Title: Unravel Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Genre: YA Dystopian
Series: Shatter Me
Publication Date: December 31, 2013
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.
Quick and Dirty:
The second installment of Juliette’s story of self discovery and growth in a world where her gift can make her into a monster or, maybe, a hero.
“The world might be sunny-side up today.”
I, like many of my fellow readers, am not a big fan of the middle book of a trilogy. Many times this point in the series becomes a transitioning point that sacrifices plot and pace in order to get the characters where they have to be by the third installment. This second book, thankfully, did not operate like this. The first book was a way to introduce Juliette, Warner, and Adam, the three main characters. The second book seemed to be a way to give the romantic pairing of Adam and Juliette a fair crack at a relationship, without Warner being in control; but don’t worry Warner fans, Warner is very much a part of this book, but without the authority and control that he had in the first book.
While the love triangle of this series is important, the second book also serves an important purpose is introducing the reading to a whole new cast of characters in the rebel base Omega Prime. The most important, and my favorite, of these characters is Kenji Kishimoto. The readers actually meet Kenji in the last half of the first book, but it isn’t until Unravel Me that Kenji really gets enough attention for the readers to get to know him. With this extra attention the readers find out that Kenji is not just the perpetual jokester and flirt that he seems in the first book. Don’t get me wrong, Kenji is still these things, but in Omega Prime he is also a person of authority, respect, and leadership.
The point my friends is this: Unravel Me introduces and makes readers fall in love with the rebel group that will become Juliette’s family and adds depth and conflict to the existing relationships between juliette, Adam, and Warner.
Things are getting worse.
The tension among the citizens of Omega Point is getting tighter with each passing hour. We’ve tried to make contact with Anderson’s men to no avail—we’ve heard nothing from their team or their soldiers, and we have no updates on our hostages. But the civilians of Sector 45—the sector Warner used to be in charge of, the sector he used to oversee—are beginning to grow more and more unsettled. Rumors about us and our resistance are spreading too quickly.
The Reestablishment tried to cover up the news of our recent battle by calling it a standard attack on rebel party members, but the people are getting smarter. Protests are breaking out among them and some are refusing to work, standing up to authority, trying to escape the compounds, and running back to unregulated territory.
It never ends well.
The losses have been too many and Castle is anxious to do something. We all have a feeling we’re going to be heading out again, and soon. We haven’t received any reports that Anderson is dead, which means he’s probably just biding his time—or maybe Adam is right, and he’s just recovering. But whatever the reason, Anderson’s silence can’t be good.
“What are you doing here?” Castle says to me.
I’ve just collected my dinner. I’ve just sat down at my usual table with Adam and Kenji and James. I blink at Castle, confused.
Kenji says, “What’s going on?”
Adam says, “Is everything all right?”
Castle says, “My apologies, Ms. Ferrars, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I confess I’m just a bit surprised to see you here. I thought you were currently on assignment.”
“Oh.” I startle. Glance at my food and back at Castle again. “I—well yes, I am—but I’ve talked to Warner twice already—I actually just saw him yesterday—”
“Oh, that’s excellent news, Ms. Ferrars. Excellent news.” Castle clasps his hands together; his face is the picture of relief. “And what have you been able to discover?” He looks so hopeful that I actually begin to feel ashamed of myself.
Everyone is staring at me and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say.
I shake my head.
“Ah.” Castle drops his hands. Looks down. Nods to himself. “So. You’ve decided that your two visits have been more than sufficient?” He won’t look at me. “What is your professional opinion, Ms. Ferrars? Do you think it would be best to take your time in this particular situation? That Winston and Brendan will be relaxing comfortably until you find an opportunity in your busy schedule to interrogate the only person who might be able to help us find them? Do you think that y—”
“I’ll go right now.” I grab my tray and jump up from table, nearly tripping over myself in the process. “I’m sorry—I’m just—I’ll go right now. I’ll see you guys at breakfast,” I whisper, and run out the door.
Brendan and Winston
Brendan and Winston
Brendan and Winston, I keep telling myself.
I hear Kenji laughing as I leave.
I’m not very good at interrogation, apparently.
I have so many questions for Warner but none of them have to do with our hostage situation. Every time I tell myself I’m going to ask the right questions, Warner somehow manages to distract me. It’s almost like he knows what I’m going to ask and is already prepared to redirect the conversation.
“Do you have any tattoos?” he’s asking me, smiling as he leans back against the wall in his undershirt; pants on, socks on, shoes off. “Everyone seems to have tattoos these days.”
This is not a conversation I ever thought I’d have with Warner.
“No,” I tell him. “I’ve never had an opportunity to get one. Besides, I don’t think anyone would ever want to get that close to my skin.”
He studies his hands. Smiles. Says, “Maybe someday.”
“Maybe,” I agree.
“So what about your tattoo?” I ask. “Why IGNITE?”
His smile is bigger now. Dimples again. He shakes his head, says, “Why not?”
“I don’t get it.” I tilt my head at him, confused. “You want to remind yourself to catch on fire?”
He smiles, presses back a laugh. “A handful of letters doesn’t always make a word, love.”
“I … have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He takes a deep breath. Sits up straighter. “So,” he says. “You used to read a lot?”
I’m caught off guard. It’s a strange question, and I can’t help but wonder for a moment if it’s a trick. If admitting to such a thing might get me into trouble. And then I remember that Warner is my hostage, not the other way around. “Yes,” I say to him. “I used to.”
His smile fades into something a bit more serious, calculated. His features are carefully wiped clean of emotion. “And when did you have a chance to read?”
“What do you mean?”
He shrugs slowly, glances at nothing across the room. “It just seems strange that a girl who’s been so wholly isolated her entire life would have much access to literature. Especially in this world.”
I say nothing.
He says nothing.
I breathe a few beats before answering him.
“I … I never got to choose my own books,” I tell him, and I don’t know why I feel so nervous saying this out loud, why I have to remind myself not to whisper. “I read whatever was available. My schools always had little libraries and my parents had some things around the house. And later …” I hesitate. “Later, I spent a couple of years in
hospitals and psychiatric wards and a juvenile d-detention center.” My face enflames as if on cue, always ready to be ashamed of my past, of who I’ve been and continue to be.
But it’s strange.
While one part of me struggles to be so candid, another part of me actually feels comfortable talking to Warner. Safe. Familiar.
Because he already knows everything about me.
He knows every detail of my 17 years. He has all of my medical records, knows all about my incidents with the police and the painful relationship I have had with my parents. And now he’s read my notebook, too.
There’s nothing I could reveal about my history that would surprise him; nothing about what I’ve done would shock or horrify him. I don’t worry that he’ll judge me or run away from me.
And this realization, perhaps more than anything else, rattles my bones.
And gives me some sense of relief.
“There were always books around,” I continue, somehow unable to stop now, eyes glued to the floor. “In the detention center. A lot of them were old and worn and didn’t have covers, so I didn’t always know what they were called or who wrote them. I just read anything I could find. Fairy tales and mysteries and history and poetry. It didn’t matter what it was. I would read it over and over and over again. The books … they helped keep me from losing my mind altogether …” I trail off, catching myself before I say much more. Horrified as I realize just how much I want to confide in him. In Warner.
Terrible, terrible Warner who tried to kill Adam and Kenji. Who made me his toy.
I hate that I should feel safe enough to speak so freely around him. I hate that of all people, Warner is the one person I can be completely honest with. I always feel like I have to protect Adam from me, from the horror story that is my life. I never want to scare him or tell him too much for fear that he’ll change his mind and realize what a mistake he’s made in trusting me; in showing me affection.
But with Warner there’s nothing to hide. I want to see his expression; I want to know what he’s thinking now that I’ve opened up, offered him a personal look at my past, but I can’t make myself face him. So I sit here, frozen, humiliation perched on my shoulders and he doesn’t say a word, doesn’t shift an inch, doesn’t make a single sound. Seconds fly by, swarming the room all at once and I want to swat them all away; I want to catch them and shove them into my pockets just long enough to stop time.
Finally, he interrupts the silence.
“I like to read, too,” he says.
I look up, startled. He’s leaned back against the wall, one hand caught in his hair. He runs his fingers through the golden layers just once. Drops his hand. Meets my gaze. His eyes are so, so green. “You like to read?” I ask. “You’re surprised.”
“I thought The Reestablishment was going to destroy all of those things. I thought it was illegal.”
“They are, and it will be,” he says, shifting a little. “Soon, anyway. They’ve destroyed some of it already, actually.” He looks uncomfortable for the first time. “It’s ironic,” he says, “that I only really started reading when the plan was in place to destroy everything. I was assigned to sort through some lists—give my opinion on which things we’d keep, which things we’d get rid of, which things we’d recycle for use in campaigns, in future curriculum, et cetera.”
“And you think that’s okay?” I ask him. “To destroy what’s left of culture—all the languages—all those texts? Do you agree?”
He’s playing with my notebook again. “There … are many things I’d do differently,” he says, “if I were in charge.” A deep breath. “But a soldier does not always have to agree in order to obey.”
“What would you do differently?” I ask. “If you were in charge?”
He laughs. Sighs. Looks at me, smiles at me out of the corner of his eye. “You ask too many questions.” “I can’t help it,” I tell him. “You just seem so different now. Everything you say surprises me.” “How so?” “I don’t know,” I say. “You’re just … so calm. A little less crazy.” He laughs one of those silent laughs, the kind that shakes his chest without making a sound, and he says, “My life has been nothing but battle and destruction. Being here?” He looks around. “Away from duties, responsibilities. Death,” he says, eyes intent on the wall. “It’s like a vacation. I don’t have to think all the time. I don’t have to do anything or talk to anyone or be anywhere. I’ve never had so many hours to simply sleep,” he says, smiling. “It’s actually kind of luxurious. I think I’d like to get held hostage more often,” he adds, mostly to himself.
And I can’t help but study him.
I study his face in a way I’ve never dared to before and I realize I don’t have the faintest idea what it must be like to live his life. He told me once that I didn’t have a clue, that I couldn’t possibly understand the strange laws of his world, and I’m only just beginning to see how right he was. Because I don’t know anything about that kind of bloody, regimented existence. But I suddenly want to know.
I suddenly want to understand.
I watch his careful movements, the effort he makes to look unconcerned, relaxed. But I see how calculated it is. How there’s a reason behind every shift, every readjustment of his body. He’s always listening, always touching a hand to the ground, the wall, staring at the door, studying its outline, the hinges, the handle. I see the way he tenses—just a little bit—at the sound of small noises, the scratch of metal, muffled voices outside the room. It’s obvious he’s always alert, always on edge, ready to fight, to react. It makes me wonder if he’s ever known tranquillity. Safety. If he’s ever been able to sleep through the night. If he’s ever been able to go anywhere without constantly looking over his own shoulder.
His hands are clasped together.
He’s playing with a ring on his left hand, turning and turning and turning it around his pinkie finger. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to notice he’s wearing it; it’s a solid band of jade, a shade of green pale enough to perfectly match his eyes. And then I remember, all at once, seeing it before.
Just one time.
The morning after I’d hurt Jenkins. When Warner came to collect me from his room. He caught me staring at his ring and quickly slipped his gloves on.
It’s déjà vu. He catches me looking at his hands and quickly clenches his left fist, covers it with his right.
“It’s just a ring,” he says. “It’s nothing.”
“Why are you hiding it if it’s nothing?” I’m already so much more curious than I was a moment ago, too eager for any opportunity to crack him open, to figure out what on earth goes on inside of his head.
Flexes and unflexes his fingers. Stares at his hands, palms down, fingers spread. Slips the ring off his pinkie and holds it up to the fluorescent light; looks at it. It’s a little O of green. Finally, he meets my eyes. Drops the ring into the palm of his hand and closes a fist around it.
“You’re not going to tell me?” I ask.
He shakes his head.
He rubs the side of his neck, massages the tension out of the lowest part, the part that just touches his upper back. I can’t help but watch. Can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to have someone massage the pain out of my body that way. His hands look so strong.
I’ve just about forgotten what we were talking about when he says, “I’ve had this ring for almost ten years. It used to fit my index finger.” He glances at me before looking away again. “And I don’t talk about it.”
“Oh.” I bite down on my bottom lip. Disappointed.
“Do you like Shakespeare?” he asks me.
An odd segue.
I shake my head. “All I know about him is that he stole my name and spelled it wrong.”
Warner stares at me for a full second before he bursts into laughter—strong, unrestrained gales of laughter—trying to rein it in and failing.
I’m suddenly uncomfortable, nervous in front of this strange boy who laughs and wears secret rings and asks me about books and poetry. “I wasn’t trying to be funny,” I manage to tell him.
But his eyes are still full of smiles when he says, “Don’t worry. I didn’t know much about him until roughly a year ago. I still don’t understand half the things he says, so I think we’re going to get rid of most of it, but he did write a line I really liked.”
“What was it?”
“Would you like to see it?”
But Warner is already on his feet, unbuttoning his pants and I’m wondering what could possibly be happening, worried I’m being tricked into some new sick game of his when he stops. Catches the horrified look on my face. Says, “Don’t worry, love. I’m not getting naked, I promise. It’s just another tattoo.”
“Where?” I ask, frozen in place, wanting and not wanting to look away.
He doesn’t answer.
His pants are unzipped but hanging low on his waist. His boxer-briefs are visible underneath. He tugs and tugs on the elastic band of his underwear until it sits just below his hipbone.
I’m blushing through my hairline.
I’ve never seen such an intimate area of any boy’s body before, and I can’t make myself look away. My moments with Adam were always in the dark and always interrupted; I never saw this much of him not because I didn’t want to, but because I never had a chance to. And now the lights are on and Warner’s standing right in front of me and I’m so caught, so intrigued by the cut of his frame. I can’t help but notice the way his waist narrows into his hips and disappears under a piece of fabric. I want to know what it would be like to understand another person without those barriers.
To know a person so thoroughly, so privately.
I want to study the secrets tucked between his elbows and the whispers caught behind his knees. I want to follow the lines of his silhouette with my eyes and the tips of my fingers. I want to trace rivers and valleys along the curved muscles of his body.
My thoughts shock me.
There’s a desperate heat in the pit of my stomach I wish I could ignore. There are butterflies in my chest I wish I could explain away. There’s an ache in my core that I’m unwilling to name.
Beautiful. He’s so beautiful .
I must be insane.
“It’s interesting,” he says. “It feels very … relevant, I think. Even though it was written so long ago.”
“What?” I rip my eyes away from his lower half, desperately trying to keep my imagination from drawing in the details. I look back at the words tattooed onto his skin and focus this time. “Oh,” I say. “Yes.”
It’s 2 lines. Font like a typewriter inked across the very bottom of his torso.
hell is empty
and all the devils are here
Yes. Interesting. Yes. Sure.
I think I need to lie down.
“Books,” he’s saying, pulling his boxer-briefs up and rezipping his pants, “are easily destroyed. But words will live as long as people can remember them. Tattoos, for example, are very hard to forget.” He buttons his button. “I think there’s something about the impermanence of life these days that makes it necessary to etch ink into our skin,” he says. “It reminds us that we’ve been marked by the world, that we’re still alive. That we’ll never forget.”
“Who are you?”
I don’t know this Warner. I’d never be able to recognize this Warner.
He smiles to himself. Sits down again. Says, “No one else will ever need to know.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know who I am,” he says. “That’s enough for me.”
I’m silent a moment. I frown at the floor. “It must be great to go through life with so much confidence.”
“You are confident,” he says to me. “You’re stubborn and resilient. So brave. So strong. So inhumanly beautiful. You could conquer the world.”
I actually laugh, look up to meet his eyes. “I cry too much. And I’m not interested in conquering the world.”
“That,” he says, “is something I will never understand.” He shakes his head. “You’re just scared. You’re afraid of what you’re unfamiliar with. You’re too worried about disappointing people. You stifle your own potential,” he says, “because of what you think others expect of you—because you still follow the rules you’ve been given.” He looks at me, hard. “I wish you wouldn’t.”
“I wish you’d stop expecting me to use my power to kill people.”
He shrugs. “I never said you had to. But it will happen along the way; it’s an inevitability in war. Killing is statistically impossible to avoid.”
“You’re joking, right?”
“You can always avoid killing people, Warner. You avoid killing them by not going to war.”
But he grins, so brilliantly, not even paying attention. “I love it when you say my name,” he says. “I don’t even know why.”
“Warner isn’t your name,” I point out. “Your name is Aaron.”