Book Review: Shatter Me

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Dystopia, Romance, Fiction

What it’s About: Juliette has been incarcerated in an asylum for the insane, a prison with only one window to the outside world. She hasn’t been touched or spoken to in 264 days since her arrival at the asylum, and hasn’t seen her parents, who willingly gave her up. That day, Juliette gets the news that she’s getting a roommate, who turns out to be none other than Adam Kent, a former classmate of hers who has defended her from any of the kids who bullied her.

He takes away her bed in order to have something to sleep on, trying to be cruel to her in order to get her to fight back or do something, but Juliette refuses to be anything but nice. At first, she does not speak to him, but soon enough takes pity on him, and helps Adam adjust to the life in the asylum, even though she doesn’t know why he’s there. She goes as far as giving him information about how the asylum works—when they get food, how long they shower—things that she didn’t know at first and did not get taught.

The world outside the asylum, alas is falling apart. Diseases run rampant, animals don’t exist, food is hard to get, people are destitute, birds don’t fly, and the weather is unpredictable. The Reestablishment has taken over to rule the population on the premise of false promises—they can fix the way things are. But there are darker motives at play for Juliette. She gets pulled out of the asylum along with Adam by Warner, the commander of Sector 45, established by The Reestablishment. Then Warner reveals that Adam volunteered for the project that involved her, indicating that he was trying to gain her trust for Warner.

Warner makes Adam in charge of Juliette, but he gives them little time to spend together, instead whisking her away with him on assignments around the concrete building in which they live. He is hell-bent on getting Juliette to break and join his side, so that she can inflict pain on those who hurt her. But Juliette is resilient, and does not wish to use her powers to hurt others, though Warner forces an unwitting soldier to touch her in order to see how the power works. After all, Juliette’s touch is lethal—she accidentally killed a boy while trying to help him up—and is the reason why she got locked up in the asylum.

While Warner tries to push Juliette into doing and being someone that she is not, Adam tells her that she is inherently good, giving her examples of the many times over their years together at school that she had been kind to others even though their classmates had thrown rocks at her and taunted her. He also reveals that he can touch her without any harm, and they grow closer as the time passes. Adam wants to get Juliette out and away from The Reestablishment, so they hatch a plan.

Two weeks later, Juliette is forced by Warner to make a decision—she’s placed in a torture chamber with a baby, and has to decide whether to let the child get impaled or picked up. She chooses to save the baby at the expense of hurting it herself; however, afterwards, her anger takes over and she punches through concrete and pins Warner to the wall. Shortly after that, Warner creates a distraction, makes a drill in which he corners Juliette in her room, while sending Adam away. Only Adam comes out, knocks Warner down, and both Juliette and Adam run away. During their escape, Warner touches Juliette on her ankle with his bare hand as a feeble attempt to keep her staying, and nothing happens to him, which makes Juliette realize that he is the only other person who cannot be hurt by her touch.

Adam and Juliette run to an old nuclear plant where a nuclear explosion happened several years ago in order to de-activate Adam’s tracking serum. They grab a tank that Adam had stored in the nuclear plant and head over to a part of the city in which his brother, James, lives. They spend the night and part of the day there, which is when Kenji (a fellow member of the military that Adam was in) shows up, and tries to explain that there’s a safe haven that they could hide in. Once James returns from class, the four of them decide to head out to the safe haven, except that they get ambushed by Warner and his men. Since Kenji is badly hurt, Adam leaves him with James in an abandoned building, and along with Juliette, they run around the area trying to find a car while avoiding the military men. They think they get away, except they run right into Warner and his men, who shoot Adam.

Warner takes Juliette away and tells her that Adam is dead, and asks her if she realizes that he can touch her too. He is trying to get her to fall in love with him, telling her that she can be by his side, but Juliette is having none of it. Instead, she leads him on until she grabs Warner’s gun and shoots him in the shoulder. She then runs away, finds Adam, rescues him, finds a car, and together they return for Kenji and James. Kenji then drives them to the save haven, which turns out to be Omega Point, run by Castle.

Adam recovers from his injuries, while Juliette is shown around Omega Point by Castle, who tells her that she is not the only one who has powers and introduces her to at least one person who also has powers. He allows her to visit with Adam, but freaks out when Juliette touches Adam. She then has to explain to Castle that Adam is the only one who is able to touch her without any harm. Adam wakes up, and they spend a few moments alone, before Kenji shows up and takes them to their room. The next day, they come to the recovering wing where Juliettte has been sleeping, and the doctor who was observing her gives her a suit made of breathable fabric in a purple color. This suit will let her touch others without hurting them, unless she wants to touch them on purpose.

My Verdict: The book was a little difficult to get into at the beginning. It’s a bit confusing because it’s written in Juliette’s voice, and she has this tendency to repeat certain words and phrases. So there will be portions of the book where it’ll “Adam’s eyes” repeated three times in a row, or similar types of phrases. It’s almost as if she has an echo in her mind, and then of course there’s the strike-through text in the book, where she almost said something or thought something but then stopped herself.

The reason why she was locked up is very confusing—at least the way that she explains it, it is very unclear what really happened, because she focuses on what she had wanted to say to the mother of the kid, but not really what happened, until Warner spells it out for us. We also don’t know what happened to her mother, except that she freaked out one day because Juliette did something, and then the mom stopped touching her.

So in many ways, Juliette’s point of view is very unreliable, and I almost feel like she has some kind of mental disorder that manifested as a result of her lethal touch and the fact that she’s been alone most of her life because no one wanted to be her friend, and no one wanted to touch her. Still, I feel like she comes out of her shell when she is around Adam, and I just love seeing how he makes her stronger just by giving her support, and a reason to fight for what she wants.

I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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