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Shatter Me  - Tahereh Mafi About those three red stars preceding this review: it’s probably best to take them with a grain (or a handful) of salt. Because while I eventually settled on 3 stars, I feel like I’m being simultaneously rather generous and also meanly tight-fisted. Which roughly translates to: there are things I enjoyed immensely about Shatter Me, and things that made me roll my eyes and groan, so my rating is a total cop-out. At an unnamed point in the future, when the world appears to have gone to hell in a handbag (and doesn’t it always?), we meet Juliette alone in a cell. She hasn’t touched another person for 264 days. She is a prisoner of The Reestablishment (sinister totalitarian-type regime that has some fairly insane ideas about how the world should be run). She’s teetering on the edge of her sanity, living at some point in the middle of her past, reality and her imagination, when her jailers thrust a roommate into her cell. And the kicker? The crux of the whole story? Juliette is capable of inflicting pain, even killing, with her touch. The story escalates fairly rapidly, from the interruption of Juliette’s cell-bound musings by the arrival of her unexpected companion, to the ramifications of Juliette’s ability and the plans the Reestablishment have for her. I’m not fond of labeling certain books “guilty pleasures”, as don’t believe in feeling guilty about reading, but I’ll go so far as say there was something indulgent about the experience of reading Shatter Me. It was entertaining, it was deliciously escapist – I ate it up in much the same manner that I did Divergent. However, if I delve too deeply beyond this shiny layer of good fun, I’d start poking enough holes in it that it might completely perforate my “like” for it. I can’t review this book without mentioning the writing, as I’m almost certain that this is going to be a major sticking point for some readers. That Mafi seems to have a beautifully vivid imagination and an unusual artistry with her word-use, is clear. The prose of Shatter Me is riddled with metaphors and imagery. Heavy with it. Particularly during the first half of the book, Juliette/Mafi seem to speak in a language of lyrical descriptions, the literal and the symbolic pressed together into dramatic, graphic figures of speech. But this is where it gets murky for me. I do love descriptive, lush writing. And there were certain lines and passages in Shatter Me that I appreciated for their evocative and unusual beauty. There are points where Mafi finds a striking way to express her characters’ actions and emotions, and Juliette’s stream of consciousness, that separates this book from it’s first person POV contemporaries. But the writing in Shatter Me is so purple, its basically aubergine. There are lines that are so convoluted and thick with superfluous descriptors as to render them almost meaningless. Lines that sound pretty, but actually jerked me out of the story by forcing an abrupt “Excuse me, what?” into the flow of my reading because on occasion the metaphors simply don’t make sense. (Much like that run on sentence. Apologies). Speaking of run-ons, Mafi frequently uses similar devices to communicate Juliette’s mental state – her panic, her indecision, her confusion. While this is occasionally effective, it can also be jarring, and it took me some time to settle into Juliette’s fractured, erratic and struck-through manner of thinking. Shatter Me packs quite some steam, of the YA variety. There are almost more smouldering build-ups, electrifying contact (pun unintended – but rather apropos), gasping breaths and sexually charged scenes than you can shake a stick at. And while I liked the chemistry and interactions between Adam and Juliette, I can’t say I really bought their “history”. I’m not sure that the intention was achieved here, which seems to be setting up a backstory that essentially explains/excuses the apparent “instalove” development. This historical aspect of story simply didn’t feel real enough to me, or perhaps just a little too convenient. The direction of the plot is not hugely surprising. Unlike Juliette, at no point did my jaw "fall on the floor". Yet, I did find the action sufficiently compelling, and the characters interesting enough to remain invested in the story. One of my stars is awarded because I found Shatter Me wholly absorbing while I was reading it. This may sound strange, but the characterisation of Warner was a highlight for me. Here, I believe Mafi truly threw down (so to speak) and created a villain that was intriguingly complex; repulsive and yet oddly fascinating. Writing this review hasn’t done much to solidify my opinion on the book – if anything – I feel more conflicted than when I started. However, while I had my personal irritations with parts of the story and the lack of restraint in terms of the writing, I won’t deny that Shatter Me did exactly what I wanted it to, which was to be entertaining.