October 21, 2011

The Hunger Games + Divergent + The Incredibles = Shatter Me

I received this as an ARC from my husband's work. The cover was quite intriguing, and since I am participating in a readathon this weekend, I thought I would let this be my first read. I was not prepared for the ride.

Summary (from Goodreads):
Juliette 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. 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.

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting as The Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

My thoughts:

"In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived loved and lost through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction." - Juliette
When I first started reading this novel, I was not sure what to think. The style was different from most novels - she flips between straight prose and lyrical - but as the story progressed, I found myself sucked in. 

The strength of this novel is that it is character driven, a staple in true dystopian writing. Readers must care about the characters and their strife in order to truly care that the world has collapsed around them, must be fixed by them. For me, I cared because I wanted to know the cause of Juliette's affliction; the cause of the collapse of society; the cause of the entire package.

Juliette spends seventeen years of her life without strength, without acceptance, without peace. That is until Adam is thrown into her cell. He brings into her life a possibility of all things - even if it costs him his own life. 

There are so many tense situations in the novel brought upon by the character of Warner. His role in the greater picture is clearly laid out in this novel. There seems to be no doubt to his intentions, but I am curious to see if Mafi will take him in a slightly different direction in the next novel.

Since readers are treated to so many tense situations, Mafi treats us to the character of Kenji. His character provides the same level of charm as that of the Weasley brothers in Harry Potter. Exactly! Combine Fred and George and you've got an idea of Kenji. I encountered several laugh-out-loud moments with his character.

The pattern I noticed is that the lyrical style is used during times of Juliette's duress. As readers move deeper into the pages, the lyrical style fades as Juliette's character strengthens, finds acceptance, finds peace. It is as if the prose becomes stronger because Juliette's character does.

I feel that the author takes a risk with the style of the novel. I have read many reviews that were turned off by her switching between lyrical and prose and her over-use of metaphors. For me, this made the novel stronger. I feel that this intentional switch in style is a message from Juliette - she is unsure of herself, so instead of sharing her thoughts through dialogue readers are thrust into her mind, a greater place of uncertainty than what is happening in society. 

The novel is heavy on symbolism as well - blushing, bleeding, touching. While these may seem overplayed to some, I felt that were a necessity to remind us that these characters are living in a broken society, but they themselves are alive. Blood is such a strong symbol in literature, and I feel it serves the same purpose in this novel. The touching steeps from the fact that Juliette was never able to touch, it was the one thing she craved the most. Thus, Mafi gives it to us. A reminder that we all need one another, that touching is as important to life as breathing air. Without giving too much more away, I will leave it there. 

The novel's conclusion was a risk. The author introduces us to another element, to new characters, to a new Juliette. This seemed to upset some readers, but I feel it was her way of throwing us a bone. I felt satisfied at the conclusion. 

As a side note, this novel is heavy on romance. This is the reason I compared it to an element of Divergent. For me, the chemistry between Juliette and Adam mirrors that of Tris and Four.   

Basically, if you love The Hunger Games, Divergent, Awaken, Delirium, etc. you should read this book.  

I am ready to see where Mafi will take us next.

*Note: The quote above is from an ARC - the style you see (the lack of commas) is a small example of how Mafi plays with style in the novel. I thought it was an interesting stylistic choice. The quote itself may be altered in the final copy.

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