Ratings: 5/5 ☕☕☕☕☕
Despite the five coffee cups, this is not a book I would recommend to everyone because of the following reasons–
1) This is a depressing book, seeing as how our protagonist is a psychologically unstable teenager who had suffered years of verbal and physical abuse from everyone around her, including her parents.
2) The writing, although poetic, (and in my opinion, beautiful) is full of metaphors that many readers have complained didn’t make sense to them. I’ll be quoting some of those parts of the book and if you find you don’t like it, then reading this book would be absolute torture for you.
Personally, I loved Shatter Me because of the writing–in a way I could relate to it–not because I have an abusive past or anything (I don’t) but because being in Juliette’s mind reminded me too much of my own writings back when I was suffering from depression myself. Even the way she writes her journal entries are very similar to the way I used to write my own journal entries during that difficult time. Not to mention, most of my favorite poems are ones that are written in Tahereh Mafi’s style. So naturally, this book, its writing, and the protagonist reached out to me on a very deep level.
The Writing: I am repeating myself when I say this, but Tahereh Mafi’s style can only be described in word and that is poetic. Below is one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“I always wonder about raindrops.
I wonder about how they’re always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It’s like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn’t seem to care where the contents fall, doesn’t seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors.
I am a raindrop.
My parents emptied their pockets of me and left me to evaporate on a concrete slab.”
If you don’t like this sort of writing then I would suggest you stay far, far away from this book because the entire story is written in this manner. For me, it was one of the main things that attracted me, because this is the sort of writing that truly moves me.
I unfortunately did not find enough time to make picture quotes for this book so I’ll just put my favorite quotes in block quote. Read them and see if you like them.
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
“Hope is a pocket of possibility.
I’m holding it in my hand.”
In my opinion, that is some beautiful writing.
That being said, there was one thing that I didn’t like about Mafi’s writing and one of them is the repetition of certain phrases. I have seen writers repeat the same phrase once or twice or three times to emphasize a point, but in Shatter Me it was so overdone that instead of making me feel Juliette’s emotions it made me feel irritated with her.
“and then and then and then…”
“his lips his lips God his lips…”
Imagine this occurring every few pages.
Other than this, there aren’t any other flaws with Mafi’s writing, and for a debut novel, Shatter Me was very well written and incredibly convincing.
The Characters: So far, because of the way the plot is staged, we only get to see three main characters–Juliette, Adam and Warner–and we only get a glimpse of two supporting characters: Kenji and James. Although calling them supporting characters would be a bit of an exaggeration because the role they play is too small for them to be called supporting characters. This was another problem I had with the book, but like I said, its only because of the plot. I’m getting there in a bit.
As far as protagonists go, I truly felt for Juliette. She is a broken girl for most of the book, and for once I was fine with this because she is just so easy to sympathize with. In a way she is strong, she never lost compassion or her sense of moral even when the whole world shunned her, and in the last quarter of the book we see her as someone who is fiercely protective of the ones she love. Her character doesn’t get to have much of an arc until the very end, and I cannot wait to see how she evolves in the second book.
Things are changing, but this time I’m not afraid. This time I know who I am. This time I’ve
made the right choice and I’m fighting for the right team. I feel safe. Confident.
Because this time?
Adam is also another character who came from an abusive household and naturally he and Juliette shares a common ground. I loved how protective he is of Juliette, and his relationship with his younger brother was even more endearing. That being said, I didn’t like how perfect Juliette made him to be. As much as I loved Adam in this book, I personally preferred flawed characters better; they seem more real and less fictional.
Our antagonist Warner is the most interesting character in the book. He is portrayed as a power-hungry, madman, and yet there are so many subtle foreshadowing about his character that I can’t help but feel he is not really what he’s being portrayed to be.
“I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be your experiment. Let me go.”
“No.” He stands up. “I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“Because I can’t. I just—” He tugs at his fingers. Clears his throat. His eyes touch the ceiling
for a brief moment. “Because I need you.”
“You need me to kill people!”
He doesn’t answer right away. He walks to the candle. Pulls off a glove. Tickles the flame
with his bare fingers. “You know, I am very capable of killing people on my own, Juliette. I’m
actually very good at it.”…
“Why are you being nice to me?”
The surprise on his face surprises me even more. “Because I care about you,” he says
And then there’s this:
“Your poor mother.”
Warner almost trips over his own feet. His eyes are wide; alarmed. He stops a few feet
short of our goal. Spins around. “What do you mean?”
My stomach falls over.
The look on his face: the unguarded strain, the flinching terror, the sudden apprehension…
…..He grabs my hands, focuses my eyes. Urgency is pulsing at his temples. “What do you
mean?” he insists.
“N-nothing,” I stammer. My voice breaks in half. “I didn’t—it was just a joke—”
Warner drops my hands like they’ve burned him. He looks away. Charges toward the elevator
and doesn’t wait for me to catch up.
It’s also clear that he comes from an abusive family (ugh, again). And in spite of everything.Tahere Mafi makes me feel sympathy for him–for someone who’s possibly psychotic. I can also sense something of a love triangle coming but I hope that doesn’t happen, or at least, if it does happen, we get to see Warner in a light that makes redeemable. Don’t get me wrong–I have an unhealthy love for the bad guys (the crazier, the better)–but I wouldn’t really like to see them as a love interest in a book, one that is particularly aimed for teenagers.
The Plot: Okay so here’s the thing: I didn’t read the blurb when I started reading this book (yes, I do that. Especially when I get recommendations from people whose reading tastes are similar to mine). In fact, I didn’t read the blurb until after I finished the book. And from the way I see it, even though this book is in the dystopia and sci-fi genre, Shatter Me is entirely about an abused, slightly unhinged, depressed girl with a lethal touch. (Huh. Sounds a bit like Rogue from X-men)
Yeah, that’s her!
Except, of course, Juliette is nowhere near as badass as her. At least not just yet.
However, the fact is that this book is in the dystopia and sci-fi genre, and well…as a sci-fi, it fails spectacularly. There’s no explanation given for Juliette’s power until the very end, and even there it is explained in just three-five lines. And although the explanation isn’t exactly insufficient, I would have loved it if the writer explored the genetic mutation concept just a little bit more.
As a dystopia, this book doesn’t exactly fail to deliver–it is there, and we do get to see bits of the post-apocalyptic world in which Juliette lives–but like I said before, this book is about Juliette and how she deals with her power, her life, her past and the changes that she’s facing now. This book is about what goes on in her head–and while I didn’t mind that much, I would have liked to see more of what is really going around her.
As for the romance, well, I like how there’s no insta-love: Juliette and Adam had been in love with each other since they were kids. I also liked how their story was revealed a little at a time. It prevented the book from being completely overshadowed by romance, but the love story is still a big part of the book.
And yet, I am not really sure how I feel about Juliette’s feelings about Adam. It seems like she is confusing gratitude for love because Adam is, in her own words, the only person who has ever been kind to her.
He never talked to me. He never spoke a single word to me, but he was the only one who
dared to sit close to my fence. He was the only one who stood up for me, the only person who
fought for me, the only one who’d punch someone in the face for throwing a rock at my head.
I didn’t even know how to say thank you.
He was the closest thing to a friend I ever had.
Okay, I can easily why someone in her position would become so attached to someone like Adam. But…umm…yeah, honey that ain’t love.
The Ending: Although a bit stretched out, the ending of the book was pretty good. We don’t have a copyright on ideas, so I can’t blame Mafi for the X-men theme in the end, but it was written well enough that you don’t feel exasperated reading an idea that Marvel has overused in their comics. I am definitely looking forward to read Unravel Me.
So all things considered, I give Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me two coffee cups for her excellent writing that only had some minor flaws, two more coffee cups for characters I want to get know even better, and only one coffe cup for both the plot and the ending.
Final tally: ☕☕☕☕☕