Saturday, April 14, 2012

...And I Want To Shatter

Shatter Me
~Shatter Me~
Shatter Me
Book 1
By Tahereh Mafi
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

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.

When I first picked this up, all I knew was on the front cover: Tahereh Mafi had written it (one of the first bloggers I started following) and it apparently featured a female whose touch is lethal power. Not much to go off of, but I wanted to be surprised.

What surprised me the most was that 5 chapters had passed in a noisy bookstore (not my typical reading environment) and I wanted to keep reading. I was completely hooked.

The story starts out with Juliette having been locked up for the last three years. And not just locked up in prison or a mental institution, no she's been in total solitude that whole time. Well, if she wasn't nuts when she got there, surely she's nuts by now. And her narration pretty much supports that.

Here and again are lines that are crossed out. Thoughts she wants to unthink, words she won't let herself say, and feelings she can't let herself feel. She's broken, shattered if you will, into what she's been taught to think and what she dares to think. There's a stream-of-consciousness narrative at times that breaks that barrier between character and reader and it's... powerful, to say the least.

And really that's what Juliette is. Powerful. You wouldn't think someone so broken, battered, and tortured could be as brave, stubborn, or empathic as Juliette turns out to be. Even in the beginning, her crossed out thoughts reveal a defiance she just can't keep off the page—she knows she shouldn't can't be thinking these things, but still she does. It was a joy to follow her growth throughout the story, especially in her dealings with the main villain.

Warner was a villain I hated to love, but I sorta kinda did. Don't get me wrong; 99.9% of the time, I absolutely hate the stalker. But...this one time, I actually really liked him. He cared about Juliette, loved her, wanted to empower her, tried dearly to get her to love him. Yeah, he was the villain, but if his methods (and megalomania) were turned down a bit I could see him as a romance-triangle contender. ...Maybe not so much. But I still didn't completely hate him.

And perhaps that was due in part to my constant suspicions towards the main romantic interest, Adam. I'm always leery of the too-good-to-be-true love interest, and when he's placed inside a plot filled with lies, I'm doubly untrusting. What can I say? I gotta look out for my girl (regardless of not being able to talk her out of bad choices). So with the narrative in Juliette's hands and Adam being super sneaky at all times, I was always on-edge for Adam's double-cross.

Which made all the romantic scenes particularly uncomfortable for me. They were gorgeous, poetic, and sensual, despite never quite getting to second base. Again, I didn't read anything about this book beforehand besides the front cover, which means I didn't see Lauren Kate's endorsement on the back cover:
"Addictive, intense, and oozing with romance. I'm envious. I couldn't put it down."
So yeah, there was quite a bit more romance than I initially expected. Which isn't to say I disliked it. It was quite sweet after I got past my own reservations about Adam. And even though the actions never went past PG, the sensual side got rather steamy at times. Definitely a must-read for romance fans.

Quite a surprise, considering the overarching dystopian theme. Okay, the only other dystopian books I have to go off of are The Hunger Games, which were horrifying and depressing to me. But despite the world this story's set in—one of impoverished masses controlled by a super-elite government hoarding the failing natural resources—I never felt disheartened. There was always hope for Juliette, for Adam, for...

Yeah, there's a noticeable character dump at the end of the book. It started small a little over halfway through, just one here and one there. Then we hit the bump where, if you didn't know this was the beginning of a series/trilogy, you do now, cause suddenly here's a whole slew of characters that are super-interesting and I'm dying to know more about them but...there's only 20 pages left! I've already picked out my favorite, and, if you're reading this, Tahereh, you'd better not kill him off! Don't rob me of my Rodney Skinner replacement!!!

Ahem. Anyway, back to the series talk. Shatter Me is the start of what is currently drafted as a trilogy (though I always hold out hope for changes like the Hitchhiker's Guide, The Mortal Instruments, and Inheritance 'trilogies'), and I can't wait to see what Ms. Mafi has in store for us. I could make comparisons or references, but I'm sure you'll make your own once you've read the book. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

Overall, I found Shatter Me an intoxicating read that I could not put down. It's a romantic dystopian, edging on sci-fi, tucked safely within YA boundaries. How often do you get a chance at that? Language is comprised of 2 minor swears, sex remains sensual, but there is some off-screen violence and on-screen gunfire, so I'd say it's targeted toward high school and above. Do not let Shatter Me slip by. You never know if yesterday was your last chance...

Approximate Reading Time: 4.5 Hours

Audiobook Review
Read by Kate Simses
Length: 9.2 Hours
Listened at 2x Speed
(3x Audible Speed Setting)

After listening to a few middling audiobooks, I must say Ms. Simses gave a great performance. I was especially impressed with the variety and distinction she gave each of the characters, the men in particular. Just because the main character & narrator is female, doesn't mean the male voices aren't just as important to the overall work. The little boy, James, was quite possibly my favorite. Even though it's been proven time and again that women can do impeccable little-boy voices, it still took me aback by how genuine the 10-year-old character sounded, not just in voice but in personality and phrasing!

If it was unclear while reading the book what all those little scratched out passages were supposed to mean (I know I wasn't sure), this audiobook does its best to help clarify. I'll admit I wasn't sure how the struck through lines were going to work, since the book is so visual in that aspect. Turns out they simply recorded a sound of someone crossing out the line(s) with a pen, which plays following the words that are to be struck through. Granted, without the book in front of you, it's a little unclear how much preceding the strike is supposed to go, but the technique employed is still effective enough to get the point across.

Overall another audiobook I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend it. The emotion, the voices, and the attention to detail, even with the visual aspects of the book, all combine to make it an experience you shouldn't pass up if you have the chance.