The beginning of Shatter Me was an exquisite mix of beautiful, unique prose, complex character, and expert soft worldbuilding. But after that big bang beginning, it gets…soggier. It limps into a mediocre YA dystopia in the same cohort as Divergent, Uglies, Four, The Maze Runner, and more. To boot, it swerves to avoid most of the interesting directions available in favor of boring romance and action plotlines. Still, though—I had a lot of fun.

This review is spoiler-free.

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA Distopian Fiction

Link to StoryGraph: link

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The gripping first installment in New York Times bestselling author Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series.

One touch is all it takes. One touch, and Juliette Ferrars can leave a fully grown man gasping for air. One touch, and she can kill.

No one knows why Juliette has such incredible power. It feels like a curse, a burden that one person alone could never bear. But The Reestablishment sees it as a gift, sees her as an opportunity. An opportunity for a deadly weapon.

Juliette has never fought for herself before. But when she’s reunited with the one person who ever cared about her, she finds a strength she never knew she had.

WHAT A CONCEPT!

Raindrops are my only reminder that clouds have a heartbeat. That I have one, too. I always wonder about raindrops. I wonder about how they’re always falling down, forgetting their parachutes as they tumble out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It’s like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn’t seem to care where the contents fall, doesn’t seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors. I am a raindrop.

Mafi’s prose in the early pages of this book is beautiful. More so because it isn’t purple prose; it has a purpose, and that purpose is to describe a fascinating character. When we meet her, Juliette hasn’t touched another person in who-knows-how-long. Years. It’s a thought that would make anyone shiver. It’s a feeling we’ve all had—a desire to be touched. It’s intensely human.

These aspects of Juliette—one, that she’s spent a year or more in solitary confinement, and two, that she can’t touch anyone—are the most interesting concepts in the book. There’s so much to explore! What would that do to a person? There are credible psychological studies that say: nothing good. I loved marinating in those first few chapters—in the number-ridden, strikethrough-messy mind of Juliette.

I would recommend this book for the concept and execution alone. It’s just unfortunate that this kind of literary juiciness totally fades as the book gets into its plot.

YEAH, YEAH…PLOT, BOYS, PLOT… *YAWN*

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good YA dystopia as much as the next girl raised on The Hunger Games. I firmly believe that if done right, these kinds of books are one of the reasons books remain popular and relevant to us…youths.

So I feel I have the right to say that as Shatter Me moved forward through its plot, it took steps backwards as far as interest, creativity, complexity, anything. By the end, I was predicting every plot point, and we’d lost the interesting, touch-starved Juliette. How? Her character development became heavy-handed. She quickly became a pick-me, powerful-but-repressed, compassionate-and-coming-into-her-own heroine I’ve read in ten other more interesting versions.

It’s not a bad plot, and the character arcs are successful. Juliette’s actions make sense. But there was so much potential! How, and why, does Juliette stay so good? It’s not entirely explained, because her goodness seems to go deeper than the people-pleasing impulses stemming from her neglectful childhood. If she’s so touch-starved, the novel could have dug into that desperation, used it as an explanation for her attachment to other characters or as a way for other characters to exploit her. I mean, what would you do if you were more desperate than anything to be touched? If you decided to screw the consequences? *Sigh* I digress. The men in this novel were exactly like all the other hot men in all the other YA dystopias.

Side note: the whole heroine doesn’t ever look in the mirror or know how pretty she is yet everyone around her finds her extremely hot thing is super, super annoying. Show me a YA heroine who knows she’s hot please. cough aelin galathynius nina zenik mia corvere juliette cai

getting over myself

In general, I can see exactly where this series is going. I see the semi-corruption arc that lets Juliette fight back, I see the romantic shifts, and more. I still think it would be a really fun series to read if this is your preferred genre. It has great writing. And the books are quick reads—clean, fun palette cleansers between heavier reads.

I think if anything, I’m more disappointed by the lost potential than by the actual product. Because I really did enjoy myself in the reading.

Do you like Shatter Me? What would you do if you couldn’t touch anyone, ever, for fear of killing them… because I would go deliciously insane.

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