Publication Date: 11/15/2011
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.Dark and darker are the two colors that comprise Juliette's life. The light that streams in through the window can't quite shift her cell into day, but she can see the mountains painted against the permanent grey of the sky. She has been here for 264 days which means that she also has not spoken or interacted with anyone in just as long, although the infiniteness of time makes it feel longer. Then a boy is thrown into her cell, curious and questioning. Through the dark its difficult to see, but those blue eyes she would recognise anywhere. And suddenly those 264 days are given a new meaning.
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. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.
The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.
Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
Tahereh Mafi is a wordsmith. Reading Shatter Me was like reading a composition of my favorite words in the precise order I would have loved to read them. There is prose and there is prose that is so much like poetry the way that it ebbs and flows and then hits with its meaning not outright, but so subtly that the impact is even greater. And the impact here is immense considering the fact that Juliette has not spoken to anyone in almost a year, and all that she's been left with is her words and a pen. She's had time to think and roll phrases unconsciously around in her mind as she's had no one else to share anything with. For me, this immaculately crafted construction is integral to the idea of the plot. The way this is expressed is innovative, but with such a natural flow that it was a glimpse inside a character's head in a way I haven't before experienced.
While the words were instrumental in making everything believable, the characters were equally fabulous in taking the great setting given and carrying it along. It might be easy to think that for being trapped in a cell for as long as she was, that Juliette might be meek or unsure of how to reintegrate herself back into things but Juliette, however, was none of these things. If it's one thing that she knows completely is that she will not allow people to use her in any way and so we see this in everything from her posture as well as her inner and external dialogue. Because of everything she's had to go through, from even before she was locked up, she's incredibly strong in a way that had me pause to reread as I was in awe of just how well it was brought forth. In a world where a hesitant conformity has become the norm, Juliette is so very human.
There are two other characters that reflect off of each other as if they were night and day and it was really interesting to see how one was almost the inverse of the other; if he had chosen to do evil instead of good he could have almost been the other. I'm hesitant to give names or too much information because for me this was one of the best parts of the exposition. The way both of them interact with Juliette is fantastic, and like Juliette, I found myself almost wanting to know more about them both, but also found myself reeling back. I loved the terrible craftiness and brutal honesty of one and the tiptoeing sincerity of the other.
And then there's the ending, and it's one that will throw you through a loop and wonder just where else this series will (and could possibly) take you. But given the sheer uniqueness of Shatter Me, it's one you'll want to go on immediately after the last sentence. An automatic favorite and an incredible start to what promises to be a thrilling journey.
Thank you to HarperCollins for providing an ARC at NYCC and to the incredibly sweet Tahereh Mafi for signing it for me and also for speaking up for the round pegs in square holes.