Unravel Me is the second in Mafi’s Shatter Me series, a young adult dystopia filled with science fiction, paranormal powers, and bittersweet romance. This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series in case you have this one still on your to-read list. Harper Collins | Kindle Edition | 2013 | 480 pp
In this futuristic world, the planet has finally fallen victim to over population, deforestation, pollution, et al. Hardly able to sustain food production, the world has nearly become a wasteland, and the global Reestablishment has taken control of the world to rectify the situation. But it is a ruthless dictatorship which kills at will and has turned people into slaves controlled by men in jackboots, men with machine guns. In Shatter Me, Juliette was being held in an asylum/torture center. She has a special gift that she hates – she can kill with a touch. When the leader of her Sector takes special interest in her (Warner), and removes her from isolation, it gives one of his troopers (an old friend) the chance to break her out and bring her to the rebellion. Juliette and Adam fall head over heels in love for each other, a passion that grows when it is revealed that Adam has the ability to touch her without dying. Naturally.
In Unravel Me, Juliette is safe deep underground at Omega Point (a rebellion headquarters) along with Adam, Kenji (another trooper who was a plant by the rebellion), and Adam’s younger brother. When she felt relief at first, Juliette retreats back into herself. She still feels like a danger to others and she thinks everyone is scared of her. She’s not doing so well training and learning to control her abilities, and she can’t figure out how to duplicate her super strength that she had exhibited in times of duress. And when Adam is tested to understand why he can touch her and survive, it is revealed that he has the ability to turn other powers off, but it takes energy to do so. With his guard down, he could get hurt by Juliette.
After nearly taking out the compound in uncontrolled rage (an accidental burst), Kenji tells her to get over herself and redirect her energy to saving people’s lives and the rebellion. She pushes Adam away (to protect him – New Moon, anyone?) and works on becoming part of the team. Juliette fast becomes a reliable and formidable component to their team, able to make huge dents in the Reestablishment army.
After four of their members are taken hostage by the Reestablishment, Juliette is summoned to meet by the Supreme Commander of the Reestablishment in North America, Warner’s father, for a prisoner exchange. She goes with backup, nearly kills this Supreme Commander, and Kenji takes Warner hostage. Warner’s relationship with Juliette changes at Omega Point and we see a completely different side of him, a side that has been abused by his father his whole life, and a side who is sincerely in love with Juliette. The leaders at Omega Point decide to let Warner become a member of the rebellion since he also has powers – but this decision might be their undoing.
So – here comes the love triangle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a juicy love triangle, but with anyone but Warner. Warner and his father are depicted as Nazis, straight down to the Aryan looks, jackboots, and sadistic tenancies. Now we see Warner away from his father and safe from the demands of the Reestablishment. He likens himself to Juliette after reading her journal since her thoughts revolved around people being afraid of her. He has the ability to sense people’s emotions and knew that most everyone was afraid of him. He was abused by his father and was forced into doing bad things. But this kid, this MAN, is responsible for murdering who-knows-how-many people, and even tortured a toddler in the previous book (terribly). I understand the guy has issues, I understand that he is broken – but his previous actions should be too much for anyone to look over in support of romance, especially when Adam is right there!
Sure, Adam seems to be falling apart but he’s the reason Juliette is safe. She betrays him over and over again in Unravel Me, emotionally and physically, and I found it infuriating. He needs support and reassurance, but Juliette is incapable of extending this small measure – yet she says she loves him.
Aside from my personal preferences in the romance department, Unravel Me felt a lot stronger than its precursor. A lot less rambling and a lot more plot/character build up. I look forward to more Kenji, the fun-loving, dependable, and completely rational character who moves from comedian to the voice of reason when needed.
On to Ignite Me!
by Tahereh Mafi