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Title: Shatter Me (Book One)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2012
Genre: YA Dystopia, YA Fantasy
A-mazing!! Wow, what a wordsmith! Mafi writes this story like a stream of consciousness…we as the reader are truly inside Juliette’s head, and we can see her revised thoughts and sudden feelings. I’ve never felt so in touch with a character. Yes, the sentences sometimes run together, and yes, sometimes phrases are repeated or even crossed out. At first, it was a little unsettling, as I was unused to this technique. But as I read on, I realized I was actually in the character’s head, and I was experiencing everything practically through their mind. I could understand Juliette on a whole other level. It was truly amazing.
When we start, we learn that Juliette is in an asylum, placed their by her own parents. The word play in this part of the book is beautiful:
Killing time isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
I can shoot a hundred numbers through the chest and watch them bleed decimal points in the palm of my hand. I can rip the numbers off a clock and watch the hour hand tick tick tick its final tock just before I fall asleep. I can suffocate seconds just by holding my breath. I’ve been murdering minutes for hours and no one seems to mind.
I’ve never read anything like it. As she sits in her cell, counting the time and writing in a small notebook for 264 days, she receives a new cellmate. However, it’s a boy, and she seems to know him. As Juliette begins to let her guard down, she constantly reminds her cellmate not to touch her. We find out later that her touch is deadly; she accidentally killed a child she was trying to help up from a fall. Turns out, her cellmate is no cellmate at all, but a plant to get her to talk and open up about her powers. A man known as Warner, head of the Resistance (a group that has essentially taken over the world in a dictatorship-type system with military force), has taken a special interest in Juliette and her killer touch. He takes her out of the asylum, but what he has in mind for her is much, much worse. Also, Adam, her mock cellmate, is seeming to try and help her. But who can Juliette trust in a world where no one has touched her? Where her own parents couldn’t love her? Is it actually possible that Warner is right, and she is bad deep down, or does Adam see the real her despite the ability to physically connect?
Points go to Mafi. This is a story that could be done a thousand ways, and yet she makes it wholly original. Having access to Juliette’s mind is like allowing us to wear her insecurities and doubts and feelings like a second skin.
Adam stares at me so long I begin to blush. He tips my chin up so I meet his eyes. Blue blue blue boring into me. His voice is deep, steady. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you laugh.”
He’s so excruciatingly correct I don’t know how to respond except with the truth. My smile is tucked into a straight line. “Laughter comes from living.” I shrug, try to sound indifferent. “I’ve never really been alive before.”
Is it Classroom-Appropriate?
No. Unfortunately, no. It’s sad, too. It makes an excellent example of how to break the mold in writing. But there’s swearing, and a little too much physical intimacy for our younger readers. It would work as a great workshop book in a college writing class, but for the high school classroom, I would not use it. Definitely a free-read for an older YA reader. It’s a shame because it really is a beautifully written book. It shows that, once again, YA can be as good, if not better than so-called “adult” books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in a non-YA setting.
Maybe I’m being ultra-conservative here, but I would recommend 15 and up. There’s nothing explicitly happening that is PG-13 (which, btw, really shouldn’t be called that, since the material in PG-13 rated movies and TV shows is much too mature for 13 year olds). But this is a series, and I can speculate that more will happen through the series. Maybe 14 if the teen is mature for their age. No F-words, but other bad words are used. No sex, but it gets pretty hot and heavy. It’s just highly suggestive, that’s all.
Can I give more than five stars? Well, it is MY review, so technically I can. I’d give it ten stars. But since most rating systems are a standard 1-5 stars, I’ll have to settle for giving ★★★★★. I recommend it to EVERYONE. I’m mad I waited so long to read it. I will leave you now with another beautiful quote from one of the most well-written books of my generation.
The sun is an arrogant thing, always leaving the world behind when it tires of us.
The moon is a loyal companion.
It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Everyday it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human.
Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.