Book Review : Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by Tahereh Mafi
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.
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
Two hundred and sixty four days Juliette has been in this cell, with nothing but a small notebook and a broken pen to keep her company. Surrounded only by 1 window, 4 walls and 144 square feet of space, all Juliette has to keep her sane is her own thoughts and counting. She counts everything. The cracks in the walls, the ceiling, the floor. The numbers of trees outside the sole window. Every second, every minute, ever hour. Juliette counts them all. And now, now the only number she fixates on is 6,336. Because it has been 6,336 hours since she last touched another human being. And how she craves to be able to touch another human being without worry. But Juliette knows she can’t. She cannot touch another human being because that was what got her into this cell in the first place.
“Sometimes I think that if I stay very, very still, if I never move at all, things will change.
I think if I freeze myself I can freeze the pain.
If time stands still nothing can go wrong.”
It was an accident. She had not meant to do it. Juliette would never in a million years mean harm to anyone. But that was what she did. With her bare hands. With a touch, she killed a little boy.
Since then, her life has been a series of tests and interrogations, until finally, they decide that throwing her in a cell for her to rot is the best decision. So here she is, 264 days and counting, and nobody has come for her. Especially not her parents remembering how disgusted her mother had been when she realized what Juliette had done. Over and over again, Juliette has tried to tell them that it was all an accident. But they never trust her, they never will.
One day, when Juliette wakes up from her slumber, instead of being greeted by the cold grey walls that she has grown so accustomed to, she was met with a boy. A boy with dark blue eyes, dark brown hair and a sharp jawline that goes along with his lean frame. And immediately, she thinks that this is it. This boy is her replacement. After almost a year, the asylum has finally decided to kill her.
And yet, days pass and nothing happens. Juliette waits for the people in the asylum to drag her out of the cell, and kill her, yet nothing happens. Other than the fact that now, there is a boy in the cell with her, things seems to go on as usual. Now that she has gotten over her fear of being killed, Juliette wonders why this boy is in this cell with her. What crime did he commit? Did he kill someone too? Juliette wants to ask, but she worries that her voice will betray her. It has been so long since she has used her voice, what if she has forgotten how to speak altogether?
A few more days pass, and very gradually, she finds the courage to try and talk to him. Juliette eventually learns that her cellmate’s name is Adam. Adam. Her cellmate has a nice name, is what she thinks to herself. A name that she has always liked but could not remember why. And that night, those are the thoughts that swirls in her mind until she falls asleep.
The door crashes open and people swarm into the room with rifles pointing at Juliette and Adam. The armed men ordered them to have their arms up and feet apart. Comply and we won’t shoot, is what they said. Juliette is scared. She is shaking from head to toe, yet she obeys. Those armed men pull and yank Juliette on her feet roughly before dragging her into a long hallway and into a room.
The first thing she sees is a guy sitting on a chair at the front of an empty room. He wears a perfectly pressed suit, blonde hair expertly combed and the soldiers standing on guard his ideal bodyguards. It is obvious to her that he is in charge or something, but of what, Juliette has no idea. Juliette takes a closer look at the man, taking in his attire until finally she catches his name etched into the lapel. Warner.
“I have a proposition for you.”
“You want me to torture people for you?”
His face breaks into a brilliant smile. “That would be wonderful.”
I am currently re-reading the entire Shatter Me series because book four – Restore Me – is coming, and I need to refresh my memory on the story and the characters as it has been quite some time since I last read the Shatter Me series. When I first read this book a few years back, I remember that I was so into the book that I practically devoured the whole series in a matter of days. And I am happy to find out that even after all these years, those feelings stay the same. This book sucked me in from the very first page and I am immediately enraptured by the story and our heroine, Juliette.
While I am not usually one for a meek and submissive character, I find myself liking Juliette as a character. Of course, there are times when I wanted her to be more aggressive and to demand rather than to ask. But given her background and her past, I understand why and how she is the way she is. All her life, she has been shunned and pushed aside because of her power – or as people around her call it, a disease.
“I didn’t want the clothes or the perfect shoes or the expensive anything. I didn’t want to be draped in silk. All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.”
Her touch is lethal. All it needs is for her to hold on to someone too long and before she knows it, the person has already drop dead before her. In all her life, all she ever wanted is for someone to not see her as a monster. She tries to fit in, she tries to subdue herself and life up to the expectations of all the people around her, yet they always see her as something different. An abomination. Dangerous. Threatening. Even her own parents loathe her. But still she tries. Juliette tries so hard to be just like them, to be accepted by the society, but when she accidentally kills a boy, bad turns to worse and her parents decides that it was time to get rid of her from their lives and decided to send her into an asylum to rot.
And then we are introduced to Adam. Essentially I think he is what we refer to as the good guy, or as I’d like to refer to as the “golden boy”. Adam is just the typical nice guy that can’t do no wrong –in this book at least. He’s reliable, responsible want to fight for the greater good, has sacrificed a lot to get to where he is today, has a rough past. You know, all that jazz. For me personally, I am not quite sure how I feel about him. His altogether personality is a little too bland for me. I mean, it’s not like it’s a bad thing. It’s just that I prefer a character that is more complex. For me, Adam’s thoughts and actions are almost too easy to predict. And when I am reading dystopian books – most of the time trying to predict what the character is going to do next is half of the fun. And with Adam, it feels like he’s ruining my fun because I already predict what he is going to do next.
But then, we have Warner. He is the villain. The cruel, merciless man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. And needless to say, with me and my tendency to like the bad guys more than the good guys, I like Warner. He is a very multilayered character, trying to get to know him is like trying to peel off an onion. He has so many different layers and different sides to him that it is hard to try to pinpoint which one of his intentions are pure and which ones are not. But also because of that, I find myself very intrigued and curious about him. I definitely can’t wait to see how his character will progress as the story continues.
His thumb brushes my cheek.
“Life is a bleak place,” he whispers. “Sometimes you have to learn how to shoot first.”
The thing with re-reading I have found is that when you re-read a book, you start to realize things that you did not when you read it the first time. That also applies to this book. While I love the storyline and the character and the world building, I find myself sometime having trouble with Mafi’s writing. She has a writing style where she likes to use a lot of hyperbole and a lot of flowery proses. Especially when trying to describe what a character is feeling.
And when integrates well with the story and it definitely expresses the characters feelings better than most books I have read. However, on the rare times that it doesn’t work, it just comes of as really odd and awkward. Here are some examples :
“My eyes break open. 2 shattered windows filling my mouth with glass.”
“I blink 1,000 times in the blackness.”
“He pulls my swaddled figure close to his chest and I shatter. Two three four fifty thousand pieces of feeling stab me in the heart.”
“7 seconds of silence join the conversation.”
“My eyes are the size of the moon.”
“Every organ in my body falls to the floor.”
I don’t know about other readers out there, but when I read a book, I have this tendency to take what is written in the book and imagine it truly happening unless stated otherwise. So when I read things like “My eyes break open”, I literally imagined her eyes popping like grapes with blood everywhere. Not to mention Mafi uses the sentence, “Every organ in my body falls to the floor” , to express her character’s shock. I mean, I am sure there are other ways to convey those feelings?
I don’t know. It could be just maybe I am not used to reading sentences like this, or maybe I’m just very picky when it comes to writing style, but Mafi’s writing is definitely something to get used to.
The Verdict :
Altogether, I highly enjoyed this book. Despite some hiccups in the writing, “Shatter Me” is one of those books that you just can’t put down until you get to the very last page. This book consumes me. This has been my second time reading it, and I still feel as strongly towards the book as I did the first time.
If you are looking for some good young adult dystopian book to sink you teeth into – especially if you enjoy Hunger Games or Divergent series – definitely give this one a try. I promise you won’t regret it.