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Review: Shatter Me

October 24, 2011

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 342
Release Date: November 15, 2011
Format: ARC Tour from the lovely Tara at Fiction Folio

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.—Goodreads 

Reader-Bethany’s Reaction to Shatter Me 
This book is crazy-good. Everyone should read it. Like, you should be at your favorite bookstore when it opens on the morning of November 15th and you should RUSH into the bookstore and buy all the copies so you can give them to people as presents. You and yours will thank me for telling you to do so.

You should follow the above advice for these reasons:

  1. Tahereh Mafi is a very, very gifted writer. Her verbs and metaphors are gorgeous and creative and curious and gut-wrenching. Instead of telling you how her characters feel, she forces you to feel it right along with them. She also employs the use of the strikethrough better than any way I’ve ever seen it used. It’s inspired, really. 
  2. The story is wonderful. I described it to a friend as a dystopian X-Men.*
  3. The world building is really cool, but subtle. Which is nice. 
  4. ADAM. Oh holy bazoo, Adam. 
    • (Related: I have a bit of a thing for Warner, who is presented as the villain. Like, a weird Stockholm Syndrome thing for him. But, then again, I tend to over-sympathize with villains. However, I’m not sure if I think he truly is a villain. DO YOU SEE WHAT THIS BOOK HAS DONE TO ME?!)
  5. The characters are so well-crafted and Mafi allows them to evolve. 
  6. Juliette is real damn kick-ass too. 
  7. It’s just really frackin’ great. Entertaining and intense and emotional and unforgettable. 
 *This would be an AWESOME comic book. If a comic pub house hasn’t already picked this up, they seriously need to. IMHO, I think Dark Horse would do a bang-up job of adapting it.

Writer-Bethany’s Reaction to Shatter Me 
This book shook me.

Reading this has made me think differently about how I write. The way that Mafi uses her words is completely different from anything I’ve ever read. She takes words that I would never, ever, ever think to put beside each other in a sentence, lines them up, and forces you think about those words in a different way. It’s truly masterful.

And then there’s the way Mafi uses verbs. Her verbs are violent and inventive and magnificently gory. (e.g., “There are wire cutters carvingholes in my heart.”) I was fawning all over myself  and bouncing up and down and calling random people to read them sentences from this book because of the verb usage. SRSLY.

If I’m being completely honest, Shatter Me is the first book I’ve read in a long time where I’ve thought “I want to write LIKE THAT.” And I’m sure that this book will inspire many young or aspiring writers to think the same thing. Mafi’s voice is fresh and evocative and so, so, so inventive that I wish I could adopt it. But that would be weird and forced and disingenuous. So I won’t.

But! What I can do is re-examine the way I write. Mafi’s writing has made me look at my own and think “How can I make these words really come alive? And how can I make my reader feel what my character is feeling? And, ok, this section here is a little dry, which words can I use to shock my readers and keep them attentive?”

But let’s be clear here—I’m not modeling my writing on Mrs. Mafi’s. Her voice is hers and I will never write the way she does. But reading Shatter Me has definitely made me think about it differently, and, I’d like to think it’s made both my writing and editing skills sharper and more attentive. Because, y’all, it’s really easy to be lazy about your words or to find crutch words that feel natural, and then employ them over and over again. That’s not fun. Mafi has fun with her words. She splashes around with them like a little kid. It’s refreshing and eye-opening and jealous-making and OH-MY-GOD SOOO YUMMY.

In sum, this book is fantastic. Not only will it captivate you and keep you enthralled from page one on, it’ll keep you guessing and laughing and crying. It will have make your heart bleed and break and pound right along with the characters’. But, you know, in a good way. For me, Shatter Me was more than a book—it was a watershed moment as both a reader and writer. Maybe it will be for you too.

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