Thursday 16 January 2014

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Harper
Published: January 1st 2011
Pages: 338

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

Shatter me by Tahereh Mafi has been all over the blogsphere. It is a favourite of so many of my favourite booktubers and bloggers, so of course I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was so excited for this series that I bought the second book, Unravel Me,  before I had ever read Shatter Me.

The minute this book came through the letterbox I was all over it. I firstly have to comment on the cover of the book, and there is only word that springs to mind: WOW. The covers, of both Shatter Me and Unravel Me, are easily my favourite book covers of all time. I love the colours, the image of the eye with trees as eyelashes and the waterfall as tears; too beautiful for words.

So, after staring at the amazing cover for an age, I flipped open the book, incredibly excited for what was to come. This book tells the story of Juliette, a girl with the power to drain a person's lifeforce when she touches them. She has never been loved by anyone, not even her parents and she has been treated like a freak by all her peers. When the book opens Juliette tells us she has been in the insane asylum for 264 days where she has not seen or spoke to anyone. That's all about to change when Juliette gets a new cellmate, Adam.

After reading the first couple of pages I realised how different Mafi's style of writing is. Mafi uses a great deal of strikethrough text. At first I didn't mind this, but as the story progressed there was just far too much of this style of text and it significantly slowed down my reading. There is, also, a great deal of metaphorical writing throughout the story, in fact, far too much. Some of the metaphors were beautiful and would have been a great addition to the book if there just hadn't been so many - in fact the entire book was a string of metaphors. Another aspect to the writing style that slowed my reading progress was the abundance of short sentences and repetitions -
 "I thought my hands were helping
I thought my heart was helping
I thought so many things
I never
never thought".
Although this did slow down my reading, I didn't find it all that annoying. This form of writing made me feel as though I was really listening to Juliette's jumbled thoughts.

I really enjoyed the first couple of chapters with Juliette and Adam in the asylum. However, as the story progressed I felt that it was lacking some well-needed action; I was halfway through the book and felt that very little had actually happened. I felt that the sole focus of the story was on the romance and as a result the other aspects to the book suffered. One such aspect is the world-building. There was little to no world-building in the story apart from being told that birds don't fly, people were dying at an enormous rate and that the Reestablishment held society on a tight rein; a typical dystopian setting. The characters and setting all seemed to be a carbon copy of x-men, lacking any originality. Juliette's power is identical to Rogue's and the institution at the end of the story very similar to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

The one setting, however, that I did thoroughly enjoy was the asylum. This setting was by far my favourite part of the world Mafi created. It was an incredibly dark and disturbing place. I found it interesting how completely isolated Juliette was from the other inmates (until Adam's arrival). For 164 days Juliette was holed up in a cell with no one to talk to. She never met a single sole in their until Adam. I loved the scene where Juliette and Adam make their way to the shower room. The door to their room suddenly open into a pitch black corridor where they must blindly find the shower room, strip and wash themselves in two minutes. They are completely alone. 

Before I go on to speak about the romance in the story I must put in a disclaimer. I am biased when it comes to romance in stories. Please remember when reading this that I am not a huge fan of romantic stories. I don't mind a side story romance. What I don't like is insta-love and a romance that overpowers the plot, and unfortunately this is one such story. I won't talk about this too much but Adam and Juliette almost instantly fall in love with each other and the story basically closely follows their blossoming romance, and as a result the plot of the story suffers.

I have quite mixed feelings about the characters in this story. I didn't by any means hate the characters in Shatter Me - with the exception of Warner who is the antagonist of the story and so that is the whole point of his character. As Shatter Me isn't a new book, I know so many people are team Warner and I am just here like: OMG what happens in Unravel Me to make people like him? In this book Warner is a despicable person. He also appears to be a total creep with a weird obsession with Juliette that I don't understand (I am assuming Unravel Me will explain this).

Juliette was more of a contradictory character in my opinion. At first I found her to be strong-willed  and a really positive role model. She didn't care about the fancy clothes hanging in the wardrobe unlike other female protagonists (Caelena from Throne of Glass and Alina from Shadow and Bone). While she appeared strong-willed she was not wholly so, and her weaknesses showed through, something which was to be expected from a person in her position. However, as the story progressed I came to like her a lot less. I found her to be far too melodramatic for my tastes: "I whisper, broken, dying in his arms". She becomes persistently more whiny as the story continues. Also, while at the beginning I believed her to not be shallow, this soon changes with her constant descriptions of how beautiful both Warner and Adam are. It makes me question whether Juliette actually loves Adam or simply lusts after him.

I liked the character of Adam well enough, however, I found his character to be lacking in substance. All I really know about Adam after finishing the book is that he is incredibly beautiful with a great body. The purpose of Adam seems more to be seen rather than be heard.

As I went into this book with incredibly high expectations this book was a big disappointment for me. I couldn't get passed the complicated writing style with the strike through text and abundance of metaphors. The romance was far too overpowering and the characters lacked a great deal of substance. While this book wasn't for me, people who are interested in romance stories might enjoy this.


If you have read this book let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

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