Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Review: SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me, Tahereh Mafi, HarperTeen
"You can't touch me," I whisper.
I'm lying, is what I don't tell him.
He can touch me, is what I'll never tell him.
But things happen when people touch me.
Strange things.
Bad things.
No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.
But Juliette has plans of her own.
After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.
SHATTER ME is a first-person narrative from Juliette, a seventeen-year-old girl from an Orwellian future, who is locked in solitary confinement to protect others from her lethal touch. Now really, if that fact alone doesn't grab you, I doubt anything in this review will convince you otherwise, but I'll try.
According to Juliette, her lethal touch (she causes excruciating pain and eventual death in whomever she touches) has been with her since she was an infant, causing a lifetime of alienation and isolation. She is treated either as a freak or a nonentity, both at home and at school, culminating in her solitary confinement after she accidentally touches and kills a stranger.

264 days later, she is given a roommate, a smokin' hot boy named Adam. Eventually, we learn that Adam is a face from her past, and it's no accident that he was placed in Juliette's cell. As the story unfolds, Mafi, through Juliette, tosses us other tantalizing details, such as descriptions of the Big Brother-esque ruling class called The Reestablishment, whose local leader, Warner, is responsible for arresting and confining Juliette.

Warner is also the one who releases Juliette (into his own custody, of course) and tries to persuade her to use her power for the good of The Reestablishment. In his own way, Warner is smokin' as well (isn't that always the way?), but he dreams of power and control, even as he seems to crave Juliette's company for her own sake and yearn for a way to show his new captive how thrilling power over others can be.

So now Juliette has to choose - Adam or Warner? Established power or rebellion? Her choice would be easier if she knew whom she could trust, including herself.

Juliette is a nutcase, and I love her for it, and I love Mafi for letting Juliette find her voice. The prose is distinctive with its stream-of-consciousness, rambling careful wording, babbling fears, and obsession with numbers. The book is her journal, her thoughts as things happen, and as quickly as the thoughts come tumbling out she goes back and carefully edits herself, allowing us a look at things her character would truly never say but would still think. These edits, as well as Juliette's fixation on numbers and counting, are her attempt to control herself and her world, or at least what little she can, as she never can control the power of her touch except through isolation. When a voice is true and consistent, I find myself thinking with that voice long after I've walked away from the book, and Juliette was in my head from start to finish.

Warner is probably the second-most fascinating character. He's the villain, the Hyde to Juliette's well-meaning Jekyll, but Mafi allows him moments of humanity that lend him a depth that Adam lacks. Optimist that I am, I would be thrilled if he found his own (at least partial) redemption by the end of the trilogy, but I will nevertheless be happy to follow him down his crooked path wherever it may lead.

Overall, Mafi receives solid marks for this story. The premise is interesting and the story is addicting, even if the ending falters into somewhat familiar territory. For those who enjoy the angsty, pathos-ridden, somewhat unrealistic romance found in Twilight, this book is for you. I am not one of them, but I will wait for the sequel with interest for the sake of Juliette, the fascinating little freak superhero.

Points Added For: Unique voice, addicting storyline, flawed baddie, twitchy protagonist, wisecracking sidekick, a touching twist!

Points Subtracted For: Unrealistic romance timeline, too-true lover, stereotypical malevolent parents, love triangle, poor cover art (That's supposed to be Juliette? Are you joking?).

Good For Fans Of: Twilight, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, Divergent by Veronica Roth, lovers of angsty teen romance.

Notes For Parents: The following book contains moderate amounts of violence, poor teen choices, and at least one makeout scene.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide