Series Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Spoiler-Free)

SHATTER ME / UNRAVEL ME / IGNITE ME3 stars

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter MeSUMMARY

The Shatter Me trilogy tells the story of a teenage girl called Juliette, who is able to kill people just by touching them – and because of this (and her inability to control her powers), she’s spent most of her life locked up in a mental hospital, being treated like a monster. Needless to say, she’s a little unstable.

It’s set in a dystopian future, controlled by what seems to be an elected-government-turned-military-dictatorship called the Reestablishment, and its leader Anderson, and eventually Juliette joins up with a group of rebels with super-powers like her own, whose goal is to take down the Reestablishment and create a better world.

There are three main books in the series, as well as two novellas: Shatter Me (#1), Destroy Me (#1.5), Unravel Me (#2), Fracture Me (#2.5) and Ignite Me (#3).

Tahereh Mafi//Unravel MeSTORY [2/5]

The story had a very interesting concept, but I found that it never really went anywhere, and the plot certainly seemed much less important to the author than the characters and relationships, which I think was a mistake. The first book is almost entirely concerned with Juliette’s impressions of life outside the asylum she’s been imprisoned in, and even Omega Point (the rebel group) don’t seem to have any real plan for taking on the Reestablishment, even though they frequently state that that’s their goal.

This may be due to the narrative’s limited perspective (the story is told in first person, from Juliette’s point of view), but I feel that a lot more could have been explained about Omega Point, their plans, and even the Reestablishment itself, which seemed for the most part to be a distant evil, entirely forgettable except when civilians were being rounded up to be shot.

Tahereh Mafi//Ignite MeCHARACTERS [4/5]

Due to her history, Juliette is understandably withdrawn and slightly socially awkward for much of the series, but she really comes into her own towards the end of Unravel Me. More empowered, and a lot less angsty, she makes a really likeable protagonist.

Bachelor #1 is Adam, a likeable, but not particularly interesting soldier, who remembers Juliette from before she was locked away, and infiltrates the mental hospital in order to see her again. His primary characteristic, at least to begin with, seems to be his kindness, and he’s also very dedicated to his family – namely, his little brother James.

Tahereh Mafi//Destroy MeJuliette’s second love interest is Warner, who I personally found to be the most fascinating character in the series. He’s the leader of Sector 45, and the son of the Supreme Commander of the Reestablishment, and in Shatter Me, he’s the primary villain, but there’s a lot more to him than he lets on. Destroy Me, the first of the series’ two novellas, is told from Warner’s perspective, and is probably my favourite book in the series.

Last but by no means least is Kenji, who’s initially introduced as another of Warner’s soldiers, but is actually a spy for Omega Point. Kenji is often the comic relief character, but he is wonderfully aware of the fact, which makes him stand out from other comedic characters. He’s also Juliette’s best friend, and their relationship is one of the lighter, more fun aspects of the series.

There are several supporting characters, too (particularly at Omega Point), but apart from Adam’s brother James, none of them really make an impression.

Tahereh Mafi//Fracture MeROMANCE [4/5]

As you’ve probably been able to gather from my character descriptions above, there’s a very prominent love triangle in this series, and, to be honest, a lot of the time that I was reading, it seemed like Juliette’s love life was the most important part of the story – almost like a romance novel that just happened to have a dystopian backdrop. 😉

Like most love triangles, it can get pretty angsty and dramatic at times, but I found that I didn’t mind it too much: Juliette’s relationships with both Adam and Warner both had really interesting dynamics, and let us see very different sides of Juliette’s personality. Her relationship with Adam was very sweet, and she spent a lot of her time with him trying to learn to control her abilities so that she wouldn’t hurt him, or anyone else. In contrast, her relationship with Warner was more passionate, and when they were together she made a great deal of progress towards self-acceptance.

It was really great, however, that until we got close to the end of the book, it was never entirely clear which of them Juliette would choose – I’ve always found it irritating when there’s a love triangle, but the outcome is obvious from the start.

WORLD-BUILDING [1/5]

The world-building in this series was almost non-existent. We see the mental hospital, and enough of Sector 45 to realise the disparities between the living conditions of the ordinary citizens and the members of the Reestablishment, and little else. There is supposedly also some kind of global crisis going on, but the only thing we are ever really told about it is that it exists, and is causing a shortage of basically everything (and that birds can no longer fly).

WRITING [4/5]

The writing is one of the most impressive things about this series, and is something that I always find mentioned in other reviews that I’ve come across.

They’re written in a very distinct, stream-of-consciousness style, which changes as the series goes on, to reflect Juliette’s state of mind, and her growing sense of self-awareness and self-worth. In Shatter Me, for instance, much of the narration is crossed out, where Juliette is trying to reconcile the what she actually thinks with what she’s been taught to think, and it makes for a very interesting read.

Tahereh Mafi is also very good at writing quick but poignant narrative moments, and there are literally hundreds of really great quotes that can be found in all three books. Epic Reads even made a video out of a small collection of them not too long ago, which you can watch here, if you so desire.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [3/5]

An almost-generic, over-hyped dystopian series that is saved from its lacklustre storyline and abysmal world-building by a wonderfully quirky writing style, and some incredibly compelling characters and relationships (not to mention the beautiful book covers).

RECOMMENDED FOR…

Fans of the feelings-first approach of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, as well as those who enjoyed the love triangles in books like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy or Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series (though both these series have significantly better storylines).

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December Wrap Up

This month I managed to get through thirteen books! Or rather, ten novels, two short stories, and one art-book. Certainly not my best reading month, but then again, December never is (there’s always so much to do!), so I’m pretty satisfied with this. Anyway, here’s what I thought of it all:

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. A really satisfying conclusion to the trilogy (which seems to be rare these days). All the different threads of the story were wrapped up nicely, and it was lovely to see Cosmé, Alodia and Ximena again (however briefly). The pacing of the book was pretty fast, and though I didn’t feel that it was necessary for Hector to have his own POV chapters, I found myself liking them anyway. What struck me most about this final instalment, however, was the humour – which is not to say that the book was a particularly funny one, but Rae Carson had a great way of diffusing the tension whenever it got too thick (particularly towards the end), and some of my favourite moments were the little character interactions that made me chuckle (i.e. Red being introduced to Rosario; Storm and Waterfall talking about the Joyans; & so many more…).5 starsSally Green//Half LiesHalf Lies by Sally Green. A short story set in the Half Life universe, that I only discovered by accident when I stumbled upon it on Amazon… It’s written in diary form, and told from the perspective of a young Black Witch called Michèle – Gabriel’s younger sister. The story itself was very simple: It fleshed out the world a little, and introduced some more bits of Black Witch culture, which was interesting (and was also something that  was really hoping for after reading Half Bad), and it also explained how Gabriel became a fain, but at its heart it’s really a love story, between Michèle and a boy called Sam. It’s a little sad, but there’s some humour, too (and of course Gabriel is the type of guy who’d read his sister’s diary 😉 ). I’m a little curious about Caitlin’s motivations, and I hope that it might be touched on in the rest of the series, though I’m not sure how it would come into the story…4 stars

Cassandra Clare//City of BonesCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I realise that I probably should have read this before reading the Infernal Devices trilogy, but I have no regrets – and (as an interesting but not particularly important aside) having read Clockwork Princess certainly gave me a different perspective of Brother Jeremiah than I probably would have had otherwise… I enjoyed the book a lot, despite the fact that I’ve heard that it’s the weakest in the series, and it was different enough from the film (which I saw a couple of months ago) that I didn’t feel that I already knew the story. In terms of the main characters: I liked Clary and Isabelle well enough, and I really liked Alec, but I thought Simon was a little bland, and Jace somewhat too… snarky for my tastes. Overall, it was good fun, though, and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.4 starsThe Gernsback Continuum by William Gibson (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A short story that is less about actually travelling through time, and more about seeing through time (or perhaps into another world). A little on the trippy side, but enjoyable all the same, and Gibson has a very fluid writing style, which makes things easy to picture.3 starsTahereh Mafi//Shatter MeShatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. A dystopian superpower book, about a girl with a lethal touch. I liked it a lot, though I felt that the first-person perspective held it back a little, at least in terms of world-building (which I would like to have seen more of), and it bothered me to a surprising degree that Juliette’s powers haven’t yet been explained. I enjoyed Juliette’s voice, though, and the disjointed writing style really brought out the fragility of her mind – in a way, it was almost like reading a journal, with all the crossed-out passages… Romance-wise, I’ve already been spoiled for this series’ endgame, but I’m enjoying the way that Juliette interacts with both Adam and Warner; character-wise, I like basically everyone so far (and even Warner is interesting, if not pleasant), and I’m looking forward to reading more.2 starsKatie McGarry//Breaking the RulesBreaking the Rules by Katie McGarry. The last book in the Pushing the Limits series, set between the first two books, and following Noah and Echo, the main couple in the first book. It was definitely great to see Noah and Echo again (they’re my favourites), and how they interact now that they’ve been a couple for a little while longer. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as either Pushing the Limits or Crash Into You, but it’s earned a pretty solid bronze medal, and it was a close call. Noah and Echo’s relationship development was very realistic, and the story addressed some of their issues that weren’t tackled in the first book. I also really enjoyed the interaction between Echo and Beth, which took me a little by surprise, as I’ve never liked Beth very much in any of the previous books…4 stars17378508Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I really enjoyed this book, but for some reason I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did the previous two… In the beginning, especially, I loved the scenes with Blue and Gansey (I wish there’d been more of them), and I also find myself growing more attached to Ronan after the events of The Dream Thieves. Malory’s part in the book was hilarious (and the Dog!), and I really liked Jesse Dittley (the part where he met Malory was one of my favourite quotes in the book). I think, however, then the book would have benefitted from a stronger antagonist: In the first book there was Whelk; in the second there was Mr. Gray and Kavinsky; in the third there was Greenmantle, but he seemed a little lackluster, and except for Adam and Ronan, none of the characters seemed to be particularly concerned about him… There was a lot of good build-up for the last book, though, so I’m definitely excited about that. 🙂4 starsAlexandra Bracken//Brightly WovenBrightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken. This book was surprisingly fast-paced for a high fantasy novel, and I feel that that held it back somewhat – the world-building was lacking, the characters moved from place to place too quickly, and the story’s climax came out of nowhere and was over in what seemed like a flash. Despite its flaws, though, it was an interesting story, with likeable characters and a sweet (if predictable) romance, and it plays to its strengths well, with the writing focusing more on Sydelle and North’s relationship than on the plot. It reads a little like High Fantasy-Lite, but it was definitely enjoyable all the same.3 starsStudio Ghibli Layout Designs: Understanding the Secrets of Takahata and Miyazaki Animation by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A catalogue (I think) from the Hong Kong exhibition of the same name. The written parts of the book were a little technical for my taste, but would probably be more interesting to somebody who’s hoping to get into animation as a hobby or profession… The main highlight for me was (naturally) the art, though, and there was a lot of it in here, and it was all absolutely beautiful. Some of the pictures I even almost preferred as rough sketches (there was a before-and-after section in the book). A wonderful, wonderful book. (There are so many Ghibli films that I still need to see!)5 starsWendy Higgins//See MeSee Me by Wendy Higgins. A romance novel about an arranged marriage between a human girl and a leprechaun. The premise was interesting, I thought, but I found the story and characters rather lacklustre, and everything about the romance was far too convenient – despite not having communicated in any way for their entire seventeen-year engagement, they fall in love almost immediately… Insta-love isn’t something that I always have a problem with in romance books, but in this one I thought that it felt very contrived. The plot, however, was what I had the biggest problem with: It basically consisted of a tug-of-war between two uninteresting girls, over an equally uninteresting boy… It wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, but…1 starAnders Nilsen//Rage of PoseidonRage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. A graphic novel portraying the god Poseidon (and several other divine figures) in the modern world. This is actually a collection of several different stories with the same theme, which I wasn’t expecting, but I really enjoyed all of them. My favourites were probably Rage of Poseidon and Leda and the Swan, but the final (one-page) story – Jesus and Aphrodite – was hilarious, and Nilsen’s art style really suited the story and subject matter. Altogether, a humourous but thought-provoking take on religion, old and new(/current).5 starsBryan Lee O'Malley//SecondsSeconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A standalone comic about a woman who stumbles across a way to erase her past mistakes, and goes a little crazy trying to make her life perfect, with increasingly disastrous results. The art was beautiful, and I really loved O’Malley’s writing style (this book has several particularly funny “dialogues” between the narrator and the main character, Katie). The story was both humourous and touching, and the characters (especially Hazel!) were great!5 starsJohn Green, Lauren Myracle & Maureen Johnson//Let It SnowLet It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green & Lauren Myracle. A set of three interconnected short Christmas romances, and a really enjoyable, uplifting read. I started reading this book on Christmas Eve, and it really got me into the right mindset for Christmas! 😀 Of the three stories, I think I liked Lauren Myracle’s the best, but mainly because it was the last, and I really loved the way she managed to weave the three stories together at the end. Super-cute!5 stars

November & December Haul

Nov.-Dec. Haul 2014I didn’t really think it was worth posting a haul in November, since I ended up buying a grand total of one book, but hopefully this will make up for it… I went a little crazy spending my Christmas money, and (including that book I bought in November) I have twenty books to tell you about today. 😀 From top to bottom:

1) Studio Ghibli Layout Designs by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A beautiful book of (mainly) artwork from various Studio Ghibli films. This was a Christmas gift from my lovely friend Chloë, when I went to visit her in Hong Kong. 🙂

2) Books I Have Read & Books I Want to Read by the British Library. This was the only thing that I actually requested this Christmas, and it found its way (to my delight) into my stocking on Christmas morning. It’s a journal-style book for keeping track of all the books I’ve read, as well as book clubs, literary events, and there’s even a little address book at the back for all my favourite bookshops and websites!

3) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is the book I mentioned that I bought in November. I came across it while I was Christmas shopping, and couldn’t resist buying it (I’m weak-willed, I know) – partly because I’d heard so many good things about it, but mainly because it’s signed! It’s a World War II-era novel set in France, I believe, but I don’t know too much else about it.

4) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. A contemporary summer romance novel, though I’ve heard that it’s pretty sad. I decided to pick this one up after reading Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, since I liked that one so much.

5) White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. This is the first of the books I bought on my Christmas-money-shopping-spree, and I don’t really know what it’s about (this is going to become a theme in this haul), but it’s by Marcus Sedgwick, so I’m sure it’s very good (even though I still haven’t read any of his books…).

6) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Again, I don’t know much about this book, but I read We Were Liars, by the same author, earlier this year and loved it, so I have high hopes for this one, too.

7) The Executioner’s Daughter & River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff. The first two books in a series (or perhaps just a duology) about a girl who’s locked up in the Tower of London. These two were complete impulse buys, & I mainly picked them up because River Daughter (the second book) was in the buy-one-get-one-half-price deal, along with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I’ve been craving historical fiction lately, though, so hopefully I’ll read these sometime soon.

8) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this series, & I’ve been wanting to pick them up for ages! Once again, I don’t really know what it’s about, but Catherynne M. Valente’s writing is like some kind of word-magic, so I have high expectations~ 😀

9) Trouble by Non Pratt. This one’s about a teen pregnancy, and sounds pretty interesting.

10) Mãn by Kim Thúy. This was a gift from my aunt & uncle, & I really have no clue what it’s about, except that it is very short (less than 150 pages) and the author apparently won several awards for her previous book. I’ve flipped through the first few pages, and the writing style seems really beautiful, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.

11) The Boy that Never Was by Karen Perry. A mystery novel about the parents of a small boy who disappears. My Dad picked this one out for me, as he apparently read a review that claimed it would be perfect for fans of Gone Girl (by Gillian Flynn). It looks interesting, though I’m not sure when I’ll get round to reading it…

12) Shatter MeUnravel MeUnite Me & Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is a YA dystopian trilogy (Unite Me is a novella bind-up) about a girl who has a lethal touch. I’ve actually read the first book already, so you’ll be seeing that in my December wrap up post, & I’m currently reading (& enjoying) Unravel Me.

13) Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A graphic novel about a young chef who finds a way to erase her past mistakes and ends up screwing with the fabric of the universe (more or less), to disastrous effect. It’s a lot of fun, & I actually read it almost as soon as it arrived in the post, so I’ll talk more about it in my wrap up.

14) Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A short manga set during World War II, from the perspective of a Japanese soldier (I think). I’m definitely excited about this, since most WWII literature that I’ve come across is told from the Allies’ side, or else from the side of German Anti-Nazi sympathisers… I believe that it’s also partially autobiographical.

15) Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. Another book that I read as soon as I got it, so you’ll be hearing more about it soon. It’s a collection of graphic short stories mainly about the Greek gods in the modern world. Very well-done (and, to my surprise, published as a fold-out, concertina-style book, though only one side of the concertina has been printed on…).

16) Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. The third and final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which I have not yet started, but am really looking forward to reading. I was actually planning on waiting until it came out in paperback to buy it, in order to save space on my shelves, but I recently obtained a new bookcase, and so I decided to throw caution to the wind! And it is a very beautiful book, so I regret nothing. 😉