Review: Shatter Me by Tehereh Mafi

“Someone picked up the sun and pined it to the sky again, but every day it hangs a little lower than the day before. It's like a negligent parent who only knows one half of who you are. It never sees how its absence changes people. How different we are in the dark.”

Juliette's touch is painful, even lethal. She is locked in solitary confinement for accidentally killing someone, and languishes in prison tortured by her own undeserved guilt. The world outside is in a state of environmental decay, with a global food shortage and violence in the streets. The Reestablishment who now control things hear of Juliette's power and plan to use her as a weapon.

I picked this book up because it appeared in a buzzfeed article called 43 Books You Won't Be Able to Stop Talking About. I had been planning to try and read some more books by women of colour (Mafi is of Iranian descent) and the description sounded promising. Unfortunately I found it a bit of a disappointment. The premise is similar to Graceling by Kristin Cashore, a young adult fantasy novel I hated for its sloppy world building (though my thoughts on it my have been coloured by the awful audio book production). It's a debut novel and it felt like one, a bit choppy and varying in writing quality. The preachiness of the following speech made me cringe:

It's probably our only real problem- but it's one caused by the perverse manipulations of Mother Earth. Man-made manipulations that we can still fix...There is still a chance to change things. We can provide fresh drinking water to all people. We can make sure crops are not regulated for profit; we can ensure that they are not genetically altered to benefit manufacturers. Our people are dying because we are feeding them poison...”

This reminded me too much of the oversimplified anti GMO rants that keep popping up in my Facebook feed, which added to the first novel vibe. Shatter Me is achingly sincere, full of energy and lacking in sense. It's a friendly labrador of a book come to show you all the interesting things it's been rolling in.

In other places the writing was gorgeously poetic, and the characters were intriguing. I did find myself caring what happened to Juliette and Kent. I also got the impression that there is more to Warner, the antagonist, than a two dimensional Bond villain (the guy puts a toddler in a room full of booby traps to make a point), though Mafi never really gets into that in this book.

Since I already impulse bought Destroy Me, which retells the story from the villain's perspective (curse the Kindle store's one click purchase feature!) I will probably continue reading this series for now. Shatter Me is a somewhat patchily written, unusual young adult book which may yet be the start of something great.

Published: 2011

Rated: ★★ ★ ☆☆

#scifi #dystyopia #fiction

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