Monday, October 31, 2011

REVIEW: "Shatter Me" by Tahereh Mafi

SERIES: Shatter Me #1
GENRE: Young Adult-Dystopian, Paranormal
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen
PUBLICATION DATE: November 15, 2011
READ DATE: October 2011
SOURCE: ARC (New York Comic Con)
SUMMARY:  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.


This book joins in one of the most popular trends in young adult fiction, dystopian.  But, Tahereh Mafi adds her own twists to this fascinating genre and provides her readers with a unique outlook on society that captured my attention from the beginning and left me wanting more.  The world of Shatter Me is one that may seem familiar to readers of dystopian fiction.  Disease, famine, and death seem to be increasing rapidly and people are at a lost of what to do to save their world.  Then the Reestablishment takes power and promises that they can help if they are given control over everything from the military to the food industry.   

The protagonist is a seventeen year old named Juliette who has been held in solitary confinement in a mental institution for 264 days due to the fact that ever since her childhood, Juliette has been unable to touch another person without inflicting unbearable pain upon them.  Not even her own parents were able to touch her bare skin since she was a baby.  After an unfortunate incident that resulted from her touching another, Juliette is given up to the Reestablishment who then place her in the institution.  Within the institution, she is never touched or spoken to.  She is left completely on her own to survive and attempt to keep herself sane. 

When the reader is first introduced to Juliette, it is evident how the days of confinement have effected her psyche.  Boredom has lead her to count meaningless things like cracks on the walls and, while she is not insane, she does seem to lose her grasp on reality at times.  Juliette is very unsure of what she sees and what she thinks and this is shown through the random statements which are crossed out.  The striking out displays Juliette's confusion and her determination to keep her sanity.  I found it interesting that the striking out of words/phrases decreased once Juliette began to gain confidence in herself.  It was a simplistic yet powerful way to express her inner turmoil and strength. 

The catalyst for Juliette's transformation is when she gets a roommate, Adam.  It is obvious to Juliette from the beginning that she knew him outside of the institution, but it takes time for her to grow to trust him with her secrets.  But, Adam is not everything he appears to be to both Juliette and the readers.  His reasons for being placed in the institution, his background, and his growing relationship with Juliette are all mysteries that are slowly resolved throughout the book.  In order to avoid spoilers, I will not go too much into Adam's character, but I will say that I admired him and his ability to make the best of out difficult situations.

Another way that Tahereh Mafi showcases Juliette's state of mind and confidence was through the pacing of the plot.  At the beginning, we meet her while she is alone in the institution and the pace is deliberately slow and detailed.  But, once Adam appears, Juliette's world is turned upside down and the story begins to speed towards the climax.  I really enjoyed this section of the book with new information was appearing at random intervals and the mystery of the Reestablishment and its purpose in Juliette's situation moving towards resolution.

The only issue I had with Shatter Me was the romance aspect.  While I enjoyed the relationship between Adam and Juliette, I had a hard time getting the chemistry between them.  The flashbacks provided a little insight, but I found myself wanting more.  But, I will admit that the unusual situation they found themselves in did help me understand the instant romance.  I am hopeful that Mafi will be able to showcase more of the connection between the couple in the rest of the series now that a significant amount of exposition is revealed.  

All in all, I enjoyed this debut effort from Tahereh Mafi.  I was impressed by her writing style and original plot structure.  I liked the main characters and found myself intrigued by many of the secondary characters.  I did have alot of unanswered questions by the end, but I think most of them will be taken care in the next installment.  I recommend this book to anybody who is a fan of dystopian fiction and strong-willed heroines. 



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