Retro Review: Shatter Me (2011)

Tahereh Mafi

Allen and Unwin (2011)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-820-6

Shatter Me is an impressive debut novel from Tahereh Mafi, employing an unusual structural style to tell a not-quite-linear narrative following characters you come to love and loathe. While not marketed as such, it is apparently book one of a trilogy, but don’t let that deter you – this book stands alone quite well, and comes to a satisfying conclusion while leaving you wanting more.

Juliette is in isolation, restricted to a cell to “protect” society from her deadly touch. She thinks she might be going insane, in solitary confinement, and when her captors throw a young man into the cell with her, she’s certain of it, sure that one or both of them is intended now to die. But Adam is not what he appears, and it seems that the Reestablishment – the organisation that gained power after the world tried to destroy itself – has other plans for Juliette. Can she somehow gain back control of her own life, and perhaps even find a semblance of a normal life?

I enjoyed reading Shatter Me a great deal – the stylistic choices employed by the author meant that it was not necessarily the easiest book to work though, but I think those choices made the story more interesting. The character of Juliette was one which unfolded gradually, offering small pieces to the reader of her background and personality as the story went on. Adam was somewhat of an enigma, but the developing friendship between the two made sense. The character of Warner was somewhat less successful, for me, but gave Juliette and Adam a foe to work against.

While the book was indeed a strong story, with a dystopian setting that is topical and quite well-realised, there were some flaws. I wasn’t entirely convinced on the premise of Juliette’s condition, and there were some explanations that were probably needed but not provided (I don’t want to say too much on those as they are spoiler fodder). However, some aspects I was not happy with may be explained in the sequel novels, so I wasn’t left feeling too dissatisfied by these.

In all, I would happily recommend this to fans of dystopian science fiction of all ages over 14 years, and look forward to seeing what comes next.

This review was first published at ASiF! on May 24, 2012.

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