by Tahereh Mafi
Read: November 2011
Publisher: Harper/Harper Collins
Source: Purchased book
Category: YA - Dystopian
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.
Tahereh Mafi’s writing is an art form. Her style is utterly unique and her descriptions and endless metaphors are meant to be savored. I even loved the strike outs. However, I read one reviewer who thought that the writing was so beautiful that it distracted from the story, and I could see how that could happen. I definitely agree that at times I wanted to pay attention to how Juliette is saying something, instead of what she is saying. I don’t know if that’s really a criticism on my part, but it definitely lends to multiple readings – one for plot/content, one for admiring the way Mafi writes.
I loved Juliette. She is someone who has not had an easy life. She has been shunned by her parents and everyone she’s ever met because of what she can do. She can’t touch anyone without hurting them (can you even imagine that?). And yet she has an overwhelming goodness about her. She doesn’t want to harm others. I really enjoyed watching Juliette begin to open up and accept who she is, finding strength within herself. I also can’t mention Juliette’s goodness without talking about Adam. Oh I LOVED Adam. After being treated like a plague for her entire life, Juliette finally has someone who will stand up for her. Someone who will do practically anything to make sure she’s safe. Everyone needs a champion and that is what Adam is for Juliette.
And then there’s Warner. He’s an excellent VILLAIN. He’s wonderfully complex and delightfully psychotic. At times I felt sorry for him, and at times I wanted to shoot him in the head. He also made me love Adam more: for being the opposite of Warner. Though Warner does get Juliette in a way, he doesn’t understand her nature. Adam sees Juliette’s desire to love and save mankind despite what has been done to her, while Warner sees her as a tool for power and gain. He also has an unhealthy obsession with Juliette. Warner is smart, completely unpredictable and never to be underestimated.
The first and second halves of the book are very different from each other. The first half is very internal. When the novel begins, Juliette has been locked in solitary confinement for 264 days. She hasn’t seen or spoken to anyone in that entire time. She also has a curse/gift that she doesn’t understand and that she fears – along with everyone she’s ever met. Although still dangerous, there is more humor and life in the second half of the book. The introduction of James and Kenji do a lot to ease tension. I LOVED both of them. They also bring out another side of Adam from the beginning of the book where he spends his time as either an unemotional soldier or emotional support for Juliette. The transformation that Juliette begins to make throughout the latter part of the story as she starts to stand up for – and accept – herself is beautiful to watch.
Juliette’s journey throughout the novel is well thought out and realistic for her circumstances. I mean, can you even imagine never being able to touch anyone? Parents who are disgusted by you? Being in solitary confinement for almost a year? Her insecurities and confusion, the fact that she second guesses herself are all very reasonable, as is her fascination and naïveté in her relationship with Adam. I totally get it.
I actually really liked the direction that the story takes at the end; and I am looking forward to finding out much more the next book.
Rating: 5 Stars
Love Triangle Factor: None*
*I wrote this review before all the Unravel Me buzz started. I have since clued into the fact that a love triangle is probably coming. And I want to take this moment to profess my undying love for ADAM. You all know how I feel about love triangles (especially ones that start mid series), so I am VERY wary about this. And also a bit sad, because I LOVED Shatter Me and Adam and Juliette so much. Honestly, I had a major temper tantrum when I became aware of this possibility. BUT I have not read the second book in the series, so I cannot say anything for certain.