Tahereh Mafi's debut novel opens by introducing us to Juliette, locked away from society and a dying civilization for 264 days, because Juliette has a secret, a gift, a curse: her touch is dangerous, possibly lethal to others. Deprived of human contact, Juliette believes she is every foul thing anyone has ever called her. Right away, my heart went out to her, because for every time she's been kicked, everyone who has called her a freak, even through being shunned by her own family, Juliette still has a good heart, and a lot of compassion. She has spirit, and a genuine desire to reach out to others, which makes her ability all the more crushing. And Juliette is stubborn, too, in a way that made me applaud her throughout the book: she will not let herself be used, and she will not allow herself to become the weapon others wants her to be. She has morals and she has spunk, and a fierceness that I wish I had. Over the course of Shatter Me, I fell head over heels for our tortured, uncertain, heroine. I wanted to hold her so many times, and I wanted to grin triumphantly with her on a few other occasions.
As superbly fleshed out as Juliette is, so are the other supporting characters, especially Adam, Kenji, and Warner. I like my villains with a side of charming, the sort of evil you hate, but also find yourself kind of wishing they were in more scenes, and Warner was exactly that. And although I loved Adam (more on him in a minute) Kenji was my absolute favorite secondary character. I found him fascinating, and can't wait to find out more about him, as well as a few other characters who were introduced closer to the end of Shatter Me.
Something else I really adored about Shatter Me was the relationship between Adam and Juliette. I think at some point last year, I hit the plateau of thinking I'd seen it all in novels as far as romance; romance, for me, was starting to feel tired. I've read a few books this year where I really connected with the couples, and Adam and Juliette are probably one of my absolute favorites. I am tempted to go back and re-read the book just to read their scenes. They were steamy when they needed to be, tender and sweet when they needed to be, and overall they felt so genuine, to me. I loved what they each brought out in the other. I think readers are really going to fall in love with these two!
And I can't do the book justice without mentioning the Tahareh's writing style. I could get lost in passages from Shatter Me, and I could post examples here, but all I'm going to do instead is just say...please read this book. Please give it a chance. There are a lot of disjointed or choppy passages, but there is a good reason behind them. The structure is used to represent Juliette's fractured state of mind, and her feelings for the Reestablishment. (I found the whole reasoning behind the Reestablishment scary and also totally possible, which made the story all the more gritty and realistic for me.) Plus there is a fantastic set-up for the sequel, which I feel totally confident will only build on the fantastic, heart-wrenching, and poignant Shatter Me.
“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.” - Juliette
See more of my reviews at Once Upon a Prologue