When Shatter Me was first released, I was desperate for it. I stalked it for months before release but couldn’t afford to purchase a copy. Finally, finally, some lovely person sent me a RAK… then I took more than a year to read it, obviously. And was it worth the wait? Was it everything I’d hoped and dreamed of?
Nope, absolutely not.
Plot summary: I have a curse. I have a gift. I’m a monster. I’m more than human. My touch is lethal. My touch is power. I am their weapon. I will fight back.
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. In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a riveting dystopian world, a thrilling superhero story, and an unforgettable heroine.
It’s not great. Or even ‘good,’ really. Maybe it suffered under the weight of my heavy expectations, but I didn’t like the style, story, ending, characters or prose. In short, it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it really!
The first thing I noticed is how gimmicky Shatter Me is. It has some interesting ideas, like how Juliette counts (objects, seconds, breaths) to pass the time in her cell, a habit which carries through into her narrative. It’s written in the first person, as though you were actually in her head, and she’s very flighty, jumpy and indecisive. To demonstrate this,
strikethroughs are sometimes used to demonstrate how she changes her mind over and over during the space of just a few seconds.
Both these are great ideas that add a certain uniqueness to the story… but enough is enough. They go on far, far too long. Using actual numbers (4 instead of ‘four,’ for example) will always look out of place in the middle of a paragraph and will completely break my concentration, however much you want to emphasise that the girl likes to count. We get it. Shut up.
The strikethroughs are actually more irritating and persist much longer. They’re not even part of the normal font; instead, they’ve gone to special effort to make it look handwritten. I completely agree that it adds to the manic tone and it fits Juliette’s character, but again, it breaks the flow and isn’t really necessary.
To me these two ideas summarise the essence of the book – gimmicky and difficult to focus upon.
The problem is, I understand the author is going for a stream of consciousness, babbling narrative, but I really struggled to read it. I ended up skimming even when I tried to pay attention. It’s written in a way that doesn’t require much skill at all – any flaws in your writing will be camouflaged by the surrounding ‘quirky’ errors. Seriously, use commas. It’s not hard.
Coincidentally, whilst I was reading this, I discovered the meaning of the phrase ‘purple prose,’ which apparently means ‘written prose that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.’ I swear those words were created for Shatter Me. It book tries so hard to sound arty and special that it ends up at the expense of coherence.
I don’t know if I’ve actually spoken or if I’m actually still sitting here or if I’m actually 14 years old all over again all over again all over again and I’m screaming and dying and diving into a pool of memories I never ever ever ever ever
I can’t seem to forget
I saw her at the grocery store. Her legs were standing crossed at the ankles, her child was on a leash she thought he thought was a backpack. She thought he was too dumb/too young/too immature to understand that the rope tying him to her wrist was a device designed to trap him in her uninterested circle of self-sympathy. She’s too young to have a kid, to have these responsibilities, to be buried by a child who has needs that don’t accomodate her own. Her life is so incredibly unbearable so immensely multifaceted too glamorous for the leashed legacy of her loins to understand.
There are no typos in the above quote. In my opinion, books can be arty and with beautiful prose… or not. Either way is fine, but mixing the two just doesn’t work. You can’t have a simple, fun story narrated by a babbling teenager (which isn’t a bad thing, before you call me a snob), but then remove grammar and introduce enough flowery metaphors to drown Shakespeare. It does not work.
I also need to talk about the ending. It’s awful. Now, I’m the first to complain when people whine that such-and-such book has ‘like totally ripped off’ some other book/TV show/movie/whatever. There are a limited amount of stories around and sometimes there will be similarities.
Great. But Shatter Me IS X-Men. We’re not talking an odd likeness here and there. Juliette is alone and daren’t touch anybody and has therefore never loved. She ends up finding a whole bunch of friends just like her (but everybody has different powers) in a secret school/laboratory and they all run around in odd wetsuit-type costumes.
I want to bang my head against the desk SO HARD.
END OF SPOILERY RANT
Basically and concludingly, Shatter Me tries way too hard. I get what it was trying to do, but there are too many gimmicks and the ‘purple’ writing style just doesn’t work. It feels like the second book in a series, I think, not the first – as if the Revolution (or whatever) has already happened and she’s already been captured. It’s different from most other YA dystopian novels in that respect, at least. But the end result is that I feel like I’m missing a connection to Juliette and the story, as it just couldn’t hold my interest at all.
It doesn’t help that the ending is so different from the tone of the rest of the book and it was laughably ridiculous. It’s unlikely that I’ll read the rest of the series because I just don’t see it could go that I could be interested in.