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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi – Review

Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi

“Shatter Me” was better than expected but worse than I hoped. It was okay. I do not understand the excitement or the hype about this book but it was a quick and most of the time an enjoyable read.

 

This book is about “Juliette [who] hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days. The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.” (Goodreads)

What I enjoyed most about this book was the storyline. The pace of the book never slows or gets boring. Enough was happening to have kept me interested. Unfortunately the world building is lacking. So many things are only mentioned or explained half-heartedly. I do not need the whole world explained in every detail in the first book but in “Shatter Me” I often could not picture what the world actually looked like. I knew what the place looked like where the main characters were but outside that building? Where do all the people live? Is the city still a city? Or have all the building been destroyed? How do the people live? How does the system work? I need some explanation. At least some basic understanding so I can picture this different world. Mafi could not accomplish that. The few bits and pieces were not enough and I am not even sure Mafi knows herself what the world looks like exactly.

 

The characterization of the three main characters is also somewhat lacking. Since the book is quite short Juliette and Adam seem very one-dimensional. Their characterization is very straight forward and simple. And let us not even start talking about the instant love in this book. It makes no sense at all. On a psychological level you could say that Juliette is just desperate for love and that the fact, that Adam can touch her, makes him the only possible option. But that would paint this instant love in an even darker shade. The only characters that seemed interesting were Warner and Kenji. We do not know much about Warner. He appears to be a heartless and cruel a**** but is so desperate for Juliette’s love that I was intrigued again. What happened to him when he was a child? What is really going on in his head? I think he could become quite interesting in the future books. Kenji is this awesome sidekick that brings the humor to a story. He might be my favorite character in this book.

 

Mafi’s writing style is probably my biggest concern with this book. I know many people love her “beautiful” writing but for me it was actually the reason I did not read this book for so long. My first problem is the idea with the crossed out sentences. I know it makes the book unique but it did not work for me. It annoyed me to no end. Also, I do not know how it is done in the original English text but in the German translation they left out several commas on purpose which, to me, did not add to the writing but bothered me in the interest of grammatical correctness. Most recognizable of Mafi’s writing is of course her extensive usage of similes and metaphors. Many find it beautiful but I found it forced and just too much. I love me some beautiful description and subtle usage of metaphors but Mafi is overdoing it. At some of the things she wrote I would just stare and wonder if Mafi actually wrote that. For example:

“I always wonder about raindrops. I wonder about how they're always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It's like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn't seem to care where the contents fall, doesn't seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors. I am a raindrop.”

Just- WHAT?! Or:

“He says it with a small smile the size of Jupiter.”

No, just no. If you use a simile, use one that makes sense. A good thing is as the book progresses the crossed out sentences and horrible metaphors become less and less (could Mafi not think of any more?), the bad thing is without those it becomes painfully obvious how simple her writing style is. It reminded me of a typical high school student’s writing style. I think Mafi might become a great writer over time if she learns to use her ideas for describing situations and emotions in a subtle way.

 

Finally let us talk about the cover shortly. The original cover of “Shatter Me” was plain ugly. But they changed it soon enough. I like the new covers. I do not know if there is any connection to the books but they are pretty to look at. I also enjoy the German covers even though I noticed a little Photoshop fail.

 

“Shatter Me” did not impress me much but it was better than I expected. It is a very quick read so I will probably buy the next book when it comes out as paperback in Germany. I heard the series gets better so I hope the world building improves in the sequel. This book series is not placed very high in my ranking but it could have been worse.