Monday, 19 December 2011

Shatter Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Pages: 338
Genre: Young Adult / Supernatural
First Published: November 15, 2011
First Line: "I've been locked up for 264 days."

Synopsis:  Juliette is a 16 year old girl who has been locked up in a mental asylum ever since her parents abandoned her years before.  There's a reason why Juliette has been locked up.  Her touch is lethal.
Juliette spends her days alone in a cell with only a secret notebook to keep her company.  After not seeing or speaking to another human being for 264 days, Juliette is shocked to suddenly be given a cellmate -  a teenage boy named Adam.   Juliette is not just shocked, she's scared.   Adam wants to talk to Juliette and get to know her but Juliette is terrified that she could accidentally hurt him.  She's also scared that he'll find out why she can't touch him and why she was put in the asylum in the first place which could lead her to losing the only human contact she's had in almost a year.

When Juliette finally escapes the asylum it's only to be held captive in another type of prison.  This new 'prison' is controlled by a ruthless and powerful young man named Warner.  Warner is a young leader with The Reestablishement -- the agency that has taken control of the world's resources in the post-apocalyptic world.    Warner lavishes Juliette with food, clothes and his attention in order to convince Juliette to join the Reestablishment and use her 'gift' to torture those who oppose the new regime.   When his nicer tactics fail he begins to use subtle threats and even seduction to entice Juliette to stay with him and harness her power to help the Reestablishment increase their hold on the world.
It's during this time that  Juliette finds herself caught between Adam, the boy who loves her and the power hungry Warner.  Will Juliette turn into the monster that she's always been portrayed as or will she turn to the only person who has  treated her as a person in order to go against the Regime?

My Thoughts:  There's been quite a lot of hype surrounding this book.  Normally I'm a little intrigued as well as a little sceptical when a book receives so much attention.  With "Shatter Me" I believe that the hype is fairly justified.
"Shatter Me" has been portrayed by some as a 'Hunger Games meets X-Men' book.  Dystopian world with teens on the run, romance, action / people with special powers.  I can see why comparisons were made.  While The Hunger Games had a lot more 'edge of your seats' type action and 'X-Men' had more of a superhero element,  "Shatter Me" held its own and was a good start to a new series.

The premise is what drew me to this book if I'm being totally honest.  A girl who can't touch people without taking their life force from them?  Cool.  Not a totally original idea though since Rogue (from X-Men fame) has the same power.  Some people have given Mafi flack for making Juliette so similar to young Rogue but since I only have a vague knowledge of X-Men (mmmm, Hugh Jackman!) the similar powers between Rogue and Juliette didn't bother me. 
Juliette was an interesting main character but what really drew me to her in the beginning was her voice.  In the beginning Mafi used very interesting prose in order to convey Juliette's inner thoughts while she was in the asylum.   It's extremely choppy  (she repeatedly crosses out her thoughts as she writes them in her secret diary) but it's also poetic, expressive and very emotional.  Usually that kind of disjointed writing annoys me but Mafi was able to use this choppy prose and crossed out words to help me better understand Juliette's conflicted feelings.

I enjoyed seeing Juliette's character mature throughout the book.   It was touching to see how Juliette learns to perceive herself differently.  She goes from feeling like a monster and being utterly alone in the world to learning to trust another person and respect the unique power she's been given.   That said,  I do think that Juliette's transformation happened too fast.  When we first meet Juliette she's broken mentally, physically and emotionally.  She's been in solitary confinement for almost a year, was half starved and extremely lonely.   Yet after having a cellmate for a mere 2 weeks she bounces back to a fairly normal teenager (not including her lethal touch, obviously).  So after a lifetime of being ostracized and ignored by everyone and being called a monster it only takes 2 weeks with a cute boy to bring her back to a healthy mental state?  That's some teenage boy!!  My point?  I would have liked to see Juliette struggle more with the changes she's going through.
As for the menfolk in the book?   I have to say that I've switched over the the dark side because I MUCH preferred Warner's character to  Adam.   Warner puts the capital "N" in Nasty and was the ultimate bad guy.  On paper he may have been portrayed as a little too bad in a 'fingers steepled while cackling Bwah ha ha' kind of way.  He did have a titch of a human side though.  Just a titch which is why I think hope that Mafi has plans to bring a little more humanity/internal conflict to Warner.  He was my favourite character in the book.  There was just something about him.  I'd love it if, in future books, there was some kind of love triangle between Juliette, Adam and Warner.  Warner just has to channel his human side a bit more to make this happen.

Then there's Adam.  Adam is a nice guy.  He's good looking, he rescues damsels --  he's the whole hero enchilada with a side of guacamole.   My problem is he seemed just too perfect, he was one-dimensional and a little blaw, if I'm being honest.  I suppose part of my apathy towards Adam is that I wasn't totally on board with why Adam wanted to help Juliette in the first place.  His reason seemed a little farfetched to me.  That being said,  I thought that the romantic element of the book was sweet, believable and not forced.  Juliette and Adam do make a cute couple.
I don't have many negatives about this book -- more like observations.  When reading the book it felt like it was written in three sections that each have quite a different feel to them.   The first part starts off in the asylum where Juliette's disjointed way of thinking is so amazing, poetic and vividly shows her inner torment.  The second part of the book tells of a dystopian world -- the reader is told more than shown this world that is in a shambles due to humans destroying nature, wild life etc.  Finally, the third part of the book has a very supernatural/X-men vibe to it and Juliette's 'voice' changes.  Perhaps it's because she's learned more about herself but she feels a little too different from where she was a mere month or so in the past. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm excited to see where the author takes the second book from here.   There are several unanswered questions left at the end of the book but nothing that leaves me feeling miffed or the book to feel unfinished.  Mafi has left the door open for a sequel and I'm hoping that she'll use book two to give readers more background into Adam, Juliette and Warner's pasts.
Overall, I recommend this book to people who enjoyed The Hunger Games, who like a little action mixed with a little teen romance with a pretty good dose of supernatural thrown in for good measure.
My Rating: 4/5

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails