels forced. At no point in time is the reader in doubt as to Juliette’s fate, and the few answers that are given in this first in yet another trilogy do little to spark further interest. It is almost as if Ms. Mafi was using a list of must-have elements for a young adult series without truly incorporating each one or using those elements to their fullest potential.
In a world that is inundated with unique, fresh and exciting young adult fiction, Shatter Me is none of that. It starts out hot and quickly fizzles into the unrealistic and somewhat preposterous. As Juliette grows in understanding of her surroundings and her world, so do the comic book qualities. The pacing is frenetic, adding to the superhero story elements, while the explanations are few and far between while the characters are seemingly exaggerated in their qualities. The overall result is a novel that is inconsistent and leaves the reader wanting more substance and more consistency. Unfortunately, Shatter Me has a been-there, done-that quality that makes it difficult to recommend to others.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to GLiBA for my advanced reading copy!