Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette’s touch can kill.  Put in isolation by The Reestablishment after being charged with (accidental) murder, Juliette is left alone with her thoughts and her guilt.  Then she meets Adam, a soldier, and he is different.  They are different together.  Unwilling to be a pawn for The Reestablishment, Juliet has to make a decision: fight or be killed.

Tahereh Mafi’s debut novel was one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of late last year.  The buzz surrounding the novel on the YA blogosphere was overwhelming.  Many early reviews were positive.  The film rights were snatched up early on.  This was supposed to be something different, something to shake up the dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA world.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t live up to its hype.  At all.  While the story is serviceable, the highly stylized prose and overwrought metaphors make for a clunky reading experience.  Pacing problems, flat lead characters, and a twisty, comic-book ending makes for a mostly underwhelming reading experience.

Which is too bad, because it’s clear what Mafi was trying to do.  What sets the novel apart from other post-apocalyptic novels is the prose.  The problem is, Mafi’s prose is so overwrought that it’s almost as though it got away from her.  It doesn’t feel like Mafi (or Juliette, for that matter) is in control of what’s happening on the page.  Too often, the register is off, which messes with the dialogue, the character’s actions, and the pacing of the novel.  Mafi’s metaphors (which occur on almost every page) often don’t make a lick of sense.  It’s jarring and confusing when the connotations are clearly not what Mafi intended.

Stylistic problems won’t be noticed by every reader, and this reviewer would have been willing to ignore them if it hadn’t been for the fact that the story itself isn’t particularly novel.  Both Juliette and Adam are fairly flat characters, and while their chemistry isn’t completely lacking, it isn’t completely scorching, either.  Surprisingly, it is Mafi’s villains–the power-hungry Warner in particular–that are the most fully-realized and complex.

Pacing problems in the middle and a lack of world-building don’t help matters.  While the beginning of the book is the most compelling part, the comic-book-like ending is something of a head-scratcher.  This will work for some readers who don’t get tripped up on the prose and aren’t looking for a lot of depth in their characters.  Recommended for fans of the dystopian/post-apocalyptic genre.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. HarperTeen: 2011.  Borrowed copy.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

  1. Total lack of world building is right.. I was extremely excited for this and in some ways it lived up to the hype for me but still felt like a romance with a dystopia thrown in.

    And Team Warner! He was definitely my favorite character.

  2. Ha. I love reading reviews for this book because there really is no middle ground. I thought Juliette and Adam were awesome and complex characters while I never quite got why everyone’s so crazy over Warner, who I just hate.

    Reading your review and my review it almost seems like we read two different books. lol

    • Clementine Bojangles says:

      Sometimes I think a reader’s experiences play very strongly into how they perceive a book, so maybe we did read two books. There’s no such thing as a wrong answer when it comes to an opinion of a book.

  3. I’ve seen the sentiment again and again that this book fell flat for people. I wonder if the hype played into that at all? Like, did you find that the hype suggested the book was something other than it was and then that distracted you as a reader? I’m still on the fence, but I love a good villain, so maybe it’s worth a shot. Hopefully I can find a copy to borrow like you did! 🙂

    • Clementine Bojangles says:

      I think the hype plays into it for a lot of readers. I went into it having read some reviews that echoed my sentiments, so I was wary…and I was still let down by it. I think it’s different for different readers, though. Some people loved it!

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