June 8, 2012

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Published: 2011, Harper/HarperCollins
Series: Shatter Me, #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Library book
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I feel more exposed than I ever have in my life.
For 17 years I’ve trained myself to cover every inch of exposed skin and Warner is forcing me to peel the layers away. I can only assume he’s doing it on purpose. My body is a carnivorous flower, a poisonous houseplant, a loaded gun with a million triggers and he’s more than ready to fire.

All of her life, Juliette has been kept at an arm's length, for whenever she is touched or people touch her bad things happen. Juliette doesn't know how or why this happens, but she's been kept away from human contact as a result. The last time she touched someone, she ended up killing him and was put away in jail.

But now the Reestablishment, the ruling force of Juliette's dystopian world, has realized that perhaps the girl with the deadly touch could become a valuable asset in its continual efforts to control the populace. Juliette feels like a monster because of her powers. She is not interested in Warner's offers for her services on behalf of the Reestablishment, services that would force her to harm and kill others purposefully. But Juliette also doesn't think that any good can come out of her life until Adam, another solider for the Reestablishment, offers up his perspective of Juliette. One that shows her as a kind person, a person who treats others with respect even when scorn is thrown her way due to circumstances she cannot control. He allows Juliette to consider the possibility of a life where's she's not simply the victim or the villain. 

I love dystopian books! It's interesting to read about different interpretations of how the world can go wrong (you know, read knowing that this is fiction and something like this could never happen in our actual world). The dystopia that Mafi creates is a little more disconcerting because it actually feels like the way our society is headed - not enough effort made to preserve nature has caused weather systems to become ruined, there are food and animal shortages, birds can no longer fly. There are just enough hints to our reality and how we currently treat the earth to make me a little uncomfortable.

Juliette is a wonderful protagonist. She's completely insecure and not even sure if she's sane at the beginning of the novel (as a reader I wasn't even sure she was sane). She has refused to look in mirrors for years, afraid to see the person she has become. She has nothing to hold on to except for this dream in which she sees a white bird with a golden crown fly. By the end of the novel she still doesn't have it all figured out. But that's okay. She's learning to trust others and, most importantly, learning that her special powers do not have to define her.

I actually enjoyed the romantic relationship in this novel, which was a bit of a pleasant surprise. I've had major issues with the majority of the YA romantic relationships I've read recently. I found Juliette and Adam's relationship to be very touching (no pun intended). They do have a history, but they still take any steps towards a relationship cautiously. That's all I want in my YA books - normal progression towards a real relationship even if there are the initial sparks of attraction. Love isn't easy, and it's far more difficult for Juliette, given her past, than for the average person. Juliette and Adam must learn to trust and respect each other before they can be anything more than friends, which makes the evolution of their relationship and characterizations that much more powerful. 

I was both frustrated by and in awe of Mafi's writing style. At the beginning I was annoyed by so many crossed out words, the disregard to punctuation, and the more poetic writing style. It was not easy to read and really reflected Juliette's mental state as she sits in her cell and counts the amount of days she's gone without human interaction. As the story goes on and Juliette finds herself outside in the world and acclimating to human interactions again, the writing style evolves and became more normal. This was definitely a unique approach and a risky move on Mafi's part, but I think it was executed very well.

The ending made me wish that I already had the sequel to Shatter Me in my hands. I loved this novel's unique take on special powers and dystopias. 
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.

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