Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: YA, paranormal, superhero, dystopia, romance
Publication Date: November 2011 (expected)
Synopsis: 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.
☆: 5/5 – a “shattering” debut that can’t be ignored!
Review: First off, thanks to HarperTeen for sending me a copy! You guys made my month with that (and have my heart forever). Now, for the review. I LOVED IT. I won’t lie, and I hope to god this gets a movie sooner rather than later. Mafi’s writing has a very cinematic quality to it without reading like a screenplay. This book had everything I wanted and hoped would be in it. This is Juliette’s search for identity after being jailed for a horrible crime she hadn’t known she was able of committing, and how it literally changes her life in a very ugly new world. I think any young adult will very easily relate to Juliette’s story, however fantastic it sounds (and is) with the questions of “Who am I, and what am I capable of?”. I know I did.
This is how paranormal stories should be told – about the journey of the protagonist (or the antagonist, but I digress), without any sub-arcs (I’m looking at you, romance) overwhelming the main plot and everything in balance. Not unlike Virgil exploring Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, Juliette explores the very real hell of her day to day life in jail and having the wild card Adam thrown in to become her Beatrice to guide her back outside of herself into the ugly world of the Reestablishment.
Now, I seriously have to give Mafi props here – she successfully wrote in romance as a natural, blossoming thing and not a rush-job or an insta-romance (just add hot guys!) like so many paranormal romances (YA or adult) do. I will admit warning bells went off in my head as soon as Adam was introduced into the equation of Juliet’s life — it seems like anything even remotely paranormal going must have a romance, as if that’s become the necessary part of the YA equation within publishing right now. And while there’s always romance somewhere going on within the YA real life sphere, it shouldn’t have to take center stage. But I digress. If anything, Mafi blew me away at every turn, giving me things I wasn’t expecting, and I love it when authors do that. I love it when stories do that. I wasn’t expecting Adam’s real identity (though I had a bit of an inkling that things weren’t as they seemed), and what happened next definitely had my attention for the rest of the book. And the best part is he’s not a huge chunk of the book, just like Beatrice does not become a serious protagonist (though this probably could be and has been argued differently) within Dante’s work. He is the guide, and like Virgil falls for Beatrice, Juliette falls for Adam. It’s slow, it’s natural, and it’s delicious.
I loved the villain and how utterly evil he was. And yet, at the same time, how utterly human – he admitted his loneliness, how he wanted Juliette as a partner not just in crime (though he did get love and power confused, the poor bastard). But at the same time, he was utterly delusional and definitely wanted to use her to his own evil ends. It seems like it’s rare that we get a traditional very evil bad guy like we got here in “Shatter Me”, and that excited me. What excited me more was seeing how she portrayed him –not just evil, but confused and human at the same time. It was delicious and I loved each awful encounter between the antagonist and Juliette.
Then there’s the previously-mentioned cinematic quality to her writing – even though a lot of what happens is stream-of-consciousness first person through Juliette’s eyes, the sensory and descriptive language that Mafi uses is so rich and sensuous that I could practically taste the horrible jail food, feel the silky material of her dresses later in the book, see everything going on around me, and hear Adam’s own strong voice whenever I dipped into reading the story. Again, this is rare, and very difficult to do especially with stream-of-consciousness writing, regardless of POV. It’s hard to do in first person POV, too, which once again screams the talent that Mafi is performing for us here as she throws Juliette through all of the flaming hoops of the Reestablishment. Absolutely scrumptious.
Finally, the superhero angle – I can definitely see an “Avengers”-esque (yeah, I just had to throw in the Joss Whedon movie mention in there) sequel coming together at the end of the book. I love superhero stories, and while it seems there are more than enough for middle grade and male YA, there aren’t a whole lot of superhero stories targeted toward female YA. I sincerely hope this changes, and I hope Mafi is the one to lead the way because she does it with style and grace that’s a wonderful surprise, considering this is her first (published) book. The end left me salivating and heavily breathing for more. You can be sure that I will be reading the sequel whenever it gets announced and then comes out.
Basically? This book lives up to the hype. Find a way to read it – buy it, get it from your library. It left me feeling empowered as a YA gal (even if I’m no longer a teen) and feeling like I could take on the world, no matter how horrible it is. It’s gorgeous, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s moving. It’s everything you could want in a book, YA or adult. So go. Read. NOW.