The Passionate, Desperate Ramblings of a Lonely, Horny Teenager
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi is probably one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. I also almost gave up on it completely after about 10% of it. Kate Simses, the narrator, was definitely Shatter Me's saving grace.
Since I listened to the audiobook, I think it changed the reading experience. (I cannot tell you if it was for better or worse.) For one, I missed out on the scratching out of phrases except for the brief ripping sounds in the audiobook. Honestly, I thought it was skipping at first. It was more annoying than effective. As for the flowery descriptiveness, I would have probably skimmed through most of that. Mafi used strings of similes and metaphors to say the simplest things. It was the most lovely overkill that I've ever experienced. It was torturous to sit through, being as it was used mostly to illustrate the hormonal explosions happening with Juliette. I have read borderline erotica that did not have heroines so needy and starved for human touch as that girl. Granted, she had spent nearly a year in solitary confinement at an insane asylum. That lusty desperation overshadowed the majority of the novel. Juliette was either pining over Adam, the boy thrown in the cell with her at the start of the novel, or waxing poetic about Warner, the twisted leader of the sector. I know that she hated Warner, but she infused much of that hatred with flowery descriptions of his hotness. Say what you will about me, but I will forever refer to this novel as The Passionate, Desperate Ramblings of a Lonely, Horny Teenager from this day forth.
As for the characters themselves, I did not find myself really liking, hating, or even feeling sympathetic to any of them. Juliette was a [very weak person who let herself be defeated by her circumstances] young girl who has gone through a lot. She wallowed, nay luxuriated, in self-hatred because of her ability and did not really think of herself as a worthwhile human being deserving to be treated as one until Adam began showing affection toward her. That [pissed me off that she required a male for her own happiness] made me very sad. As for Adam, he mislead her from the start, and I kept waiting for him to pull a trick out of his hat. That is not a good way to start a romance. Warner is a twisted, mean bastard, but he never tried to be anything but that. Juliette always knew where she stood with him and what he was capable of, whether she liked it or not. James was probably the only character I came remotely close to liking, but he did not come along until much later in the book. Unfortunately, he is very much a secondary character, and I don't see him progressing into much more than a cute kid on the sidelines.
The setting of the novel itself was interesting, but not enough to really redeem the book. The world was changed, causing death of animals, plants, and nearly humanity. A group called the Reestablishment took over the government and was trying to save what it could of the people around the world. The Passionate, Desperate Ramblings of a Lonely, Horny Teenager... Err... I mean Shatter Me is a dystopian, so the Reestablishment was, of course, portrayed as EeeeVille. Realistically, when times are tough, people get hard. Look at the Middle Ages. The whole concept was interesting, but nothing new. The setting was also used to get a bit preachy about environmentalism.
It would be unfair of me to at least not mention that the book picked up at the end, but it was too little too late. Juliette does put a damper on those raging hormones and becomes a tad bit more interesting, but it's in the last chapters. There is finally talk of the powers Juliette and others have developed, but it's really nothing new. *coughs* X-Men *coughs* I have hopes that she'll stay remotely interesting in the later books in the series, but I don't know if Ill stick with it to see.
[The Passionate, Desperate Ramblings of a Lonely, Horny Teenager] Shatter Me is a beautifully written [hot mess] young adult novel that I bet teenagers are loving everywhere. I even have adult readers that I'm looking forward to giving the book to at the library because I know they'll love it. However, [The Passionate, Desperate Ramblings of a Lonely, Horny Teenager] Shatter Me is most assuredly not for me.
Stunningly beautiful metaphors used to describe Juliette's inner turmoil and surrounding landscape was not enough to save Shatter Me from a powerless heroine, a nonexistent plot and weak world-building.
I tried I tried I tried to relate to Juliette. Having grown up abused and unloved, then thrown into solitude for almost an entire year, I started reading Shatter Me knowing that Juliette was going to be an unstable character. I knew she was going to be meek and withdrawn and I had accepted that; I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was her unrelenting lack of character development. For the vast majority of the book, she spends her time crying/trembling/gasping/blushing, all while adamantly refusing to understand how anyone, but especially Adam, could care for her. This type of behaviour I could have forgiven, had she shown any growth. But it wasn't until the last few chapters that she went from being a weak, ridiculously melodramatic and frustratingly insecure protagonist into one with the glimmer of something resembling strength.
I also had a hard time justifying her words with her actions. To his face, Juliette was constantly calling Warner a "murderer" or a "monster" and when she was discussing Warner with Adam, he was called "psychotic" and "obsessed." She also often referenced how Warner was looking to own her, to make her his toy. But on the inside, she was admiring his physical appearance, often during inappropriate or life-threatening moments. There were several mentions of how beautiful his green eyes were, or how smooth and sensual his voice was. There's even a scene where she lets Warner kiss her, and is surprised that she feels a connection between them and that she likes how he tastes. I just couldn't understand how I was supposed to respect, let alone relate, to the type of heroine who would let herself be so easily manipulated by someone who had forced her to endanger the life of a young child, who had held her captive - controlling when/what she ate and what she was allowed to wear - and who threatened the life of the person she claimed to love.
My issues with Juliette aside, I was also disappointed with the world-building...or I should I say, lack of world-building. Being labelled a dystopian, I was eager to learn about the world Juliette inhabited and how it had reached that point. I was excited to see how Juliette and Adam rose up against the Reestablishment, to use Juliette's strange power against those, like Warner, who would see it used as a weapon. But Shatter Me is much more a paranormal romance with a dystopian setting than a pure dystopian, so my knowledge of the world was limited by how it affected her growing relationship with Adam. Sure, we were provided with the odd detail here and there, but I'm having a very hard time coming up with the entire picture. And the little details which were leaked were drowned amidst the overabundant use of metaphors and flowery prose, with the dystopia only making its presence known in order to make the romance interesting.
"I open my eyes and he's standing right in front of me. My heart is a field of lilies blooming under a pane of glass, pitter-pattering to life like a rush of raindrops."
It was during these more flowery prose moments that I most questioned the dystopian elements. It's mentioned several times how barren the landscape is, with every living thing having perished without adequate heat/nourishment from the sun. Juliette and Adam both comment with awe on how birds used to be able to fly. How would Juliette know what a field of lilies in full bloom looks like? I found there were a lot of instances where the metaphors either didn't make sense in the context of Shatter Me's particular dystopian setting, or just didn't make sense at all.
"Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into semblance of something too passive to punch."
It sounds very pretty and deep and poetic - but what the hell does it mean?
As for the plot itself, it was virtually nonexistent. Most of Shatter Me is spent watching Juliette question herself and her ability to love and be loved. There's also a lot of steamy shower scenes, where nothing but heavy breathing and lip hovering near ears seems to happen. Moments of danger and heightened suspense - fleeing from the compound with gunshots going off in the near distance, for example - were all made less immediate with inappropriate inclusions of tender moments; I'm on edge, urging the characters to keep moving and they're stopping to stare deeply into each other's eyes. I kept being pulled from moments which would have made the plot seem more action-packed and eventful by seemingly stupid moments of passion between Adam and Juliette.
Beautifully poetic with it's flowery prose, Shatter Me was a delight to read - in that I enjoyed the writing. But the content which made up the writing had a few too many flaws for me to completely immerse myself in the story. If you go into Shatter Me thinking it is a paranormal romance, you might get more enjoyment out of it then I did, expecting a dystopian.
Though Shatter Me is touted as a combination between The Hunger Games and X-Men, I think it's fair to warn you that the superhero factor of the story doesn't really get going until the last hundred or so pages. I do have to agree that the dystopian factors of the story will appeal to Hunger Games fans, minus the love triangle (no opposing Gale, guys - sorry). The main bad guy, Warner, in particular reminds me of President Snow, minus that creepy detail of the blood-tainted breath.
Oh, and Warner's like nineteen. That was another detail that really threw me off. From the way Juliette describes him at first, I was picturing him as a sleazy old man. (Just goes to show you that I need to read a little deeper into my context clues...)
On the whole, I can see why Shatter Me appeals to trendy teen readers. The writing style and plot speed reminded me more than once of Twilight, and the heroine has an appropriate troubled past and unsure future. The world is appropriately dark and hopeless - food is scarce, people are dying and the new government that has promised a solution to it all is more interested in cruel dictatorship than a hopeful future.
However, for some reason, I really couldn't attach myself to this one. It might be the hype; recently, I find that if there's too much media storm around a title, I end up pinning too high hopes on it, and get disappointed when I find that it's not really what I expected. More importantly, there's a lot of strong language (one of my major pet peeves, as you probably know by now) and a few moments of what Hollywood would probably deem "brief sensuality".
Definitely not a PG read in my opinion.
Besides the language, my other main bone of contention was with the copious use of idioms and similes and metaphors that were rather distracting and in some places, quite disturbing. (My personal favorite: "my heart was a water balloon shattering in my chest" - my own heart gave a little uncomfortable lurch at that one. It sounds less like a moment of extreme tension and more like a medical emergency.)
The general conclusion? Not really my cup of tea, but that doesn't mean it won't be someone else's. Maybe I've had too much dystopians for this year...but then again, we're about to go head-on with 2012 and the Apocalypse in a couple of weeks, so we could also take it as a year well spent in preparation.
It does involve superheroes as the author promised.