Shatter Me is the first in the Shatter Me trilogy, a series that was incredibly popular a few years back. It’s still fairly popular among the teen fantasy lit readers. There are plenty of similar series out there, but I’ve had this particular one on the radar for a long time due to the number of reviews and I was quite excited to get to it. Harper Collins | November, 2011 | Kindle Edition | 357 pp
It’s a future world that has succumbed to environmental destruction. The weather patterns change in the blink of an eye, the crops no longer grow, animals are dying off, the sky is devoid of birds, and the economy has tanked. In the wake of global disaster, the fascist Reestablishment has taken over and promised to right the wrongs, clean up the planet, and return the good life to its people. Instead, they kill, turn people into slaves, and keep all of the wealth for the few with guns.
The book opens with young Juliette in prison where she’s been for almost a year. In this dystopian world, some people have been altered. Juliette can kill with a touch and she hates herself for it. Her parents have given her to the Reestablishment after she accidentally killed a toddler she was trying to help. In the asylum, she hasn’t spoken to anyone in months and she waits to die while hearing the screams coming from torture rooms.
But one day a young man is pushed into her cell, a new cellmate. His name is Adam and he’s covered in tattoos. At first, he seems cruel – taking her bed and sheets. But after she shows him the ropes he warms up to her. She ignores him, but not really. As she writes in her diary over and over, we learn that she knows this boy. He had been with her at school, and he used to be a friend.
It was a sham and Adam is one of the guards assigned to spy on her, make sure she can work with others. Brought out of solitary, Juliette is brought to Warner, the young leader of his sector. Warner is fascinated with Juliette and wants her to be by his side, using her powers to interrogate, torture and kill. And it’s the last thing she wants to do. She fights him at every opportunity.
Things change when she has a moment alone with Adam and he lets her in on the truth. He surreptitiously joined the service to look for her. And he had plans to help her escape.
I have to admit, I was severely disappointed. There are three main issues for me: 1) The plot holes. Juliette talks about her mother and father suddenly realizing her ability to kill with a touch. What about when she was born? Didn’t her parents ever pick her up? Did her mother ever nurse her or kiss her goodnight? No mention was made if her lethal touch was a spontaneous development or if she had always been deadly. Perhaps it will be covered in the next books. 2) The insta-love. I don’t care how you spin it, sudden mad love never works for me. In this case, they were old friends and the passion exploded upon seeing each other for the first time again. Just no. 3) The writing style. For much of this book, especially in the beginning, Juliette repeats words over and over and there are run-on sentences without commas or proper punctuation. I understand that this was an attempt to illustrate Juliette’s fractured state of mind, but it bothered me.
There were some cool moments that I didn’t expect such as the sudden display of Juliette’s other gifts without warning.
However, her ‘superpowers’ and the combination of the end reveal turned this series into a watered-down version of the X-men where Juliette plays Rogue. Juliette’s persona mimics that of Rogue so much (kills with a touch, wanting to be touched but can’t, wanting to be rid of her powers, wanting to be normal, hating herself, etc.) that I have to wonder about the lack of originality.
Shatter Me is the first in an X-Men style dystopia with a jarring writing style to reflect inner turmoil, a style that won’t work for many. I didn’t hate the book. I was just underwhelmed. I still plan on reading the next two in the series and I’ll be hoping for the best.
by Tahereh Mafi