Shatter Me (series) by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter MeTahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me trilogy is a YA series which pushes some interesting boundaries. It is one of the many that were added to my ‘to-read’ list after seeing it popping up on my tumblr feed all the time in people’s photos and posts. Looking at reviews online, the first book alone is one that has polarized readers on the basis of writing style.  I had high expectations of it when I started and was tempted to give up after the first book. However, I am very glad that I persevered and got to the end.

What it’s about:

Shatter Me is about a girl who has the power to kill people with her touch. Juliette is sweet and innocent and lives in fear of her ability. She is locked up and in a psych ward, abandoned by her family, friendless and alone. Her mind is a strange and garbled place.

Juliette has been locked up and alone for 264 days. Then, she gets a cellmate. Not just any cellmate. An extremely attractive boy who seems oddly familiar. Adam. He is expecting her to be crazy. She is expecting him to be crazy.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that she doesn’t stay locked up in a cell with an attractive boy who she can’t touch for the entire series. She is released into the care of Warner, the commander of Sector 4 where they live. Warner has become obsessed with Juliette and her unique ability and wishes to train her as a means of torturing any who oppose The Reestablishment (the government of this dystopia). Juliette, who is terrified of hurting anyone, is naturally opposed to this. But what choice does she have?

Things I Found Interesting:

There are a number of things I found really fascinating about this series. The first is the narrative style. We experience Juliette’s story from a first person narrative in her own perspective. As mentioned earlier, her mental state is not one of complete wellness. Therefore, the damaged state of her mind comes through in her narrative. There are a lot of numbers. She counts things. The descriptive language is overblown and exaggerated – sometimes it hits a note of being poetic but a lot of the time it’s confusing. Her thoughts often run together un-punctuated and she repeat words seemingly arbitrarily.

Initially I wondered if it was just in need of a ruthless edit, or if the copy I’d bought was outdated and unedited somehow, then I wondered if it was purposeful and for effect. I couldn’t figure it out. But I continued reading because I wanted to know more. I needed answers!

What I concluded, after reading the series, is that this is an intentional decision of the author as a means of illustrating Juliette’s transition from a broken human to someone who has been healed both mentally and physically. With each book, the control on language becomes more consistent. In addition to this the two novellas published to bridge between the books in the trilogy are written very well and show a stark contrast between the state of Warner, Adam, and Juliette. The implications of this are rather sad though, as neither Warner or Adam have had particularly glossy lives. It shows how much Juliette has suffered that she would become so broken. I think it would have been more sensible to have the three perspectives woven into all the books to make this contrast more of a built in aspect of each book rather than something you have to figure out. But that’s just me.

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Another thing I found interesting about this series is the journey of self discovery Juliette goes on and how she learns to recognize and accept herself for who she is. Part of this journey is to do with what love is and I really liked the way she learns to value those who love her for who she truly is, rather than who she has appeared to be. I like this message because I think that too many people accept love from someone who isn’t right for them simply because they are so starved of love that they take whatever they can get.

Now is probably a good time to note that this books isn’t really appropriate for younger readers due to some of the more steamy scenes. While it’s understandable that someone who has craved human touch for so many years and suddenly is able to touch someone would get carried away, it does get a bit much and definitely takes over from more important aspects of the story.

An issue I have with the book is related to Warner. SPOILERS… Skip this paragraph if you haven’t read the whole series yet. Warner is probably my favourite character in the series. You love to hate him in the first book; you see his humanity when the first novella ‘Destroy Me’ which is told from his perspective. But when it comes down to it, he represents the ‘bad boy’ archetype and the relationship he ends up in seems to give the idea that someone everyone believes is a bad person who should be avoided could actually be your true love. I take issue with this because I don’t think it’s a good message for young and impressionable minds to be given. It’s too appealing because of course it contains the shred of truth that all people have some good in them.

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Overall Verdict:

Anyway, overall I like these books. The language experimentation may put off readers who need everything to be perfectly executed in terms of how sentences are constructed and whether numbers are written as words and how often words are crossed out.  However, I admire Mafi for trying something new and giving people something to talk about. It sets her apart from other dystopian YA novels with a white teenage girl who is beautiful and troubled but has a special ability which makes her perfect to make a difference in their society and just happens to have two boys to choose from too.

I definitely recommend this series. It’s a really quick and light read with some thought provoking content. I give it a 3/5 rating, only because I did struggle to get through the first book!

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6 thoughts on “Shatter Me (series) by Tahereh Mafi

    • It’s definitely a really cool series. It seems that some readers absolutely love it and others don’t. After the first book I was reading passages I thought were ridiculous out loud to my sister to see what she thought, but by the end I was a fan. Let me know what you think when you do read it! I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

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  1. Alecia! says:

    You were right, you were too easy on her writing! I think I can look past the fan-fiction-esque style but I find most of the characters really problematic, and it felt a lot of the time she was just creating scenarios that would be ‘heated’ or ‘sexy’ so that people on tumblr could quote them. And they do… by the chapter number. Its almost a young mills and boone in that respect, or similar to the love fuelled world of twilight. No real world building, just conversations with potential love interests. The ‘super powers’ twist was a nice change, but was ultimately used to create or destroy relationships. And you’re right in a way about Warner, it was interesting to see someone ‘evil’ turn out not to be so bad. However, it sets such a bad example to young adults/young girls that read this. It teaches that a ‘bad guy’ can turn it around and convince the person that he has physically and mentally abused that he had the right intentions. I get that she was trying to throw a curve ball but its not the best example to lead by. I would recommend reading The Selection as there are stronger and more complex female characters, and the love triangle is a bit more realistic, even though the story itself is kind of insane. You can draw a lot of parallels with these two series so I think it would be a good next read and doesn’t have so many hyperboles and exaggerated remarks like “I die all over the floor” lol.

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    • Yeah, I definitely think the descriptive language is overblown. I still think that if she’d had alternating perspectives for different chapters (like Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking novels) it would have significantly improved the series. There would have been less crazy descriptions because that’s mostly Juliette, there would be more understanding of the complexities of the two guys and Warner would be less of a villain. I think my opinion of her writing would have been different without the two novellas because I liked her style of writing much better there. I kinda wonder if she wrote them for that purpose?! And point definitely taken on the heated and sexy scenarios. Makes it a bit awks to recommend to my school students! I will definitely read The Selection as you suggest! Sounds like a good follow up! Thanks!

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