Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (link to Goodreads)
Released: November 15th, 2011
Borrowed from the library*
Description 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.HOKAY - *I was hesitant to get this from the library because I already have so many books on my bookshelf that I could be reading, but I decided to just go ahead and get it, since I could always return it. I hadn't read any reviews of it because I was turned off my the cover... a girl who's touch can kill you? Where's the fun in that? But after I scanned a quick review that said the story begins during her incarceration, I was hooked. (Stories about incarceration/asylums/prisons are intriguing!)
I finished this in two days, and I'm sad it's over. I definitely enjoyed reading this book because I wanted to learn more about the character and The Reestablishment that was taking over society in the story, and there were enough action scenes to keep the ball rolling, as they say.
Since this is my first review, I'm just going to improvise a style and then hopefully over time it will become more fluid. I also don't know how else to review this without taking about plot points and character developments (but I'll learn!) so there will be spoilers... don't read if you haven't read yet!
My first impression of the cover/blurb: When I read that the main character can kill with her touch, I was pretty turned off. I just felt like it was going to be another novel about a girl who can't touch people but everyone wants to touch her, and that's usually the underlying theme of most paranormal novels… the main character thinks she's untouchable but she just needs to get used to the idea…I wasn't aware it was a dystopian/paranormal novel, and the dystopian aspect was what really drew me in. I like dystopians, probably as my favorite genre, because it shows how close to reality these situations could be. I also have a fascination with stories that take place in jails/prisons or asylums. Those aspects really intrigue me because of the enclosed/separated issues you face when a character starts off in a bad place and finds a way out...
Writing style: In this story, we're introduced to a semi stream of consciousness style of writing which worked for some scenes and was a little overkill in others. In this style, we are able to see Juliette's emotions as the events are unfolding without the author having to put, "She gasped. 'Why are they doing this, I ask myself. What is going on? I am so nervous!" and it makes it easier to see through Juliette's eyes.
Throughout the novel, we see scored out lines, which draws attention to Juliette and how she writes in a notebook, which started during her incarceration in the asylum. But it also confuses me as a reader because I'm not sure if the story is supposedly a journal style novel or if it's both a journal style novel with some first person accounts (not accounted for in the journal, but during the actual moments), or if Mafi is doing this on purpose and doesn't want us to know whether or not Juliette is writing what she experiences down after it happens. (Scenes where she feels nervous with the notebook in her dress pockets) Maybe this is another aspect of the story, how she perceives herself and how others perceive her. Maybe she doesn't realize how much other people notice and is just distracted by other things: like being able to kill people by touching them.
Setting: This stream of consciousness also showcases the setting, because of the way Juliette takes in information that she's seeing for the first time, it paints vivid pictures of what she's experiencing. In the asylum, I feel very attune to what her surroundings are, but sometimes during her time in the Reestablishment's headquarters, her descriptions get a little wild and I have to reread or just move on when trying to determine the extravagance of things. But her eye for detail is strong, not only in setting but also in character development.
We're introduced to the asylum that Juliette has spent the last 264 days in... or three years? This is where it's a little confusing because she says The Reestablishment took her away from her home when she was 14 and now she's 17... yet 264 days is obviously not 3 years. There's a gap and I hope it's explained in the next novel.
We're also introduced to a section of the Reestablishment's headquarters, which is teeming with crazy luxury, as Juliette sees it, considering people outside are dying of hunger and diseases and there are persian rugs lying around a military headquarters. (Although a rug can't feed people, it's the money aspect that drives Juliette crazy)
We're then introduced to one of the supporting character's (Adam) and his little brother's home in an old office building, which is pretty modern and shows a lot of Adam's character, being that he cares about and for his little brother so he tries to make living bearable instead of having his brother waste away in the society that is crumbling outside.
Almost as a plot saver (the ending was wrapped up very nicely, but I'm interested to see how it continues in the sequel), the last place we're introduced to is a "rebel underground camp" of sorts, but X-Men style. They take people in who have abilities and help them hone their strengths to build up against The Reestablishment for an upcoming battle (probably in the sequel).
And essentially, the main setting of the story is this deteriorating world Juliette was taken away from, and only catches glimpses of when she's on the run from Warner (antagonist Villein). Entire towns, cities and buildings are deserted because the way of life began to perish with a government that was planning on wiping them out anyways... The Reestablishment becomes a character itself, making the "rules and regulations" for the society that desperately needs a governing body.
Characters: Juliette doesn't want to call her power a gift, only seeing it as a curse. She's been conditioned to believe it is a negative aspect of herself, and shows extreme care in how she moves her body (in the sense of other people). But what's completely different in her personality is that although she has trained herself to restrain from physical contact (and for good reason), she has a very loud verbal personality. She fights back with Warner, and questions his motives out loud and even when she knows she could be punished. She has a death wish. But she doesn't want to die. She wants the love and happiness her "curse" has deprived her of, and if she can't get it, she feels that she's better off out of the way or dead. Juliette grows as a character because she's able to learn to let people in and care about her, like Adam, because for so long her family shunned her and allowed her to be taken away. We see her during intimate scenes with Adam, being very explorative and emotional because she's never been offered physical touch (romantic or platonic) and she craves it, as all humans do. (For some reason, Adam is able to touch her without being harmed - more to be revealed in the sequel...) I feel like Juliette was a very strong character buried under anxiety and worry for those surrounding her, and after she realizes that she is in control of her own body, her true strength shines through.
Adam was an underdog just like herself when they were younger, and they both recognize each other from before her time in the asylum, and in the beginning he was a tool used against her, but we find out he is more than you think during the middle of the story. Physically, she is aware of his difference from when she knew him before and is attracted to his strength, but it is also what is mundane and standard about Reestablishment military personnel. There is mutual attraction between Juliette and Adam, and it felt sort of choppy. There were very flirt-worthy comments from Adam during their time in the asylum, and it is backed up during her time in the headquarters, and since he is able to touch her, they have a semi romantic relationship (there really isn't much time for them to explore this relationship since they're constantly on the run). One very endearing scene is where Adam's brother walks in on them and Adam has to explain that she's his girlfriend, and Adam's little brother walks back into the room with a pink face had me laughing and grinning from ear to ear. For me, Adam is an okay character. I feel like he's just there as Juliette's Knight in Shining Armor, and I hope he develops more in the sequel.
Warner is the scene stealer of this novel. We know his father is the head of the Reestablishment and that he is nineteen and very good looking, just like the other young soldiers, but he has such a deep obsession with Juliette and her power. As Adam explains during the middle of the novel, Warner wants Juliette to accept him and herself as this powerful team, and his intentions are very clear: he wants her to help him get ahead by punishing rebels, as well as sate his romantic needs, since he believes they have so much in common with their connection to killing. There is an issue with his mother which is only touched upon briefly, and this adds to the mystery that is Warner. He is a very despisable character, but he is also very intriguing in that he is a strong, young character who follows through with everything he does. He's a clear threat to Juliette and Adam, but she is also drawn to him because of the mystery that encompasses his character. As it turns out, Warner can touch Juliette's skin as well, just as Adam can, with no harm to him. There is a very steamy scene where Juliette and Warner find themselves up against a wall, and her reaction to Warner becomes confused by her attraction to his kisses. THAT should be quite interesting to see in the sequel. Because I feel that Warner is a much stronger character than Adam, I'm actually rooting for Warner. There's enough of a spark between Juliette and Warner for me to believe Mafi could turn around and totally mess with the readers head. It would be quite refreshing to see this, because in most YA novels, there's always the main character and the romantic interest that is obviously who she'll end up with.
Ending: Although the ending was sound enough and set up for the sequel, I almost feel cheated. Juliette is not alone in her "gift", others at this camp also have powers, they plan on fighting The Reestablishment, and she's given a suit that covers most of her body, which is seen as very sexy. I feel like the time spent talking about this new suit they have her put on could have been better spent on talking about almost anything else... the suit doesn't even do anything except for cover her from neck to wrists/ankles. That scene was really pointless. I felt like Mafi could have used that time to talk about what Juliette was dealing with on the inside... maybe how she's overwhelmed with the fact that others like her exist or her impression of the coming battle against The Reestablishment...
BUT... I'll still continue this series. After finishing, I kept thinking about the story and the events and whenever a novel sticks with me like this did, I know I'm stuck for good.
I've got to figure out how to write shorter reviews... without any spoilers.
NEXT FOR REVIEW:I'm hoping to finish Pure by Julianna Baggott, which I also got from the library... and then I will start back with the numerous books I already own! Note to self: stop going to the library and being distracted by all the pretty new books.