Review: “Shatter Me” by Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me #1)

Title: Shatter Me
Shatter Me #1
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Language: English, Italian
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance.

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.

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This book was one of many who waited its turn on my list (and in my library) for centuries. I started reading it a few months ago, but it was the wrong time and my attention was immediately diminished, so I postponed it until I had the clearer mind to appreciate it all the way. Its turn is finally here and I can say with confidence to all those who had recommended it to me (and in particular to Anncleire who screamed to me for months to read it): “you were right”! But let’s go step by step.
“Shatter Me” is the first book in the homonymous series by Tahereh Mafi, translated into Italian under the name of “Schegge di Me”. In English, the series is now over, but there are no certainties about its publication in Italian: all is silent about the second volume, Unravel Me, even after the protests and mobilizations of the fans. In short, the usual series left in half, if not even the beginning. For more information about the structure of the series, I refer you to the “Dystopia Masterpost # 1 ”.
In the paperback I purchased were included two chapters of “Unravel Me” and a part of “Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5)”… I will “devour” both soon (side note: I’ve finished Destroy Me, but I had already written this review before doing so, then I’ll talk about in another review, dedicated to this ‘novella’)!

Sometimes I think the loneliness inside of me is going to explode through my skin and sometimes I’m not sure if crying or screaming or laughing through the hysteria will solve anything at all. Sometimes I’m so desperate to touch, to be touched, to feel, that I’m almost certain I’m going to fall off a cliff in an alternate universe where no one will ever be able to find me.

Juliette Ferrars is locked up from 264 days without talking or touching anyone. Her life, if we can call it so, is all enclosed in the numbers that obsessed her: 4 walls and 1 window. And probably she would have lost her mind if she hadn’t with her a small notebook and a broken pen. Her humanity is fading between mechanical gestures and the lack of contact with the outside world. But she is still holding on hope, to see out the window the birds fly into a dying planet as hers. The same people, who should deal with what happens outside of her prison, are those whom have lock her there.

There will be a bird today. It will be white with streaks of gold like a crown atop its head. It will fly.

Everything changed that day, when it ends her isolation and suddenly she finds “two eyes, two lips, two ears and eyebrows” observing her. Adam Kent entered into her life and soon nothing will ever be the same.

I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane.

The thing that struck me most about this book is certainly its style. From the first pages you have the impression of living in the mind of Juliette, in her disconnected world made of isolation and acute observation. In her place, any human would have being gone crazy and she is no exception. Her thoughts are confused by hunger and imprisonment, but she did not give up, she have something to say and she transcribes it. Juliette has a distorted view of the world that she continues to correct: cutting, arranging and thinking what surrounds her. I appreciate courageous choices in terms of story’s style/structure and this is perfect, I found it appropriate to express her feelings and to put me into her character. I also like to note that all then adapts to the changes which Juliette had suffered, until it became a ‘backdrop’ to her moments of uncertainty and doubt, where she very often preferred to remain silent. Since this is a very particular style, I can only advise you to read and be carried away by the story and if you do not like it, forget it because maybe this book would lack value otherwise.

Raindrops are my only reminder that clouds have a heartbeat. That I have one, too.
I always wonder about raindrops.
I wonder about how they’re always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It’s like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn’t seem to care where the contents fall, doesn’t seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors.
I am a raindrop.
My parents emptied their pockets of me and left me to evaporate on a concrete slab.

The character of Juliette is at the heart of mysteries and doubts. From the very first pages it is easy to wonder what she has been guilty of so serious or what her power are for bringing everyone to leave her that way. Questions that increase as soon as she begins to remember Adam and discovers that he is immune to her power. The answer is postponed to the next volumes (and I think it hides more important questions), but the love between the two blossoms very soon.

… I’m oxygen and he’s dying to breathe.

I have turned up my nose a bit about the base of their relationship (perhaps [SPOILER] love lasted for years and years, without ever having talked to each other, it’s not really my thing [/SPOILER]), but they work well as a pair, and ended up to rely much one for the other. I liked Adam as a character, but not too much, maybe because once Warner arrived I found my preferred male protagonist. Yes, you read that right, Warner! And here we would have to make a long digression on the fact that I LOVE the bad guys (or assumed) and not just because “being bad is cool” or “passed to the dark side, we have cookies”, but because the bad guys, if delineated well, have a thickness such as to be able to withstand the action alone. Warner has attracted attention from the first second that came on the scene and in fact remains an interesting character (beyond the alignment between good and evil).

“Life is a bleak place,” he whispers. “Sometimes you have to learn how to shoot first.”

The young leader of Sector 45 knows what he wants from his life and above all know how to get it. His manner and his determination make him the deadly opponent against whom no one wants to fight. I think that, much more of others, Warner has figured out how his world turns and what really needs to gain power. But he is a human being who, though ruthless, has weaknesses. Juliette becomes his obsession, his weak point, so he ends up showing sides of his character which I suppose will be explored in other books. I look forward to reading the story from his point of view because I’m sure he hides much more than it seems on the surface.

“They’re destroying everything, all the books, every artifact, every remnant of human history. They’re saying it’s the only way to fix things. They say we need to start fresh. They say we can’t make the same mistakes of previous generations.”

Last but not least, the world-building, cross and delight of all the sci-fi novels (dystopian or not). I really liked the way of counterbalancing the information, giving both a background credible and a passionate love story. We always have the right amount of information we need, though perhaps the first parts of the novel are a bit overloaded. The planet is dying, animals are scarce, as is happening to resources. “The Reestablishment”, this movement/party took control of everything and is trying to lay down the law in any field (from creating a new world language to destroy those who are against it). The dystopian atmosphere 1984-like highlighted by this continual reference to the cameras that observe Juliette (and not just her) in every moment.
Needless to not even notice the similarities, this time more at the level of the characters, with the X-Men saga. I’m not a fan (I stopped at the second film), but arrived at a certain point in the novel I almost yelled, “Where are Magneto and Wolverine?!”. In the final part, the similarities are too many to not jump to the eye and I have to say that they have also affected the judgment. The idea, the story, the novel, everything is almost perfect, but this mental association that is created between the movie and book unleashes an almost déjà vu in the reader who knows both.

I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss 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.

In conclusion, “Shatter Me” by Tahereh Mafi is a wonderful book, especially recommended to readers who enjoy the dystopia, and why not, even to those who have loved X-Men.

P.S. Note as “Cover Lovers”: How beautiful is the cover of the entire series? I love it and I really like how everything connects then to what is described in the book.

Rating:

Questo libro era uno dei tanti che aspettava nella mia lista (e nella mia libreria) da secoli il suo turno. Avevo iniziato a leggerlo qualche mese fa, ma era il momento sbagliato e l’attenzione era subito scemata, così avevo rimandato tutto a quando avrei avuto la mente più libera per apprezzarlo fino in fondo. Il suo torno è finalmente arrivato e posso dire con tranquillità a tutti quelli che me lo avevano consigliato (e in particolare ad Anncleire che mi urlava da mesi di leggerlo): “avevate ragione voi”! Ma andiamo per gradi.
“Shatter Me” è il primo libro della serie omonima di Tahereh Mafi, tradotto in Italia con il nome “Schegge di Me”. In inglese la serie è ormai conclusa, ma non ci sono certezze sulla sua pubblicazione in italiano: tutto tace riguardo il secondo volume, Unravel Me, anche dopo le proteste e le mobilitazioni dei fans. Insomma la solita serie lasciata a metà, se non addirittura all’inizio. Per ulteriori informazioni sulla struttura della serie vi rimando al “Dystopia Masterpost #1”.
Sappiate solo che nel paperback che ho acquistato erano inclusi due capitoli di “Unravel Me” e una parte di “Destroy Me”… Li “divorerò” presto entrambi (piccola nota: ho già finito Destroy Me, ma avevo già scritto questa recensione prima di farlo, quindi ne parlerò in un altra, dedicata alla ‘novella’)!

Sometimes I think the loneliness inside of me is going to explode through my skin and sometimes I’m not sure if crying or screaming or laughing through the hysteria will solve anything at all. Sometimes I’m so desperate to touch, to be touched, to feel, that I’m almost certain I’m going to fall off a cliff in an alternate universe where no one will ever be able to find me.

Juliette Ferrars è rinchiusa da 264 giorni senza parlare o toccare nessuno. La sua vita, se così la possiamo chiamare, è tutta racchiusa nei numeri che la ossessionano: 4 mura e 1 finestra. E probabilmente avrebbe già perso la ragione se non avesse con sé un piccolo notebook ed una penna rotta. La sua umanità si sta spegnendo tra gesti meccanici e la mancanza di contatti con l’esterno. Eppure si sta ancora aggrappando alla speranza, quella di vedere fuori dalla finestra degli uccelli volare in un pianeta ormai morente come il suo. Le stesse persone, che si dovrebbero occupare di quello che succede fuori dalla sua prigione, sono quelle che l’hanno rinchiusa lì.

There will be a bird today. It will be white with streaks of gold like a crown atop its head. It will fly.

Tutto cambia proprio quel giorno, quando finisce il suo isolamento e improvvisamente si trova “due occhi, due labbra, due orecchie e due sopracciglia” ad osservarla. Adam Kent è entrato nella sua vita e presto niente sarà più lo stesso.

I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane. I am not insane.

La cosa che mi ha colpita di più di questo libro è certamente il suo stile. Sin dalle prime pagine si ha l’impressione di vivere nella mente di Juliette, nel suo mondo sconnesso fatto di isolamento ed acuta osservazione. Al suo posto qualsiasi essere umano sarebbe impazzito e lei non è da meno. I suoi pensieri sono confusi dalla fame e dalla prigionia, ma lei non demorde, ha qualcosa da dire e lo trascrive. Ha una visione distorta del mondo che continua a correggere, tagliando, ripensando e sistemando ciò che la circonda. Apprezzo le scelte coraggiose in fatto di stile/struttura del racconto e questa è perfetta, l’ho trovata adatta ad esprimere le sue sensazioni e farmi entrare nel suo personaggio. Mi è piaciuto anche notare come tutto si adeguava poi ai cambiamenti che aveva subito Juliette, fino a fare da cornice ai suoi momenti di incertezza e di dubbio, in cui molto spesso preferiva tacere. Trattandosi di uno stile molto particolare mi viene da consigliare solo di leggere e lasciarsi trasportare dalla storia e, se non piace, meglio lasciar perdere perché forse questo libro mancherebbe di valore altrimenti.

Raindrops are my only reminder that clouds have a heartbeat. That I have one, too.
I always wonder about raindrops.
I wonder about how they’re always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. It’s like someone is emptying their pockets over the earth and doesn’t seem to care where the contents fall, doesn’t seem to care that the raindrops burst when they hit the ground, that they shatter when they fall to the floor, that people curse the days the drops dare to tap on their doors.
I am a raindrop.
My parents emptied their pockets of me and left me to evaporate on a concrete slab.

Il personaggio di Juliette è al centro di misteri e dubbi. Dalle prime pagine è facile chiedersi cosa abbia commesso di così grave o quale fosse il suo potere per aver portato tutti ad abbandonarla in quel modo.
Domande che aumentano nel momento stesso in cui inizia a ricordare di Adam e scopre che lui è immune al suo potere. La risposta viene rimandata ai prossimi volumi (e credo nasconda domande ancora più importanti), ma l’amore tra i due sboccia molto più presto.

… I’m oxygen and he’s dying to breathe.

Ho storto il naso un po’ per le basi del loro rapporto (forse [SPOILER] l’amore durato anni ed anni, senza mai parlarsi, non è proprio il mio genere [/SPOILER]), ma come coppia funzionano bene, finendo per contare molto l’uno per l’altra. Mi è piaciuto Adam come personaggio, ma non troppo, forse perché una volta arrivato Warner ho scoperto di avere un protagonista maschile preferito. Sì, avete letto bene, Warner! E qua ci sarebbe da fare una lunga digressione sul fatto che AMO i personaggi cattivi (o presunti tali) e non solo perché “essere cattivi è bello” o “passate al lato oscuro, abbiamo i biscottini”, ma perché i cattivi, se delineati bene, hanno uno spessore tale da essere in grado di reggere l’azione da soli. Warner ha attirato l’attenzione sin dal primo secondo in cui è entrato in scena e di fatto rimane un personaggio interessante (al di là del suo allineamento tra bene e male).

“Life is a bleak place,” he whispers. “Sometimes you have to learn how to shoot first.”

Il giovane capo del Settore 45 sa bene cosa vuole dalla sua vita e soprattutto sa come ottenerlo. I suoi modi e la sua determinazione lo rendono l’avversario letale contro cui nessuno vorrebbe combattere. Credo che molto più degli altri Warner abbia capito come gira il suo mondo e cosa davvero serva per arrivare al potere. Ma è un essere umano che, sebbene spietato, ha dei punti deboli. Juliette diventa la sua ossessione, il suo punto debole, così da mostrare lati del suo carattere che suppongo saranno esplorati negli altri libri. Aspetto di leggere la novella dal suo punto di vista perché sono sicura che nasconda anche lui molto più di quanto sembra in superficie.

“They’re destroying everything, all the books, every artifact, every remnant of human history. They’re saying it’s the only way to fix things. They say we need to start fresh. They say we can’t make the same mistakes of previous generations.”

Infine, ma non per ultimo, il world building, croce e delizia di tutti i romanzi sci-fi (distopici e non). Mi è piaciuto molto il modo di controbilanciare le informazioni, dando sia uno sfondo credibile che una storia d’amore appassionante. Abbiamo sempre la giusta dose di informazioni che ci servono, anche se forse le prime parti del romanzo ne sono un po’ sovraccariche. Il pianeta è morente, gli animali scarseggiano, altrettanto sta succedendo alle risorse. Il “Reestablishment”, questo movimento/partito ha preso il controllo di tutto e sta tentando di dettar legge in qualsiasi campo (dal creare una nuova lingua mondiale all’annientare coloro che sono contro). L’atmosfera distopica da 1984 è poi sottolineata da questo continuo riferimento alle telecamere che osservano Juliette (e non solo lei) in ogni sua mossa.
Inutile anche non notare le somiglianze, stavolta più a livello dei personaggi, con la saga di X-Men. Non sono una loro fan sfegata (mi sono fermata al secondo film), ma arrivata ad un certo punto del romanzo ho quasi urlato: “Dove sono Magneto e Wolverine?!”. Nella parte finale le somiglianze sono troppe per non saltare all’occhio e devo dire che hanno inciso anche sul giudizio. L’idea, la storia, il romanzo, tutto è quasi perfetto, ma questa associazione mentale che si crea tra film e libro scatena quasi un déjà vu nel lettore che conosce entrambi.

I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss 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.

Concludendo, “Shatter Me” di Tahereh Mafi è un bellissimo libro, consigliato in particolare ai lettori che amano la distopia e, perché no, anche a coloro che hanno adorato X-Men.

P.s. Commento da “Cover Lovers”: Quanto è bella la copertina dell’intera serie? La adoro e mi piace molto come tutto si colleghi poi a ciò che è descritto nel libro.

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