Review. Tahereh Mafi, Unravel Me

It was Freud who first told us that human beings are driven towards things that bring us pleasure. Later on in his teachings, he corrected this and said that sometimes people do things that don’t bring them pleasure, rather the opposite. Why go watch a horror movie or take a ride on a rollercoaster if not that we find something in things non-pleasurable. As such, I find myself reading series in their whole, even if I didn’t like the first book. One such series, is the Touching Juliette trilogy. Though I disliked Shatter Me a whole lot, I still read the sequel. Alas, if this series were a rollercoaster, the front cover of Shatter Me was the top and it’s only downhill from there..
Warning: spoilery rant below.

tick
tick
tick
tick
it’s almost
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

Unravel Me picks up where Shatter Me came to its conclusion and sees Juliette ready to begin her training in Omega Point. While Juliette and her new comrades are training for their war against the Reestablishment, Warner is out to hunt her and get her back in his life. All the while, Juliette and Adam are trying their best to make things work between them, without her killing him with an all too eager kiss…
Being the second book in a trilogy, this book was pretty lame, even by middle-book standards. This is quite a big book with an awful nothing happening. For about three quarters, Omega Point – and more specifically Juliette – is training for the oncoming war. However, on page, there is almost no training happening. Instead, the book displays everything between training sessions, ranging from Juliette sulking and complaining to Juliette lusting after Adam. Even the action sequences are watered down by Juliette drooling over Warner, and this isn’t helped by the latter’s arrival at Omega Point. It’s pretty clear where the focus lies in this series. The longest chapter in this book is right before the conclusion and consists of twenty pages steamy almost-sex between Juliette and Warner. It became frustrating to the point that I wanted Juliette to get it over with and hook up with either of them, just for her to get rid of all that bottled up lust.
twenty pages steamy almost-sex between Juliette and Warner
It wasn’t really helping that the romantic subplot – although subplot is stretching the truth a bit since this is what the trilogy is all about, set in a dystopian society on the brink of a war – constantly dragged her to and from either of the guys. Tiresome, really, especially when every single reveal concerning Adam and Warner takes this plot a step closer to the big cliché it already is. The introduction of Warner’s father as a new antagonist also merely serves the romantic plot. Cause whereas Warner used to come across as a psychopath in Shatter Me, Mafi did everything in her power to make him likeable and as much a victim as Juliette in this sequel. Introduce brutal tough-love father? Check! Include hard upbringing? Check! Tender moment with puppy? Oh yes!
In terms of character, not much changes from the first book in the trilogy. Juliette is even more whiny and can’t seem to find a balance between overthinking her every thought and impulsively reacting to whatever is happening around her. It also puzzles me why people see her as a strong character? She can rivel Bella Swan in terms of weakness…
Adam and Warner are still mostly there for the sake of maintaining the love triangle. Captured the baddie who’s after your most prized soldier? Sure, let them alone for hours upon hours cause she is the only one who can get through to him. No matter that there are tons of others with special abilities who can coax the needed information out of him. Don’t they have a mindreader or something like that? Guess not, cause that would mean that there’s no need for Juliette and Warner to be alone.
Conveniently, every other character seems to have the needed abilities. When the final chapters of Shatter Me introduced Omega Point and its X-Men inhabitants, things seemed to clear up cause the original X-Men do have cool abilities. None of that there, cause all the abilities displayed fit perfectly in the plot. Need to raid some storage facilities? Let’s use our human transporter! Need to be sneaky? Our invisible guy can project his invisibility! I can’t help but feel that this reads like a recipe, where you know what you want in the end and use the exact ingredients you need to get there. Everything else is dismissed.
Tender moment with puppy? Oh yes!

Development of the side characters is one of those things that don’t fit in the mix that makes up Unravel Me. Whether Omega Point-member or Reestablishment, cardboard is what you get. Seeing this, it puzzles me why Kenji comes up as a favourite character, let alone one of the most funny characters in YA-literature for some. If being rude for the sake of being rude gets you there, well… Kudos to Kenji but I found him to be funny nor great. Also, while I have no problem with swearwords, using profanities just for the sake of it, is not the way to make a character cool or fun. The other new characters are simply forgettable. There were twin-nurses, a pseudo-shrink and a coffee-addict. But the latter two might have been one and the same.
The writing, however, did improve. There are still way too many metaphors and hyperboles than one should be legally permitted to use, but the purple is toned down and that’s a good thing. The same goes for the strike-outs. Still too many and too gimmicky, but we’re getting there. One thing that didn’t improve and irked enormously, is the use of numerals instead of writing the numbers fully. Sentences like “I’ve been here for 2 weeks now” just don’t sit well with me. Not only that, in my opinion, the writing just does not fit the novel at all. Is it just me, or are there others who think that, in a world on the brink of total destruction, where birds don’t fly and food is scarce, where war is raging and people are merely slaves to the system, all those metaphors just don’t fit at all? I don’t mean to imply that the writing needs to be completely barren, but it doesn’t come across as believable to me that Juliette’s every other thought consists of poetic language. Even more so, at one point she refers to something as not being a wellness centre. How on earth does she know what that is? While the overly poetic writing not fitting the story is just a minor issue, the characters using words and similes that don’t have a place in their world – at all – is just wrong. At that point, it’s not Juliette speaking anymore but rather the author.

While Shatter Me was not up my alley, I still read Unravel Me. Not a lot has changed to make me change my mind about the Touching Juliette-trilogy and even though these books are far from good in my opinion, I still find some pleasure in reading them. It’s strange, cause the plot and characters annoy me to bits, but I still want to continue to know how it will all wrap up.


Unravel the metaphors that don’t belong!

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3 thoughts on “Review. Tahereh Mafi, Unravel Me

  1. Hahaha, I completely COMPLETELY understand what you mean regarding Freud. On a very superficial level, the tendency reminds me of Lacanian jouissance (though it’s been years since I read Lacan so my definition of it might be a bit slippery).

    I both loved and hated Shatter Me. Sort of loved reading it and loved hating it. I don’t know. I enjoyed the writing, to an extent, but to hear that the writing improved inclines me to give this a go. Maybe I’ll save this for one of those moods/days. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, it is the Lacanian jouissance. If I remember correctly, Lacan elaborated on the Freudian ideas and worked them through.

      Yes, well.. Saving it for those days seems like a good idea. I read the first one, hated this one and couldn’t finish the third. And when I say that the writing improved, it’s like going from zero to one out of ten, so to speak.. Oh the time I’ve wasted on these books..

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      • Oh good, I haven’t forgotten then! You’re right. My Sociology professor talked a great deal about Marcuse, Zizek and Lacan because he looooooved Freud, so I can confirm that, heheh.

        HAHA ah okay I get you now. Well since I too am prone to such reading habits, I might try it regardless. I think reading these books are a bit cathartic to read. A good rant about a bad book is good for the soul sometimes.

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