Title: Shadow Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Romance, Dystopia, Fiction
What It’s About: Kenji Kishimoto is woken up by his alarm at 6 am in the morning. Adam then bangs on his wall and tells him to stop the alarm, so Kenji gets up, and before he can even start his day, Warner knocks on his door. Kenji has always cared too much about what others felt, even when they have no consideration for his feelings. He’s grateful to have the life that he does, but he wants something more–he wants to love someone, like all of his friends, who have found someone to love. Despite trying to not care about Warner, Kenji still asks him if everything is all right. Warner doesn’t divulge much, but wishes Kenji luck with Nazeera, telling him to be careful as Nazeera is hiding something.
Kenji momentarily reminisces about the past night, where Juliette got drunk, and shaved her head, after which he was trying to find aspirins for Juliette, when Nazeera showed up, and they shared a moment. They didn’t kiss, but he was very much attracted to her, and even told her that he loved her. After his gym workout, Kenji falls into his group of friends, who give him grief about his boxers, and just before he goes to take a shower, Winston shows up, telling him that he is trying to find the right place and time to ask Brendan out on a date.
After showering, Kenji gets dressed, and on his way down to meet with Warner, he grabs some muffins, eating them before he arrives at the conference room where he was supposed to meet with Warner. Warner asks for Castle, but has to go fetch him. Together, the three of them enter the room, where they meet the son of the Supreme Commander of Africa, and the twin kids of the Supreme Commander of South America. In the midsts of their introduction, Juliette shows up, and Kenji is shocked at her cruelty–he knows that she must be hurting deeply as he knows Juliette better than anyone.
Once she gets irritated with the kids speaking their various languages, Juliette asks to see Warner, Kenji and Castle out in the hall. Warner pulls Kenji back and asks for a moment, so both Kenji and Castle hang back. When they do come up closer to Warner and Juliette, Kenji thinks that they should give them space, but Castle does not answer as he is watching Warner. He tells Kenji that perhaps they should give the couple some space, but he really wants nothing more than happiness for Warner and Juliette–but they need to heal individually. Castle also tells Kenji that his infatuation with Nazeera is obvious. They notice Warner and Juliette making out, and suddenly it becomes very clear to Kenji how the relationship between the two of them makes sense–he always thought that Warner was unemotional, while Juliette was the emotional one–but in that moment, it’s clear that she brings out the emotions in him, while he steadies her. Juliette runs away, and Castle goes to Warner, who crashes to the floor in shock. Kenji in the meantime pursues Juliette, and finds out that she’s angry with him because she believes that he was in on everything that Castle and Warner knew. He tells her it’s not true.
As Kenji is on his way to the Symposium, he falls into Sara and Sonya, who tell him that they have been looking for Castle, because they think that the person who tried to murder Juliette was a message from Nouria, a person who Kenji knows that Castle will be shocked to hear from. It appears that Nouria was part of Castle’s family, but they were separate after the murder of Castle’s sons, and after the borders were closed.
Kenji finds Castle walking out of a room with Warner, Nazeera and Haider, and passes on the message to Castle who runs off. Warner disappears as well, leaving Kenji with Nazeera and Haider, who asks about Nouria. Of course, Kenji sarcastically jokes with Haider, who doesn’t comprehend jokes, and gets mad when Nazeera laughs at Kenji’s jokes.
Later on, they are all at the symposium, and things are getting out of hand. Nazeera warns Kenji, revealing to him that she can turn invisible, and shortly thereafter, Juliette gets shot in the head, but the bullet doesn’t hurt her. She starts screaming and everything shatters, all 600 people in the symposium are dead. Juliette then faints, and Kenji tries to get her out, carrying her, but another unexplainable thing happens.
Juliette is gone–vanished into thin air.
And all of the people in the audience begin to stir–they are confused, but they are not dead.
Kenji is pushed out of the stage by Ian, even though he tries to tell him that he lost Juliette and cannot find Warner. He knows that he has no choice and has to leave the stage.
My Verdict: This novella occurs concurrently with Restore Me, at least towards the end of that book, and for the first time, we hear from Kenji’s perspective. Up until this point, Kenji has always been the goofy one, who made people laugh and made them feel ok. It’s been obvious throughout that he cares for people and wants to make sure that they’re okay, but more than anything, what this book underlines is that he himself struggles with being happy. He’s not ok–he wants more–and he puts up a facade so that he can take care of others. Like Castle says, the kids–Warner is 19, Juliette is 17, Adam is 18, Kenji is 20, and Nazeera, Haider, and the others are all within that same age range–they need to heal themselves first; they need to be happy. But it seems like this world has been cruel enough to them, that they haven’t given up hope inasmuch as they have never known that it was possible to find happiness and love.
I love how Kenji is this big brother to both Warner and Juliette, and how he falls in love so quickly and so easily with Nazeera. I guess it remains to be seen what happens next with them all.