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Friday, April 27, 2012

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi


Title: Shatter Me
Series: Shatter Me, Book 1
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 352
ISBN: 9780062085481
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Author Website: 
Twitter: @TaherehMafi, @HarperTeen 
Format: Hardcover, purchased
Rating: 4/5 stars

Following in the current hot trend in YA (as a friend put it the other day, "Dystopian is the new angels is the new zombies is the new werewolves is the new vampires..."), Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is very much your typical dystopian YA. In an undisclosed time in the future, there is something drastically wrong with the world; the weather patterns seem to be shifting haphazardly; the government, now known as the Reestablishment, may or may not seem to have some knowledge into what's going on; there is civil unrest. Shatter Me is also your typical YA; Juliette, the protagonist, blames herself for something that may or may not have been her fault, and eventually falls for the extremely good looking Adam, who may or may not have her best interests at heart. However, there is plenty in this story that makes it NOT your typical YA.

Spoilery bits ahead!!

First off, and this is something that really can't be overlooked, is the purple prose. There's a LOT of it in this book, and at first I found it a little distracting, only because it seemed so conspicuous. However, the more I thought about the book afterward, I can't imagine how Mafi could have told this story any other way. Juliette is almost an unreliable narrator; at the beginning of the book, she has been locked up in an institution for 264 days with no contact with any other people, and there is some question right from the beginning as to her sanity. Since we're in this story from her POV, the purple prose does seem to become a little more stream of conscious, so it appears that what she's thinking may not always be the most sane thing you've ever read, which leaves the reader guessing throughout about her sanity, thereby creating the feeling of the unreliable narrator. It's a nice little circle that was either done by design or happenstance, but either way it ended up working for me in the big picture.

The other thing that seemed to stick out for me that made this seem a little more than your typical dystopian YA story is the superhero angle that is thrown in. Perhaps Juliette is really more than what she seems, and maybe there are more like her out there. It made for a nice little twist, taking what seemed like a typical dystopian tale and creating something a little more science fiction out of it.

The story opens with Juliette having been locked away for 264 days, with no contact with anyone, for a reason that we're not privy to at the start. Much to her surprise, a guy ends up being incarcerated with her, a guy that she seems to think is from her past, but she's not 100% sure. Eventually, we come to understand that she can kill with a touch, and that it doesn't seem to be something that she can control. Her ability comes to the attention of the Reestablishment, and they want to be able to use her as a weapon against the civil unrest that is broiling across the country. Adam, a member of the Reestablishment army who was planted in her cell to learn more about her, is actually there to try to protect her, and eventually the two escape, after Juliette learns that her abilities may be more than even she is aware of. From here, the game of cat and mouse is on, as Juliette and Adam try to keep one step ahead of the Reestablishment.

This isn't a perfect book. There are certain turns of phrase and words that are used just a little too frequently for my taste; how many different ways can you count when reading Shatter Me that describe Juliette's jaw dropping? I think I had lost count at something like five of them. And the word million is used too many times. The writing can sometimes almost seem a little over the top, but like I said before, by the time I finished the book, I couldn't really imagine the book written any other way. Even the inconsistencies in the writing and the flaws became part of Juliette's voice, still leaving me wondering just how a reliable narrator she is.

The book doesn't end on a raging cliffhanger, which I'm thankful for. Not every book needs to end that way. (I'm looking at you, Suzanne Collins.) Sometimes the story can just come to a nice breaking point, waiting for the next book to pick. Mafi ends her book this way. Juliette and the other characters come to the natural ending point for this chapter in their story, and I honestly am looking forward to the next book in the series, Unravel Me. Juliette grew so much as a character throughout Shatter Me, I'm curious to see where Mafi takes her next. What I viewed as flaws in the book notwithstanding, Shatter Me is a really great story, and I think Mafi brings something fresh to the dystopian YA table.


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