Monday, 29 December 2014

BOOK REVIEW: SHATTER ME BY TAHEREH MAFI



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.




No spoilers ahead.


The writing style. My god, the writing style. I will forever be falling in love with Tahareh Mafi's way with words. And even if in several months' time I forget some of the scenes, if the exact quotes slip away from me and I find I have to re-read the book to recall it perfectly, I am positive the writing style will never, not once, leave me for a moment.



Shatter Me follows the story of Juliette Ferrars, who, at seventeen, found herself locked up in an asylum, abandoned and entirely rejected by everyone she's ever known, and defining herself only by what her touch can do - strip another person of their life. In a futuristic, dystopian society, the world seems to be crumbling around her (so much so, that at one point Adam points out that being "locked away" is not much better to being outside and "free", for lack of a better term). The new regime has taken over, risen to power with their empty promises for a better future, only to turn into an autocratic, totalitarian force which steals and robs humanity of all that makes life worth living - right down to their history, their culture, their sense of identity. So when Juliette is offered a choice to work for the regime as a bona fide torture device or stay locked up in an asylum forever, we as readers are introduced to the real meaning of being caught "between a rock and a hard place".

I felt for Juliette's character more than I've felt for a character in years. (And this leads me back to Tahareh Mafi's way with words, her beautiful thoughts, how she never leaves anything unsaid, but always says it differently, unexpectedly.) Her struggles became my struggles and her fears became my fears. My eye would always skim the length of the page at each turn, if only to make sure Juliette isn't in danger by the end of the page. I'm not one for skimming, I never was, but her character just got under my skin. To be so isolated and so completely rejected by every single person in the world was at times gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. The craving for any semblance of human contact, for acceptance, for recognition, is poignant in her every thought, even to the point of being flattered when she is deemed beautiful by the enemy. What makes Juliette's character so memorable, though, isn't a tragic life she continually struggles to make sense of - it is her strength. It's that despite everything, she is strong. The "woe is me" mentality is absent. She wishes to turn her life around, she strives to turn her life around. She sticks to her principles all her life and refuses to have them abused and used against her. She craves love and companionship and embraces the very notion with all she has. She is a good protagonist. Her hope is inspiring.

Which brings me to Warner. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume his more swoonworthy qualities are a subject of the sequel. Going into Shatter Me, a novice is promised to fall hopelessly in love with Warner, only to encounter a villain instead. Having said that, Warner is a captivating villain. He is the kind of tyrant you wish to unravel (no pun intended) and the kind of monster you keep thinking can't be that big of a monster at all. He is obsessive and he is possessive. His mood swings are alarming. He is ruthless and vicious and jealous. But somehow, behind it all, there has to lie an explanation. Right?

And Adam... fiercely loyal, devoted, wonderful Adam. This may be the first instance where the "good guy" in an evident, upcoming love triangle is the one I root for for the time being. I am told this might change, as it did for many. And I'm sure if that happens, I'll be laughing at this review in the future, or modifying it a great deal. For the moment, however, the thought of Adam and his little brother (and Kenji) are the only heartwarming ones.

The pacing is so well-done. From the emptiness and solitude of an asylum (which serve as great introduction to the world), the events unfold and the action picks up until you find yourself gripping the book/Kindle/tablet, unable to look away for a moment, both fearful and hopeful about what's around the corner.

And to have a book in a dystopian trilogy not end on a (physically painful) cliffhanger is something I can't be thankful enough about. Thought I guess it really doesn't matter in the end, because what I'll be reading next is the sequel.





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