Review. Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

I’m always looking for new books and series to read, for I love discovering hidden gems. If that book manages to stand out in one way or another, it’s even better. When I heard about the Touching Juliette-trilogy, I didn’t feel the need to read it right away – cause to be honest, the series title, Touching Juliette, doesn’t bide well for the content between its covers. However, I heard that the writing should be superb and poetic, so when I came across it in the library, I decided to give it a go. Looking back on my reading experience with Shatter Me, I can only say that if this book was written in 1984, Prince would have sung about Purple Prose rather than Purple Rain.

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.

Plotwise, the premise of Shatter Me isn’t half bad. The trick is to act upon it rather than let it go to waste. Alas, it’s the latter that happened. The plot isn’t moving in a direction that’s particularly interesting and the focus is more on dressing Juliette up in all kinds of fancy dresses and moving towards a love triangle. Funny how YA-literature handles the romance. First off, it seems as if a book isn’t complete without any sort of romance and once the romance is there, it’s almost always has to be a triangle. Is it just me, or does the fact that there are two guys lusting after the same girl and said girl lusting after both of those guys, a complete fiction. Funny enough, the love interests tend to be the complete opposites of each other, so as not to alienate a whole bunch of readers to make the protagonist’s choice even more heartbreaking. While I think the triangle-stuff is a bit overdone, it’s not a complete turn-off if done well. Alas, Juliette has a big case of the insta-love. Never mind that she knew Adam before, from what she told it barely counts as a foundation for any kind of love besides infatuation. Her relationship with Warner is not only a case of the insta-love, but also adds a big spoon of Stockholm-syndrome into the mix. This is one big saccharine-overload. The titbits of action nor the ‘big reveal’ a.k.a. ‘this book is an X-Men knock-off’ manages to salvage what’s left of it.
this book is an X-Men knock-off
The lack of redemption lies for a part with the characters who are completely unbelievable. Juliette, for starters, has to be one of the most annoying protagonists I’ve ever come across. She’s constantly whining and downplaying herself and has so much self-pity she can build a new world upon it. Not only that, she’s also incapable of accepting a compliment and thus becomes frustratingly annoying whenever she speaks or thinks even a single thought. Was she supposed to be a strong heroine? Perhaps I read another book, cause Juliette to me is far from whom everybody seems to be talking about… One of the things I heard people applaud her for, is for her strong will by not accepting the food. Fine, swell. Then explain to me how a girl, deprived from any form of healthy natural light, oxygen and food, for more than a year, appears to be beautiful with luscious and wavy hear and is so strong. Oh well… Funny how, once released, Juliette becomes a horny teen lusting after either Adam or Warner. Both aren’t that much of a character either. One is a sick psychopath lusting after Juliette and the other also is occupied with Juliette. So much for character development.
metaphorical overkill is a bit overwhelming
Which brings me to the writing. Presented as original and poetic, I find it gimmicky and convoluted. At first, the strike-outs are a nice touch, but the novelty of it quickly fades and turns into a gimmick. Whereas this technique could have been interesting in deepening Juliette as a character, it’s mainly used to convey Juliette’s lustful feelings towards Adam. The writing as a whole also doesn’t fit the story. The world is supposed to be a bleak and barren place and Juliette’s situation is never more than iffy, yet the writing never brings that across. On the contrary, the pages are filled with metaphor upon metaphor, one even more silly than the other. The metaphorical overkill is a bit overwhelming, but once you learn to look through it, it’s nothing more but a device used to mask the lack of plot or character growth. If purple prose didn’t already exist, it would have found it’s origins with Shatter Me.

The one thing almost all of the positive reviews are adamant about, it’s the writing, which is supposed to be this stellar piece of brilliance and poetic achievement. However, not even the best paint can completely hide huge cracks in the wall, and when those cracks are at the foundation – the plot and the characters – not even all the metaphors in the world can fix that one up.
In the end, I can understand why some might enjoy this book a lot, but unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I want more than some convoluted pretty writing and gimmicky witty strike-outs centred around an love triangle, but that book is not Shatter Me.

Buy your metaphors here.

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