SHATTER ME / UNRAVEL ME / IGNITE ME
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).
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.
Due to her history, Juliette is understandably withdrawn and slightly socially awkward for much of the series, but she really comes into her own towards the end of Unravel Me.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.
Juliette’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.
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.
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).
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).
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).