Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)Publisher: Harper
Publishing Date: November 15, 2011
Genre: YA, Romance, Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Paperback
Page count: 338

My rating:

4 of 5 hearts

Was this once X-Men fanfiction? I am not the only one who sees the similarities between Juliette and Rogue of X-Men fame, who could not touch another person for fear of hurting or killing them. Both are white girls with long brown hair. Both have this special deadly skin and super strength. Both have issues being unable to physically touch anyone. My knowledge of Rogue is limited to the films, but in alternative-universe fanfiction there needn’t even be this many similarities.

I wouldn’t have a problem if it was, at first, an X-Men fanfiction because as far as I know, Mafi hasn’t pulled it to publish. It’s hard to keep things hidden from the book world, and I reckon people would know. But like I said, the similarities are quite remarkable. If you like the X-Men then I think that’s a good thing!

Our heroine, Juliette, has been locked away for the good of the populace after she has hurt one too many people simply by caring and reaching out to help. Juliette is slightly crazy and craves any kind of intimacy, and Mafi demonstrates this by employing an unusual technique in traditional publishing: the strikethrough text. At first I found it annoying, but I recognise it as an important part of Juliette’s thought process and narrative, and it does ease off in the second half of the novel. Mafi also has Juliette overuse an abundance of metaphors in her narrative which, to a lot of people, simply fail. I had read reviews with excerpts of the writing (some of these reviews claim this is creative writing gone bad, etc) and I was prepared for it. In fact, in reading those excerpts I had decided that I liked Mafi’s writing; that the metaphors which are really quite strange worked for me. I did struggle early in the novel because even though I understood what I was getting in to, the metaphor use really did overwhelm me at first.

 “Hate looks just like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into the semblance of something too passive to punch.”

“He says it with a small smile the size of Jupiter.”

“Warner thinks Adam is a cardboard cutout of vanilla regurgitations.”

“His voice hugs the letters of my name so softly I die 5 times in that second.”

Everything is something else in Juliette’s eyes, and you really have to take the essence of the words to get it to make sense, not the literal meaning. It’s incredibly overdramatic, but I like that about Juliette. Mafi is also a fan of using actual numbers (4, 20, 1320) instead of the words (four, twenty, one thousand, three hundred and twenty) which really annoyed me the whole way through. That’s a stylistic touch though and it hasn’t affected the rating or even really how I feel overall about the novel. It better continue in the other novels, is all I’m going to say.

Juliette is really kind of broken. I’ve already said she’s insane, and as her mind slowly starts to rebuild itself from being locked in solitary confinement for three years (not speaking or touching anyone) we get less repetitive words and less strikethrough text. She’s also a Mary-Sue – incredibly powerful but incredibly helpless because of her good intentions, most likely to gasp and freeze in place than take action. I was desperate for her to realise that she’s actually in an incredible state of power, rather than feeling sorry for herself. All the male characters in the book (except the ten year old) express some kind of sexual desire towards her, which is icky as she’s only seventeen. She acknowledged on more than one occasion that her superpower basically protects her from being raped. There was a distinct lack of other females in the book until right at the end. Most things seemed a little too convenient for Juliette – she could access her superpowers when needed, but was otherwise overwhelmed as a good helpless damsel.

SPOILER (highlight for easier reading):

And of course, having ‘both’ love interests immune to her touch. I thought it might have something to do with the radiation, but another character was supposed to not be immune whilst having travelled there, so I think it is more something to do with the people with superpowers.

END SPOILER (PS if this spoiler tag thing works out, I might keep using it)

This book is part post-apocalyptic and part romance and a huge part of it is dedicated to the romance between childhood almost-friends Adam and Juliette (after all, who could be friends with a monster?). I quite liked Adam: he was sweet and careful and truly dedicated, with masses of self-control even though Juliette is craving to be touched and he’s a teenage boy, and quite frankly the two are intensely attracted to each other. Of course I didn’t like him at the start because he’s a bit of an arsehole, but apparently that’s how I like my romances. At least he’s not creepy and rapey like Warner, the apparent other ‘love interest’ – although how anyone could think that Juliette could be with some guy she is afraid will rape her I have no idea:

 “I can only imagine what he’d do if he had access to my body.” – Page 204.

I just don’t get it. In fact, it is hinted at when Juliette confesses to enjoying kissing him that she might develop feelings for him despite proclaiming to hate him, and I dread this. I would like to interpret Juliette’s reaction to Warner as simply because she is insane and craving any kind of intimacy, even unwelcome, forced upon intimacy with a guy she hates who wants to rape her and murder her boyfriend. But that may just be giving Juliette too much credit.

Also, the thing that Juliette does when Warner is getting too grabby? LADIES. THIS IS HOW WE HANDLE UNWELCOME SEXUAL ADVANCES. Well, maybe not literally, but it is better to fight back than to accept it because you might be rude if you refuse, or to fall in love with some creep because he won’t stop bothering you (NORA GREY, ANYONE?)

Overall, if you can get past the weird stylistic devices, the overuse of metaphors that do not, upon inspection, make total sense, and the remarkable similarities between Juliette and Rogue, then you might enjoy this, as I did.

View all my reviews


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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