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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi


Shatter Me came across my radar purely through the blogosphere. I'm fairly certain I wrote it off initially based on the cover alone. Having read it now, I'm even less of a fan of the cover. In fact, I vastly prefer the plain white cover of my ARC. It retains the slashed title (which I love), but otherwise it is just a field of white. The final cover sells the book short, in my opinion, especially Juliette herself. The model, her expression, and the dress are just too froufy and faux intense for Juliette and for my taste. I feel like the story deserved a starker, more ambiguous cover. So what encouraged me to check out this debut novel was definitely not the cover, but rather the collective heart attack it seemed to be giving a slew of my favorite bloggers. I heard "beautiful writing" and "awesome dystopian" and I hoped. But I made sure to go in with carefully measured expectations, because I've had a few of those "beautiful writing awesome dystopians" lately that have just not worked for me, even if they knocked it out of the park with other readers like me. Probably says more about me than it does the books, but there it is.

Juliette counts. She counts everything, from the square footage of her cell to the number of days since she's seen the outside. By numbering the terrifyingly small confines of her world, she is able to stay somewhere in the vicinity of sane as those parameters slowly shrink around her. Locked up for a murder she did commit, Juliette has no idea what the Reestablishment plans on doing with her, or why she's in what seems to be an insane asylum and not hanging from the end of a rope. In fact, she is as haunted by the inadvertent experience as anyone. But then everything about her world is haunting these days. Nothing is as it was, and the longer she sits alone in her cell, the more it seems no one will ever come around to bothering with one lone girl whose touch is lethal. And then one day. Someone comes. Or, rather, is thrust against his will into her cell. And so now there are two. But Juliette is immediately haunted by the innumerable possibilities. Why give her a cellmate? Why now? And why this particular person? The one who has eyes she remembers, even though it's been years and years. More importantly, who is behind this sudden change and what exactly are they trying to accomplish?

Reader, I liked it from page one. And the reason is Juliette. My heart broke over her. Over and over again. She tells her story as it happens, in exquisitely close detail, and with an eye and ear attuned to the colorless vagaries of her world. Her words are full of metaphors, raining down on the reader. And I liked how the that sweeping language was balanced by the frequent strikethroughs that pervaded her thoughts. I know some readers are bothered by those, but I appreciated the way they simultaneously underscored and brought into question Juliette's take on what is going on around her. They encompassed the words she longed to say but couldn't, the thoughts passing through her head that were so horrifying they must literally be struck from the page. I will say that, while I never tired of the strikethoughs, the constant use of repetition and hyperbole did wear on me after awhile. The thing is, overall I think Tahereh Mafi does such a fine job with the language. I just thought it needed to be reined in some places so as to not tax the reader, and in order to preserve the emotional effect of those particularly devastating phrases and passages. Because when she nails it, she nails it. And when it comes to the three principal players in this novel, Ms. Mafi's words paint them in livid color. I love all three of them--Juliette, Adam, and Warner--for very different reasons. You guys, this villain, he is not kidding around. He may be my favorite aspect of the book. In fact, the strength of my love for Warner may have caused me to overlook a few places in which things happen too quickly or too easily to be credible. In retrospect, I sort of wish they'd never left the asylum. Or Warner's compound. Because those sections are incredibly tight and afterwards things get a bit nebulous, a bit uneven. But so you get a feel for what I'm talking about with the characters and the writing style, here is a scene fairly early on between Juliette and Warner (taken from my uncorrected ARC). This was the scene in which I really fell in love with them both.
Warner follows me into my room.

"You should probably sleep," he says to me. It's the first time he's spoken since we left the rooftop. "I'll have food sent up to your room, but other than that I'll make sure you're not disturbed."

"Where is Adam?" Is he safe? Is he healthy? Are you going to hurt him?

Warner flinches before finding his composure. "Why do you care?"


I've cared about Adam Kent since I was in third grade. "Isn't he supposed to be watching me? Because he's not here. Does that mean you're going to kill him, too?" I'm feeling stupid. I'm feeling brave because I'm feeling stupid. My words wear no parachutes as they fall out of my mouth.

"I only kill people if I need to."

"Generous."

"More than most."

I laugh a sad laugh, sharing it only with myself.

"You can have the rest of the day to yourself. Our real work will begin tomorrow. Adam will bring you to me." He holds my eyes. Suppresses a smile. "In the meantime, try not to kill anyone."

"You and I," I tell him, anger coursing through my veins, "you and I are not the same--"

"You don't really believe that."

"You think you can compare my--my disease--with your insanity--"

"Disease?" He rushes forward, abruptly impassioned, and I struggle to hold my ground. "You think you have a disease?" he shouts. "You have a gift! You have an extraordinary ability that you don't care to understand! Your potential--"

"I have no potential!"

"You're wrong." He's glaring at me. There's no other way to describe it. I could almost say he hates me in this moment. Hates me for hating myself.

"Well you're the murderer," I tell him. "So you must be right."

His smile is laced with dynamite. "Go to sleep."

"Go to hell."

He works his jaw. Walks to the door. "I'm working on it."
Dynamite is right. Call me crazy, but I love these two together. I mean Warner is a complete and utter psycho. But heaven help me, I love him. And hate him. I . . . okay. So my Warner feelings are an inexplicable and very violent hodgepodge. But I wouldn't have felt the same way about Shatter Me without him. And I will return for the sequel because of him. And Juliette. And the love story. And the out-of-left-field ending that left me humming the theme song to X-Men.

Shatter Me is due out November 15th.

Linkage

Comments

  1. I've got an ARC of this one that I really should read. I've heard so many great things about it. And, if you like it, it must be good. :)

    Although, as I recall, you didn't like Matched. Are you going to give Crossed a go? I enjoyed Crossed much more than I did Matched.

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  2. I'm really excited for this one. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did and can overlook its "problems".

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  3. I'd read a lot of people raving about the cover of this one, but I wasn't really impressed. This review however, definitely makes me want to read it!

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  4. My copy is already preordered and I can't wait to read the book.

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  5. Warner is so psychotic and smooth like Hannibal Lector. I couldn't get enough of him and look forward to the sequel where he may or may not appear.Shatter Me is one of my favorite reads this year.

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  6. I felt the same way about Warner. He really made the book for me and is the reason I'm eager to read the sequel. Your review makes me want to read it again! I also prefer the cover of the ARC. It made the book stand out more and just fit the book better overall.
    Thanks for linking to my review :)

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  7. Lol, when you said you had many thoughts about this you were right. But I'm glad you ended up liking it overall.

    Warner had me at "I'm working at it", and the X-men reference sealed the deal. *promptly adding to TBR*

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  8. Emily, read it. I'd be interested to see what you thought. And I wasn't planning on reading CROSSED. I was just so unimpressed by MATCHED. I'm really glad to hear you liked it better, though. Think I'll wait till the trilogy is over and ask what you think then. :)

    Jenny, yeah, there were just a few things that felt rushed or could have been explained a bit more. But thankfully none of them impeded the character development or writing.

    lisa, oh, good. Not just me then. I just think it's going to drive away some readers that might actually love it. It just looks so . . . overdone.

    Sabrina, awesome. Hope you like it!

    Katie, Tahereh Mafi told me we're going to get a TON of Warner in book 2. Commence celebrations!

    readingdate, I completely agree. And I can't wait for the next one. Thanks for your review!

    Holly, lol. I've been letting them percolate. Happily, the book wore well over time. I thought about it and the characters a lot. You will love Warner, I think . . .

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  9. Squee! I've never been this excited about a villain before. Did she say when the sequel might be released?

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  10. Hey Angie!

    I just ran across your blog and decided to contact you about my new philanthropic organization called Gone Reading International.

    We market a line of gifts for readers and donate 100% of company profits to fund new libraries in the developing world. You can read more about us at www.GoneReading.com.

    Any chance you can mention us in your blog???

    We’re finding that readers love what we’re doing, but spreading the word on a philanthropic budget is a challenge! Let me know what you think, and thanks in advance for your time.

    Regards,

    Brad

    P.S. If doing a simple link swap works better for you, that’s certainly fine by me. Just let me know!

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  11. You've got my attention! I've added this to my list! :)

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  12. Katie, alas, she didn't. It'll probably be in a year, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.

    Christine, hehe. Let me know if you get around to it!

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  13. I'm about halfway through this and love it more than I thought I would even though I find the writing a bit intense and overwhelming at times. I won't pretend to understand the "I Heart Warner" thing lol but I agree he is definitely integral to the story.

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  14. Booker, I'm delighted to hear it. And, yeah, I realize the Warnerlove may be a bit misplaced. What can I say? I like them intense and, apparently, nuts. Lol.

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