Author: Tahereh Mafi
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen (HC imprint)
Powerful, overwhelming, and heart-breaking, Shatter Me introduces us to a girl broken and isolated, a girl hanging on the precipice by the tips of her fingers, a girl who might be more than someone who can kill with a single touch. In a surprising and original novel from debut author Tahereh Mafi, we come face to face with someone finally given the chance to take control of her life, to decide if she is cursed or gifted, monster or human, weapon or warrior.
The idea of this book is so unique. Dystopian, cruel, bleak, and brutal like only The Hunger Games could be, mixed with a character with powers reminiscent of X-Men's Rogue. It's a combination I haven't yet come across but willingly devoured. It's fresh and new, combining the sorrow and desperation of one and the thrilling action of the other.
Reading this book, it took almost nothing for my heart to shatter, for it to reach out towards Juliette in an attempt to comfort her, only to have it tumble to a cement floor and break into a million pieces. Locked away like a monster, like a demon, like a murderer, her strength fades away. She can't touch anyone or she'll kill them, she can't be comforted or consoled, can't be hugged or stroked or soothed. And so my heart broke and quietly wept as I read her story.
Juliette is broken, silent, ruined, trapped. Shattered. Isolated for 264 days because of an accident, out of fear, out of hatred, out of a lack of understanding who she truly is. A truly tortured soul, trapped and bound in a body poisonous to others. There is no love in her life, no family, no friends, nothing to live for. But what if she wasn't alone? What if there was something, or someone, for her to live for?
The line that got to me the most was a single line of Juliette's from the beginning of Chapter 2. "I am a raindrop." Raindrops, to Juliette, are cast aside, cast out into the world to burst open when they fall, to shatter and break when they hit the ground. Abandoned, left alone, locked away, Juliette is all alone, broken on the ground from when her parents tossed her away.
Her crossed out words
So sudden is the appearance of Cellmate, or Adam, as we come to know him. Out of nowhere he appears, thrown into Juliette's cell, almost scaring the life out of her. Who is he? What is he? Why is he there? But his face, his blue eyes, they bring back some of Juliette's forgotten memories. Adam fills the void in Juliette's life as someone to, possibly, live for. Maybe survive for. Maybe care for.
But this is still a dystopian book with a society broken and hungry for absolute control. The world is crumbling, cracking at the foundations. I could almost feel it weighing down on me as I read. Society is broken, the buildings are broken, Juliette is broken. Is anything not broken? Will anything survive?
There is evil for Juliette to face, and there must be evil, there must be a force for Juliette and Adam to push against, to bother and annoy, to attempt to destroy. Unfortunately for her, this evil is obsessive, possessive, controlling, sadistic, calculating, and psychotic. It is the evil's hope that Juliette become a weapon, become a symbol for The Reestablishment, become the sign that will stop the rebels in their tracks.
Juliette struggles to find the strength to continue, both internal and external. What are we capable of? What if we had no limits? What if we reached our true potential? What would the world become? If Juliette finds her strength, regains the strength to live and fight for her freedom, will anything stop her? Freedom was ripped from her fingers, taken away after a single touch, and left her to fold in on herself, to curl up in a ball and wait for the day someone will kill her.
Touch is death to Juliette. It is power and sensation, but she's come to fear it. She fears the labels put on her of monster, of murderer, of cursed. What does is mean to have the ability to take life with a single touch? It means isolation, separation from others for the good of society. It means curled up in a ball, with a broken pen and a small notebook, wondering when birds will fly again.
As much as this book is about finding the strength inside yourself, it's also about finding freedom. The search for freedom, the battle for it, is never-ending. This book is Juliette rediscovering herself, discovering what she is capable of, how strong and powerful she is. Discovering what she is willing to do to be free, even if that means killing someone for the chance to touch freedom again.
Everything is connected. What is power? Does strength lead to greater power? Can it help you reach your potential? Does strength choose us or must we choose to be strong? Will absolute power set us free, or will it corrupt absolutely? Is it possible for love to pull us out of the dark, bottomless pit of despair? Can we love again after being left broken and shattered on the concrete floor?
Shatter Me is oddly poetic and lyrical, a voice so original it wrapped itself around me, begging me to keep reading it late into the night. I struggle to remember the last book that, at the end of each chapter, made me feel like an addict waiting for my next fix. This book overwhelmed my mind, my heart, my soul. It reminded me why I love reading books in general, not just young adult literature. Tahereh Mafi has crafted characters so compelling, has created an evil so wonderfully creepy and evil, and has introduced readers to a romance so sweet and passionate and all-encompassing and honest.
I shudder to think at what awaits us in the rest of this trilogy, and if my heart will have the strength to survive it.
(I received an advance copy of this book to review from HarperCollins Canada.)