Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Posted January 2, 2012 by Renae // 7 Comments

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

First of all—the cover. I realize the cover has nothing to do with the actual book, but it’s a very nice cover, you must agree.

Aside from the cover, the story itself was good. It wasn’t too predictable, like so many YA books happen to be. I wouldn’t say that I was kept on my toes, but I didn’t guess what was going to happen the second I finished the first chapter. I liked that. If you know what’s going to happen, why even bother to read? So that was a big plus.

I liked the characters a lot as well. They were all charming and fun to read about. Adam is a swoon-worthy leading man, and Warner is a bad guy who I think has a bit more depth than your average villain (I’ll will look forward to reading more about him in the sequel). Juliette herself wasn’t my favorite character, as far as female progatonists go, but she wasn’t horrid or dull or stupid, and I liked being inside her head.But the best thing about this was the writing. It was fantastic, absolutely amazing. It reminds me of Lauren DeStefano’s style, only I think Mafi’s goes beyond that and brings something more to the table. Every sentence was an image, every paragraph a metaphor, especially in the beginning. As the plot progressed, Mafi’s prose got a bit lighter on the imagery, just by necessity of keeping the action moving. But it still showed up.

One very intersting aspect of Mafi’s writing was the strikethrough text. I’ve never seen that in a book, and though at times it was distracting for me, I thought it was a lovely touch on the whole.

I could not find the locale used in the beginning—the insane asylum—to be believable. This sounds like a trivial detail, but in the long run I think it’s important. The asylum is where Mafi chose to open her book, and as far as world-building goes, I don’t think she did a good job here.

Mostly my issue my the asylum is with the “shower scene” described in chapter 3. I have a hard time believing that, even when the world is in chaos, a government institution like a hospital would function the way it was described. Opening all the prisoners’ cells at one time to let them find their way through a pitch-black maze of hallways to the showers? Not even realistic. Who in their right mind, if they wanted to keep control, would let a bunch of “disturbed” kids roam around a dark building with no idea where they are or what exactly it is they’re looking for? This sounds like a romantic plot device to get our two love interests alone together in the dark. Unimpressive.

However, my real issue with this book was Juliette’s character. Self-loathing does not make for a good plot. I can only put up with so much “woe-is-me-I-killed-a-person” and “I’m-so-isolated-from-everything” and “my-parents-hated-me.” It gets old. And it’s hard to have a strong female lead who thinks she’s worthless and should just die to save other people. The only thing that made Juliette’s character palatable was the fact that she snapped out of her woebegone self-loathing. Mind you, it happened in the second-to-last chapter. But it happened, so I forgive her.

This was a fantastic read! It’s only my second YA dystopian novel, but if there are others out there like this one, I see the appeal. Mafi’s brilliant writing was the big seller here, but in most respects it was a very good debut.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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7 responses to “Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

  1. All of the strikethroughs were so, so distracting for me at first. I almost put this book down because of it, but I’m glad that I didn’t. I did come to enjoy the style of writing quite a lot.

    Warner was such a good Bad Guy! I enjoyed his character immensely, to the point that the thought of him not being in the next book kind of crushed me.

  2. @ Eden: Strikethroughs were awful at first! Especially since there were so many of them in the first few chapters. I had to stop and figure out exactly what Juliette was trying to say, then I had to re-read.

    And Warner was soooo fantastic. I really hope he’s in the next book. Maybe they’ll redeem him—except I think that would somewhat ruin him.

    Totally excited for the next one!

  3. The writer’s style is most certainly unique, and quite powerful when properly harnessed, but oh my word, the metaphors used are just too much. About 100 pages into the book, I felt like things calmed down a little. Whether this was due to me just getting used to all the dramatics, or whether this is because the writer’s power was more appropriately channeled I honestly cannot say. All I know is, the first part of the book was a bit exhausting, but once I got into it, I really liked the story, and the romance of the situation.

  4. I really liked this book! And I agree with you, the writing is beautiful. I admit I was confused at first of what this book really is about. So I was really surprised and intrigued about the outcome. I mean, come on! It’s the most exciting part of the story. This is actually the first book I read this 2012, and a great start, too! Can’t wait for Warner’s POV! Woooh! WARNER! Favorite bad guy! Ugh! Can’t October come any sooner?:)