Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shatter Me

Sometimes a book stands out for the way it is written. Though the plot of Tehereh Mafi's Shatter Me is interesting in itself, this young adult novel certainly wouldn't have the same feel written in any other style. Used once or twice, hyperbolic metaphors can be startling, providing you with an extreme picture of an otherwise mundane moment or emotion. But what if a person's thoughts were dominated by such metaphors and a book was narrated from that person's point of view? It might seem ridiculous at first, but as you continue to read and the style stays consistent, it becomes something part beautiful/part insane, which I think is what the author was going for with her main character.

Seventeen-year-old Juliette is a prisoner. She lives in isolation, abused, tormented by her past, by a murder she unwillingly committed. Juliette wonders if she might be crazy. She knows she's a monster. Her greatest desire in the world is to be touched, loved, but it's impossible. Even her parents abandoned her, a fact she tries greatly to forget. But Juliette can never forget what her own hands can do. With a mere brush of skin to skin, she can torture a person until they die, and she has no control over it.

From her cell, Juliette can see a little of the world outside, a world not much better than her own, a place where birds no longer fly, where food is scarce, where soldiers control the population, where radiation kills. It's a dystopia rising from post-apocalyptic ashes, but what Juliette doesn't know is that she could become a weapon and there are people looking for her for just that purpose. Imprisoned or "free," it seems Juliette has little choice over what she does with her own hands or life.

And then she discovers Adam, and her life will never be the same.

Although this novel contains elements that are dystopian and post-apocalyptic, with superhero and girl-power themes, it's primarily a romance. And a more steamy romance you'd be hard-pressed to find. The steam is mostly generated by the metaphors and by the sheer passion and intensity in Juliette's mind. She is a character who feels things deeply in her soul, having spent her whole life suffering from lack of touch. The author does an astounding job melding this dichotomy, making it logical in this character. You could almost say that the writing style is a manifestation of the state of Juliette's mind. A personal journal could not have captured her mind better.

(SPOILERS here.) I must say, however, that I was a little put off by the romance. Some of it is a little too much, more steam than substance. Occasionally, it makes the book begin to drag, which is all the more noticeable in a book that keeps its intensity on overdrive most of the time. Though the characters never actually have sex, it's not for want of doing so. It's more that they are interrupted. And while you could say that this keeps the book "clean," I felt like the author was just trying to create romantic tension and that she will get the sex into the story in later books, as this is the first in a series. It's kind of like in Twilight, where they don't have sex, but it's more because they are afraid of what could happen than any moral conviction. Shatter Me doesn't have any moral dilemma with the characters having sex, and in fact, if you aren't paying close attention, you might think they actually do, the descriptions of their kissing and touching being as intense as they are. But though the romance bugged me sometimes, the story wouldn't have been the same without the romantic aspect.

I was excited about where the book started going by the end, so I will definitely be checking out the sequel. But that may be awhile in coming; Shatter Me just came out in November of last year.

Four stars for a beautifully written, fast-paced (for the most part), engaging story.

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