January 5, 2012

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

PhotobucketSummary (from 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. 
In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

Review: A combination of dystopian and paranormal, Shatter Me is a unique novel that follows Juliette, a young woman unable to touch anyone. Then she meets Adam, and starts to learn more about the world outside of the cell she’s been confined to. As Juliette’s knowledge grows, her view about her power begins to change. Is it really a curse, as she has always believed? Or does she have the ability to make it a gift?
Shatter Me is definitely a book that has a lot of potential, and while this potential is never fully realized, there is no denying that Tahereh Mafi is a talented author who actually has the ability to write a moving novel. Unfortunately for me, this was not that novel.
Juliette is a likable enough protagonist, but also had her fair share of annoying traits. For the first half of the book it felt like every time she entered a new room she’d either cry or blush. For a character who is supposedly strong at heart, Juliette’s constant breakdowns felt contrived and unnecessary. Half the time it felt like her emotions only presented themselves so Adam or Warner could comfort her. This wasn’t good enough for me. When an author states repeatedly that their character is strong and tenacious, I actually want to see proof of that, not a scared teenager running to a love interest whenever something bad happens. I wouldn’t have cared that Mafi had written Juliette the way she did if she hadn’t tried to pass off Juliette’s behaviour as strong. Juliette was not strong for the majority of the book and I hated the feeling of being force-fed the idea that she was.
Shatter Me also contained two of the most loathed tropes in YA literature - insta-love and a love triangle. The love triangle was wholly unnecessary and seemed to exist just for the sake of it. I honestly didn’t see the point of including it - I felt some of the tense scenes with Warner were diminished when all Juliette could think about was how attractive he looked.
The prose in this novel was both its biggest flaw and its saving grace. There were times that I was able to be swept up in the beauty of it, and other times when I was rolling my eyes, wishing Mafi would just get on with the story. I think the prose would have had more effect if the overdone phrases were more spread out. When every other sentence is an overwrought description, the overall effect of the writing is diminished.
Overall, Shatter Me just wasn’t the book for me, but I know plenty of others will enjoy it. Mafi succeeds in blending the dystopian and paranormal genres and the book contains some truly touching moments. Although I wasn’t a huge fan, I will check out Mafi’s future work, if only because her writing had enough sparks of brilliance to convince me that, with some work, she could produce something genuinely special.
Rating: 2.5 stars

1 comment:

  1. I really need to give this one a re-read. First, because I never wrote a proper review when I read it (which was like a month and a half ago). And just because my opinion on the book has changed so much that I really don't know what I'd say now. I was ready to give it a 5 when I first finished, but after thinking about it I kept pushing it down...

    Thanks for the honesty. The writing didn't actually bother me. And I didn't mind the sort of love triangle. I don't know what it is. Great review! I'll have to keep a closer eye on Juliette this time around.