You know that book that keeps showing up on your Goodreads feed and in conversations with your friends that you avoid, because your friends tell you they didn’t enjoy it, but you end up being the oddball for loving it after you finally get around to reading it? Well that is exactly what happened when I read the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. I FINALLY picked up this book to read after discovering a new podcast that I absolutely love. The podcast is called Adventures in YA and while I was making my way through the episodes of 2016 I listened to an episode titled “Boys of Summer/Book Boyfriends”. During the episode it became clear that the two hosts have very specific preferences in book boyfriends and as the episode continued I found myself agreeing a lot with Sara whose tastes leaned more toward the damaged bad boy trope than Kristin’s preference of the more romantic, contemporary boys. So when Sara started discussing the Shatter Me series (specifically the character Warner) I decided that maybe there was something to this series that I would love.
Once I dived into the series I was pleasantly surprised that I loved it. I loved it so much that I found myself forgoing sleep on a Monday night in order to read two out of the three books in one night. The writing was well done, the characters were three dimensional (for the most part), and the plot moved at a steady pace that never left me bored. My absolute favorite element of the series ended up being the characters themselves. I instantly loved Warner, Kenji, Adam, and James. It took me longer to enjoy Juliette, but that was expected since the narrator starts off the first novel telling the reader that she has been locked up in a cell by herself for 264 days. That kind of confinement would damage most adults, let alone a teenager. So as Juliette grew into herself and recovered I found I liked her more. The characters that I loved right off the bat were all incredibly strong and vibrant. For instance, in the first book when we get our first introduction to Warner the character and the author immediately delivers the image of a character with power, control, and beauty with the following quote:
I’m immediately struck by his youth. He can’t be much older than me. It’s obvious he’s in charge of something, though I have no idea what. His skin is flawless, unblemished, his jawline sharp and strong. His eyes are the palest shade of emerald I’ve ever seen. He’s beautiful. His crooked smile is calculated evil. He’s sitting on what he imagines to be a throne but is nothing more than a chair at the front of an empty room. His suit is perfectly pressed, his blond hair expertly combed, his soldiers the ideal bodyguards.
After reading this quote I knew that it wouldn’t matter whether this character ended up being the villain to end all villains or the hero. No matter what Warner became he was a character that would always demand my attention.
And just in case you aren’t as character driven as I am, this series did an exceptional job of world building and plot. The series is a futuristic dystopian society in which a society called the Reestablishment has taken over what is left of the world and killed all those too weak or different to conform in order to control the remaining population. This has left the remaining populace dependent on the Reestablishment to supply all the basic (and I mean very basic) necessities to live, while accepting that those that starved or died from disease/injury were simply too weak. Throughout the series the characters pass by the remnants of our society, such as houses, on their way to the structures built by the Reestablishment. This stark juxtaposition does a good job of highlighting what this new world really looks and feels like.
I loved this series but I do want to mention that I found the whole series very white washed and lacking diversity. In the initial book it was almost expected since most of that book took place inside the military base of sector 45 that Warner was commander of. So the fact that the first book consisted mainly of white males did not surprise me, but as the series continued and the narrator’s world got bigger I had hoped to find more diversity hiding at the fringes of this very Nazi like society, but alas the most diversity that I encountered was a british kid and the fact that a character we had been introduced to in at the end of the first book was revealed to be asian in the second book. I mainly feel as if the author missed an opportunity to introduce a more diverse cast in the second book and beyond when the readers are introduced to Omega Point, a rebel base.
Below are the individual reviews for each book, but it is important to mention that beyond this point there WILL be spoilers.