Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #1
Published by HarperCollins on November 15th, 2011
Shelve It: Goodreads
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.
Stunningly beautiful metaphors used to describe Juliette’s inner turmoil and surrounding landscape was not enough to save Shatter Me from a powerless heroine, a nonexistent plot and weak world-building.
I tried I tried to relate to Juliette. Having grown up abused and unloved, then thrown into solitude for almost an entire year, I started reading Shatter Me knowing that Juliette was going to be an unstable character. I knew she was going to be meek and withdrawn and I had accepted that; I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was her unrelenting lack of character development. For the vast majority of the book, she spends her time crying/trembling/gasping/blushing, all while adamantly refusing to understand how anyone, but especially Adam, could care for her. This type of behaviour I could have forgiven, had she shown any growth. But it wasn’t until the last few chapters that she went from being a weak, ridiculously melodramatic and frustratingly insecure protagonist into one with the glimmer of something resembling strength.
I also had a hard time justifying her words with her actions. To his face, Juliette was constantly calling Warner a “murderer” or a “monster” and when she was discussing Warner with Adam, he was called “psychotic” and “obsessed.” She also often referenced how Warner was looking to own her, to make her his toy. But on the inside, she was admiring his physical appearance, often during inappropriate or life-threatening moments. There were several mentions of how beautiful his green eyes were, or how smooth and sensual his voice was. There’s even a scene where she lets Warner kiss her, and is surprised that she feels a connection between them and that she likes how he tastes. I just couldn’t understand how I was supposed to respect, let alone relate, to the type of heroine who would let herself be so easily manipulated by someone who had forced her to endanger the life of a young child, who had held her captive – controlling when/what she ate and what she was allowed to wear – and who threatened the life of the person she claimed to love.
My issues with Juliette aside, I was also disappointed with Shatter Me’s world-building…or I should I say, lack of world-building. Being labelled a dystopian, I was eager to learn about the world Juliette inhabited and how it had reached that point. I was excited to see how Juliette and Adam rose up against The Reestablishment, to use Juliette’s strange power against those, like Warner, who would see it used as a weapon. But Shatter Me is much more a paranormal romance with a dystopian setting than a pure dystopian, so my knowledge of the world was limited by how it affected her growing relationship with Adam. Sure, we were provided with the odd detail here and there, but I’m having a very hard time coming up with the entire picture. And the little details which were leaked were drowned amidst the overabundant use of metaphors and flowery prose, with the dystopia only making its presence known in order to make the romance interesting.
I open my eyes and he’s standing right in front of me. My heart is a field of lilies blooming under a pane of glass, pitter-pattering to life like a rush of raindrops.
It was during these more flowery prose moments that I most questioned the dystopian elements. It’s mentioned several times how barren the landscape is, with every living thing having perished without adequate heat/nourishment from the sun. Juliette and Adam both comment with awe on how birds used to be able to fly. How would Juliette know what a field of lilies in full bloom looks like? I found there were a lot of instances where the metaphors either didn’t make sense in the context of Shatter Me’s particular dystopian setting, or just didn’t make sense at all.
Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into semblance of something too passive to punch.
It sounds very pretty and deep and poetic – but what the hell does it mean?
As for the plot itself, it was virtually nonexistent. Most of Shatter Me is spent watching Juliette question herself and her ability to love and be loved. There’s also a lot of steamy shower scenes, where nothing but heavy breathing and lip hovering near ears seems to happen. Moments of danger and heightened suspense – fleeing from the compound with gunshots going off in the near distance, for example – were all made less immediate with inappropriate inclusions of tender moments; I’m on edge, urging the characters to keep moving and they’re stopping to stare deeply into each other’s eyes. I kept being pulled from moments which would have made the plot seem more action-packed and eventful by seemingly stupid moments of passion between Adam and Juliette.
Beautifully poetic with it’s flowery prose, Shatter Me was a delight to read – in that I enjoyed the writing. But the content which made up the writing had a few too many flaws for me to completely immerse myself in the story. If you go into Shatter Me thinking it is a paranormal romance, you might get more enjoyment out of it then I did, expecting a dystopian.
Disclaimer: I originally posted this review in July of 2012 on Radiant Shadows. In an effort to have a comprehensive list of all of my reviews on Pretty Little Reader, I will occasionally be reposting older reviews, usually before I review/post something about its sequel.