Touch Me Baby One More Time!
Yes, I did use a line (although slightly altered) from a Britney Spears song for the title of my post…but it has a lot to do with the book I’ll be reviewing! In today’s post, I’ll be discussing Tahereh Mafi’s debut book, Shatter Me.
It’s among the many Young Adult dystopian fictions that are currently being popularized these days after the success of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. With or without the Hunger Games, this book has gotten so much success and has cemented itself as one of the must read books of 2011-2012. Before I bombard you guys with my thoughts and feelings around this book, I think a synopsis is in order:
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.
– Source: http://www.taherehmafi.com/
This is the part of the review where I say, “Spoilers!!!!!!” and you either say, “Gah!!! NOOOO!!!!” (I would then advise you not to continue beyond this point) or “Alright! Let’s see what you have to say that will somehow make my life more fulfilling and stuff…” (which I would respond with a, “Why, thank you!” *blushes* and usher you onwards…but you probably wouldn’t say those exact words).
So for those of you waiting for the words that will bring some fulfillment to your lives, here they are:
I liked it.
The writing is really interesting. The story is told from the first person, Juliette, and it really displays how her mind is processing information. You have run on sentences or a sentence that has multiple sentences within them that don’t allow you to stop or pause. This is done on purpose and rightly so because the character has been isolated from other people, in every sense of the word, for almost a year. It also shows how all of our minds work if given a sneak peek. Like the fact that we don’t censor or punctuate ourselves in our heads the way we do when we’re speaking aloud. Also, Mafi uses a crossing out style. This style is basically the crossing out of text or “strike through” which illustrates the internal editing Juliette does when she wants to change or replace a thought that enters her mind. Again, this is a great use of first person as well as an authentic look. If I were to use Mafi’s writing style to showcase my own internal dialogue then I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be a single doubt in anyone’s mind that I could be insane.
– taken from Shatter Me, Page 20
I personally embrace my insanity.
The story itself was interesting. You have a character that hasn’t touched anyone (expect for the person she accidentally kills and is the reason for her imprisonment) her entire life and hasn’t experienced the everyday physical affection we all take for granted (like the embarrassing hug from your parents). This brings me to Juliette’s parents who we never meet but who, we’re told, are probably the cruelest people I’ve ever read about in fiction (including Voldemort…yup. Even the guy who’s name we can’t say). They’re cruel through their total and complete lack of parental love that’s expected of parents to the point where readers develop a strong empathy towards Juliette which, again, Mafi has done so well.
Another terrible, cruel and twisted character is Warner. Warner is his last name (and we’ve been assured in the sequel, Unravel Me, that we’ll get to learn his first name) and he’s the leader of a particular sector for the Reestablishment thanks to his high ranking father. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding his background (more specifically his mother) and he’s just…insane. Seriously. I’m not using the word lightly. He has this twisted love for Juliette that has the reader doubting the sincerity behind it but not the scary…dependence? control? intensity? attached to it. He’s the one that gets Juliette out of the asylum early in order to use her deadly touch as a weapon against the rebels.
Another character that must be mentioned is Adam. The good looking/childhood friend/soldier who is the only one (outside of Warner) that can touch Juliette and it’s no surprise that they fall for each other. Even though it was expected, what made this relationship good was that A) he fell in love with her when they were kids and not in a short time frame (the so-action-intense-that-a-relationship-doesn’t-make-any-sense-right-now-in-this-particular-moment-in-time) type of situation as well as B) Juliette has never touched another person (without killing them) before which makes sense why she would want to jump his bones or make out with him at the worse possible moment (not that they do…in the worse possible moment I mean). I would too if it were Adam *whistling inappropriately*.
I can’t forget about Kenji who is the comedic relief of this dystopian novel. I honestly believe that you need at least one Kenji in a book that is really intense or depressing in order to provide variety and to avoid putting your reader on anti-depressives. This guy was my favourite character in the book by far.
So overall, this story was a good read. It had a great plot, a unique style of first person writing and diverse characters (both ethnically and psychologically). It doesn’t really evoke strong emotions from me outside of the sympathy/sadness I feel for Juliette or the hilarious dialogue from Kenji. Even then Kenji’s humor stands out more than Juliette’s agony. I can’t say that I’m completely invested in Juliette as a character but I am invested in the other characters in the book like James, Adam and Kenji.
So I’ve realized throughout the course of writing this review that: I’m insane, would like to make out with one of the characters from the book and placed loveless parents of Juliette higher on the cruelty scale than Lord Voldemort. Yup, that sounds about right. I’d give this book a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Thanks for the read. Hope you’ll catch my next review.
Keep on reading,
A. A. Omer
The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.