Reynje's Reviews > Shatter Me

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
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's review
Jul 14, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: read-2011, young-adult, hype-o-rama
Recommended to Reynje by: The Hype-Machine
Read from November 01 to 04, 2011

About those three red stars preceding this review: it’s probably best to take them with a grain (or a handful) of salt.

Because while I eventually settled on 3 stars, I feel like I’m being simultaneously rather generous and also meanly tight-fisted. Which roughly translates to: there are things I enjoyed immensely about Shatter Me, and things that made me roll my eyes and groan, so my rating is a total cop-out.

At an unnamed point in the future, when the world appears to have gone to hell in a handbag (and doesn’t it always?), we meet Juliette alone in a cell. She hasn’t touched another person for 264 days. She is a prisoner of The Reestablishment (sinister totalitarian-type regime that has some fairly insane ideas about how the world should be run). She’s teetering on the edge of her sanity, living at some point in the middle of her past, reality and her imagination, when her jailers thrust a roommate into her cell. And the kicker? The crux of the whole story? Juliette is capable of inflicting pain, even killing, with her touch. The story escalates fairly rapidly, from the interruption of Juliette’s cell-bound musings by the arrival of her unexpected companion, to the ramifications of Juliette’s ability and the plans the Reestablishment have for her.

I’m not fond of labeling certain books “guilty pleasures”, as don’t believe in feeling guilty about reading, but I’ll go so far as say there was something indulgent about the experience of reading Shatter Me. It was entertaining, it was deliciously escapist – I ate it up in much the same manner that I did Divergent. However, if I delve too deeply beyond this shiny layer of good fun, I’d start poking enough holes in it that it might completely perforate my “like” for it.

I can’t review this book without mentioning the writing, as I’m almost certain that this is going to be a major sticking point for some readers. That Mafi seems to have a beautifully vivid imagination and an unusual artistry with her word-use, is clear. The prose of Shatter Me is riddled with metaphors and imagery. Heavy with it. Particularly during the first half of the book, Juliette/Mafi seem to speak in a language of lyrical descriptions, the literal and the symbolic pressed together into dramatic, graphic figures of speech.

But this is where it gets murky for me. I do love descriptive, lush writing. And there were certain lines and passages in Shatter Me that I appreciated for their evocative and unusual beauty. There are points where Mafi finds a striking way to express her characters’ actions and emotions, and Juliette’s stream of consciousness, that separates this book from it’s first person POV contemporaries.

But the writing in Shatter Me is so purple, its basically aubergine. There are lines that are so convoluted and thick with superfluous descriptors as to render them almost meaningless. Lines that sound pretty, but actually jerked me out of the story by forcing an abrupt “Excuse me, what?” into the flow of my reading because on occasion the metaphors simply don’t make sense. (Much like that run on sentence. Apologies).

Speaking of run-ons, Mafi frequently uses similar devices to communicate Juliette’s mental state – her panic, her indecision, her confusion. While this is occasionally effective, it can also be jarring, and it took me some time to settle into Juliette’s fractured, erratic and struck-through manner of thinking.

Shatter Me packs quite some steam, of the YA variety. There are almost more smouldering build-ups, electrifying contact (pun unintended – but rather apropos), gasping breaths and sexually charged scenes than you can shake a stick at. And while I liked the chemistry and interactions between Adam and Juliette, I can’t say I really bought their “history”. I’m not sure that the intention was achieved here, which seems to be setting up a backstory that essentially explains/excuses the apparent “instalove” development. This historical aspect of story simply didn’t feel real enough to me, or perhaps just a little too convenient.

The direction of the plot is not hugely surprising. Unlike Juliette, at no point did my jaw "fall on the floor". Yet, I did find the action sufficiently compelling, and the characters interesting enough to remain invested in the story. One of my stars is awarded because I found Shatter Me wholly absorbing while I was reading it.

This may sound strange, but the characterisation of Warner was a highlight for me. Here, I believe Mafi truly threw down (so to speak) and created a villain that was intriguingly complex; repulsive and yet oddly fascinating.

Writing this review hasn’t done much to solidify my opinion on the book – if anything – I feel more conflicted than when I started. However, while I had my personal irritations with parts of the story and the lack of restraint in terms of the writing, I won’t deny that Shatter Me did exactly what I wanted it to, which was to be entertaining.
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Reading Progress

11/02/2011 page 159
45.0% "I feel completely conflicted over this book - it's as if two sides of my brain are at war over whether I like it or dislike it." 5 comments
02/17/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 5-54)

Aly (Fantasy4eva) yay, i'm pretty excited to see what you think of this one :D

Reynje So am I! ha ha ;)

Aly (Fantasy4eva) what you think? Going to rate and review it?

Reynje Eventually :) I just read your review and I think I agree with you on almost everything! (view spoiler) I have to say that I really enjoyed reading it, but it wasn't, er, life-changing or anything ;) Know what I mean? Hopefully I'll put a review up in the next few days.

Wendy Darling Not even an early rating, eh? Tease! Oh, wait...

Reynje Well, I've been flip-flopping between ratings and haven't been able to commit myself to one yet. Also, yes, I am a tease! ha ha

I think this one falls into the Divergent category for me - in that I really enjoyed reading it and was quite entertained - but that's not say I don't have issues with it.. :)

message 48: by Jo (last edited Nov 05, 2011 05:02PM) (new)

Jo Completely unrelated note: I really wish the cover for this was better.
I think the picture itself is pretty but it doesn't seem to fit for a book.

Does it actually have anything to do with the plot?

Also, the dress looks like she's got it caught in her kecks after leaving the loo.

Hurry up and write a review, Rey!

Reynje Is that a whip I hear cracking? :)

Here's the thing with the cover - it does actually make sense, but that doesn't make me like it any more.

To explain, I like the shimmery-ness (yeah, yeah, I'm a sucker for shiny things) and the starburst-y effect is kind of 'symbolic' or illustrative of things that happen in the story. (Could I be any more vague? Sorry, trying not to spoil). Fancy dresses also make an appearance in the book - though not that particular white, loopy dress, which I fear will date terribly.

So, it actually fits the story relatively well, but to be honest, I'm just not really a fan of "girl with angsty face" on covers. I sort of wish this one had been more abstract..

message 46: by Jo (last edited Nov 05, 2011 05:16PM) (new)

Jo Hmm interesting and intriguing. :-p
I normally hate covers with people on them. They tend to be so awkward and the girls are never how I imagine the heroine.
And like you said: ANGST.

It's mostly because I'm just jealous that I will never get to wear the lovelylovely dresses.

Reynje Oh, me too - people-covers mess with my head because when I'm reading, I feel like I own the mental rights to the book, you know? Like they look the way I see them? BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Okay, crazy-person rant over.

I remember being totally taken aback by the cover reveal for this. It didn't seem to fit with the synopsis at all, and shamelessly trying to be "I'm Sparkly! Buy Me, Buy Me!". Now that I know it does fit, I'm still not enamoured. I think Shirley said it best when she called it "angry Kardashian face" or something :)

Judging by the book and Tahereh Mafi's tumblr, I think she is a fan of the lovelylovely dresses too!

message 44: by Jo (new)

Jo Oh my gosh, she does look like a Kardashian sprog doesn't she?

I always wonder who the models are. Are they just random models?
That would be the best job ever.
"RIGHT GUYS we need a girl and she needs to be stunning and look good in a lovelylovely dress but she also needs to convey ANGST and also tilt her head at an unnatural angle that looks like it should be edgy but makes her just look a bit wonky."

Where do I apply?

Haha, no it's not crazy-person at all. I nearly defaced my copy of Saving Francesca Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta.
My Francesca would not wear that lilac/mauve monstrosity!

Reynje Yes, what is up with all the unnatural angles?? It bothers me so much. Is it all photoshop, or is part of the YA cover model criteria? "Must be able to bend all limbs at 90 degree angles opposite to the natural direction"

Good Lord. That cover is appalling! I would definitely condone defacing in this case. Francesca would be justifiably horrified. (And whoever came up with that cover needs to be sacked. SACKED.)

message 42: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr Reynje and Jo, or as I like to call the both of you - "Reynjo", imma just going to step in and say I find you both very entertaining (you can imagine that in a Mel B voice Rey) and I just love your banter.

Oh and Rey "owning the mental rights" when reading - YES! I understand completely. I love how you put that.

Reynje "Reynjo" is a like a banjo, only more melodic - a veritable symphony of wit and hilarity :) Oh dear, can you tell I need a coffee??

Yeah.. I've always loved the idea that each reader owns a slightly different version of the same book, once they internalise it..

message 40: by Jo (new)

Jo Reynjo is awesome.

I hope that you ladies are not making fun of the Yorkshire accent which is possibly my favourite English accent to impersonate after my East London one.
Which is simply brilliant.

And yes, I know what you mean Rey. Even if the author is like 'This girl has brown hair and lilac eyes' I can quite happily say 'No she doesn't she has blonde hair and green eyes'.
Because I'm a YA rebel.

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Jo that cover is horrid! that's really all I have to say *skips merrily by*

Reynje Not all! We openly confess to making fun of Mel B, though :)

(Sidepoint: I spoke with a British accent until I was 10. True story. Although rendered a bit less weird by the fact that my Dad was English).

*waves to Trinity*

The lilac/violet eye thing is one of my pet YA peeves. It puts me in almost book-throwing rebel form.

message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Coming back to say, gold flecked eyes, what is that?

Also best description of eyes ever
"with eyes like the sea after a storm" now there's some eyes you can look at.

message 36: by Shirley (last edited Nov 05, 2011 07:01PM) (new)

Shirley Marr Yes, what is gold flecked eyes? And how close would you need to physically be before you can determine that?

Trin.... have you been reading Mills & Boon??

@Jo - not at all darling. I've just taken to fanatically quoting Mel B where ever I can cos I've decided to use her judging on Aussie X Factor as a template on how I should be doing my reviewing on GR!

Reynje wrote: "Yeah.. I've always loved the idea that each reader owns a slightly different version of the same book, once they internalise it."

Points to Rey - smartz - you haz it!

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Shirley that was totally princess bride....

message 34: by Shirley (last edited Nov 05, 2011 07:02PM) (new)

Shirley Marr OMG. And I love The Princess Bride! *makes sorry and shamed face* I'll have to go to the naughty corner now

message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

You obviously need a refresher :)

message 32: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr I think I can hear the Literary Police coming to take me away!

Shirley... arrested for TOTAL BOOK FAIL!

*nods furiously* Yes. Yes I do oh Sensei Trinity. Please get me out of this place! They've taken away my kindle and library card... it's *bursts into tears* I'll reform! I promise!!

message 31: by Reynje (last edited Nov 05, 2011 07:26PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Reynje I've never read the Princess Bride! *ducks for cover and bolts for the door, dramatically commando-rolling on the way*

message 30: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr *makes escape while literary police go after Reynje*

*steals Reynje's kindle and runs off into the sunset*

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Guys I have never read it either, we have it somewhere, I'm just nuts about the movie. Let's all watch that :-D
Is this a kissing book?

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Totally random side note but since I have you two here, who thinks that This is Shyness would make a brilliant abc show? This generation needs a spellbinder!

Reynje Never! You'll never take my kindle alive!!

Trin, yes! Definitely. That would make one deliciously weird and wonderful show.

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

And so Australian! Shirley go set this up, since all Aussie ya authors are besties, don't tell me they're not.

message 25: by Emily (new)

Emily I read all these comments while walking home from the Writer's Centre just now (quite a feat as I have a crappy old Nokia touch, not an iPhone like all the cool kids) and it was very amusing. Thanks for the lolz :D

PS That SF cover is truly terrible. And a little cringe worthy.

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I want to go to a writers centre, though I'd probably be too scared incase people actually ask me if I write and I'd just run away. And probably get chased with pitch forks or something...

message 23: by Emily (new)

Emily This was the 2nd time I've gone. It's okay, but there doesn't seem to be many YA writers there. On a side note: I met Jaclyn Moriarty!

And on a note related to this thread: I bought Shatter Me today on an impulse. Very interested to read your review, Rey!

message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Shut the front door, very awesome.

Reynje Emily - You met Jaclyn Moriarty? That's awesome :)

Now I'm a little scared. I'm working on my review now and should have it up sometime today.. If you've read the top of this thread (when I was actually talking about Shatter Me.. haha) you'll see that there were things I liked and things I didn't like. It was entertaining though. Can't wait to hear what you think too..

message 20: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr This is Shyness would make an awesome show. I'm gonna ring Leanne Hall right up now and make sure I secure a cameo.

...Yes I am very interested to read your review too Rey :-) Happy reading Emily! Don't let Kim Kardashian on the front cover with her wedding dress on give you the heebies.

*leaves before she makes the topic goes off topic again*

message 19: by Reynje (last edited Nov 05, 2011 09:29PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Reynje Don't worry Shirley, I love how delightfully random this thread is :)

(Maybe I can get a cameo too? You and me, hanging out at the Diabetic Hotel? Or as a couple of Kidds, cruising around on our bikes, terrorising the streets for sugar?)

message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

And now for something completely on topic.
Brilliant review!
I'm gonna get this book out over the christmas hols and enjoy it on the couch with a beer in my hand and my cynical attitude on the shelf.

message 17: by Reynje (last edited Nov 05, 2011 10:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Reynje Yes, do that! And Trin, I think you'll like (view spoiler)

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

For reals? FOR REALS? You know me so well :-)

Also hurry up Insurgent people need their Four!

message 15: by Shirley (new)

Shirley Marr A wonderfully balanced and measured review Reynje, peppered with your usual wit - "the writing in Shatter Me is so purple, its basically aubergine" - I particularly had a good chuckle to that one.

PS - I wanna be a Kidd fosure!

Reynje FOR REALS Trinity! Yep, I know you and I think you'll love that part of this book :)

Thanks Shirley - I'm glad you get my humour. And yes, lets be Kidds. And roll people for their chuppa chups.

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) I'm still not sure whether I'll actually read this or not, but I love your review, especially the part about the writing.
I had to stop reading On the Fringe just a few days ago because the author did something similar. She tried too hard and ended up with sentences that didn't make any sense at all.

Reynje Thanks Maja - usually I'm okay with quite "flowery" writing - but some of the passages in this were just.. too much for me. It's very different though (in terms of writing), I'll give it that :)

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) I am too, actually (camp Maggie, remember? :D), but it still needs to make sense. I need to find that sentence that made me give up on On The Fringe, maybe a native speaker would see something I didn't. :)

message 10: by Reynje (last edited Nov 06, 2011 01:51AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Reynje Although I haven't read much MS, I agree with you - I think she does descriptive well.

Here's a Shatter Me quote: (view spoiler)

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) Oh! I'm amazed that you read it as fast as you did. It would take me a month to untangle these sentences. It all seems a little pretentious to me.

The point of such writing is to wake you up, to make you see something you've seen a million times before from a completely different perspective. That's what I love about Stiefvater: once she describes something, I'm amazed that I never saw it that way myself. But that quote doesn't offer anything new, it just confuses me.

Reynje Yes! That is a beautiful way of putting it! For me, the litmus test of how much I love the writing is how many pages I mark - while I enjoyed some of the passages in this, I didn't find myself flagging things I wanted to go back and re-read because I loved them.

The pacing is quite brisk, for the most part, and the premise was interesting (if not precisely ground-breaking) - which may explain why I read it so fast :)

Maja (The Nocturnal Library) In the end, your review and this little chat stirred my curiosity. I probably won't be able to resist. :)

Wendy Darling People seem to love this or hate it. I really have to read this soon...!

message 5: by Jo (new)

Because you Aussies are wonky with your time zone and I had to sleep.

Mel B is hosting Australian X Factor?

What the heeeeell?
Since when?

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