Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Shatter Me Cover

YA mashup of lit fic, X-Men, and dystopian genres, with a romantic triangle thrown in for good measure

Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1) by Tahereh Mafi

Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 357 pages
Source: Amazon Vine
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

In a dystopian future, 17-year old Juliette has been in solitary confinement for 264 days because, like Rogue of the X-Men comics, her touch is lethal. As awful as her dungeon cell is, the world outside is not much better. It is a dystopian hellscape with an evil, totalitarian regime. Then one day her lonely imprisonment is broken when Adam, a boy she knew in her childhood, becomes her fellow prisoner.

The beginning of this novel reads like lyrical, purposely confusing, lit-fic prose, which serves the purpose of making it constantly clear to the reader that Juliette is mentally unstable due to her long time alone and her grief at a death she inadvertently caused.

As the book progresses, the author gives center stage to other goals in her story besides lovely prose. By toning down her lush use of language, she makes her unique, authorial voice unobtrusive enough that the romantic plot of Juliette’s competing relationships with two very different love interests comes more sharply into focus. In addition, the author brings in a bit of action-adventure in the form of a war that is brewing between ragged bands of rebels and the totalitarian government.

It has sometimes been said that a true measure of a book’s success is when public opinion about it is intense–readers either love it or hate it, with few being lukewarm. Using that as a yardstick, then this book is very successful indeed.

Since most YA dystopians these days inevitably follow in the wake of the blockbuster series, The Hunger Games, one might assume that the desire of fans of that genre might be for plenty of action in this or any YA dystopian, something this book does not particularly deliver. However, that landmark trilogy drastically changed its focus by book three, Mockingjay. Instead of frequent action sequences, a great deal of the story is spent on the mental breakdown of the heroine. Which means there is a powerful precedent for a more internal rather than external focus in a YA dystopian for any author/publisher hoping to cash in on the success of the Hunger Games trilogy.

In short, anyone who loved Mockingjay, will probably enjoy this book, and anyone who disliked Mockingjay will probably dislike this book.

Readers who are still thrilled with YA romantic triangles–which Hunger Games (and, of course, Twilight) contain–will be quite pleased with this book’s particular triangle.

I’m not personally a fan of lit fic. I’m not particularly fond of romantic triangles, either. And there are few YA dystopians besides Hunger Games that I’ve actually been enthralled by. In spite of all that, I believe this book achieves its purpose of bringing freshness to the saturated YA dystopian market by combining several different popular YA themes within one book in order to create an entertaining fictional “mashup” that is bigger, and better, than the sum of its parts.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Subcharacters: 4

Fantasy World-Building: 4

Writing: 4

Action-Adventure Plot: 4

Romantic Triangle Subplot: 3

Overall: 4

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program.

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