This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Shatter Me, or don't mind knowing major spoilers for it. Destroy Me, however, will remain spoiler-free.
Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.
Set after Shatter Me and before its sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.
Okay, Mafi, I'll say it. You've got balls.
I believe I said in my review of Shatter Me that Warner was a character I hated to love. He was that kind of stalker boyfriend who thought he owned you and you should be grateful for his affections, but even when you made it abundantly clear you were fine without him, thank you very much, he just shrugs off your complaints as playing hard to get, being childish, or not knowing what's best for yourself. He made a great villain, someone easy to root against.
And then this novella happened.
I mean, it starts off as what you would expect. Warner is pretty pissed that he got shot and is now weakened in front of his troops. He's very military-minded, and there's no doubt that he earned his position regardless of his family standing. He's careful, planned, detail-oriented, and pretty paranoid. For wielding all his power, he knows there are just that many more people who want him dead. A little humanizing, but I still remembered all his heinous acts from the first book so I knew we weren't allowed to like him completely.
And then his father walks in. You want a villain; look no further than the Supreme Commander. Not only does he rule this dystopian world, automatically setting you against him, but the first thing he does is chastise Warner for being too soft when he shot that soldier (in book one).
"Imagine my surprise," he says, "when I heard that my son had finally done something right. That he'd finally taken some initiative and dispensed with a traitorous solider who'd been stealing from our storage compounds. I heard you shot him right in the forehead." A laugh. "I congratulated myself—told myself you'd finally come into your own, that you'd finally learned how to lead properly. I was almost proud.Actually, the two of them reminded me a lot of Prince Zuko and Fire Lord Ozai from Avatar: The Last Airbender (probably because I'm re-watching the series at the moment). You think the kid is messed up and irredeemable until you set him against his father and see how much worse he could be.
"That's why it came as an even greater shock to me to hear Fletcher's family was still alive." He claps his hands together. "Shocking, of course, because you, of all people, should know the rules. Traitors come from a family of traitors, and one betrayal means death to them all." [Location 375-382 of Kindle version]
But the humanizing doesn't stop there. Warren finds and begins reading Juliette's notebook that she had with her in the asylum. But what begins as a journey of curiosity quickly turns into a therapy of his own soul. Not only is what he's reading horrifying, the scribblings of a mind grasping at what may very well be the last threads of sanity, but it resonates so strongly with his own mind and his own past that he sometimes can't even take it.
And then there's Chapter Fourteen. I won't spoil it, but there's no doubt it will make you completely re-evaluate your opinion of Warner.
This being a novella and all, I'll give the ending a little slack. This really is a vignette into the life of Shatter Me's villain. It isn't a full story, it isn't a full character arc, and the ending is very much a teaser for the next full-length book, Unravel Me, which I'm told goes back to Juliette's perspective. Still, I believe the story accomplishes what it sets out to, and leaves off with a major pull to continue the series.
Overall, I'm sure any fans of the first book will find Destroy Me an engaging and eye-opening continuation to a stellar series. For those who liked Warner, and especially those who hated him, this is a fairly quick read which should definitely get your mind working and your heart pounding. There are references to gunshots and medical procedures, but 'on-screen' gore and violence is non-existent, same with language and romance. Based on the series so far, I'd suggest no younger than middle school, but it's probably geared more toward high school and up. So if you're looking for a fresh perspective on a Dystopian regime delivered in a compact package, definitely give Destroy Me a read.
Approximate Reading Time: 1.5 hours