NOTE: This review has also been posted on my blog, bibliophilic geek.
SUMMARY: Juliette has a special ability to hurt and even kill people with the touch of her hands. When she accidentally kills a little boy, she gets imprisoned. At times when diseases spread like wildfire, the society is oppressed by the ruling Reestablishment, which lets their citizens believe that all animals have become extinct and no food is left to grow. After 264 days of imprisonment, the Reestablishment decide to release Juliette in order to take advantage of her power--to use her as a deadly weapon.
"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." (p. 70)
OPINION: First of all: I can totally understand if the opinions on this book are divided. I understand why some people might love it and others do not. That's mainly because the author has a really unique writing style. If you can't get along with it, you will not be able to take much pleasure in this book--at least, that's what happened to me. Thus, you have to read it to know if you might like it. That applies to all books in general, I knooow, but especially to this one.
The author apparently likes to make use of short sentences without commas. The story is written like a stream of consciousness: It is as if the narrator writes down her thoughts immediately when they come to her mind. Whole passages are crossed out, then Juliette corrects her thoughts. I think the idea behind this style of writing is actually really good: I guess it should reflect Juliette's mental confusion over her imprisonment and her state of solitude. Those crossed out sentences decrease as the story makes progress. So that shows how Juliette learns to accept herself and her special ability. But for me, it was a bit confusing, annoying and simply too much.
On the other hand, the writing style gives the story a very fast pace. You have the feeling that there is always something going on. The book can easily and quickly be read, therefore it is quite entertaining. It only took me two days, which is something positive about it.
The story itself couldn't convince me, either. The relationship between Juliette and Adam (a boy she meets in prison and who later helps her) seems unrealistic. Their love story came out of nowhere, justified only by some flashback memories. It didn't seem true or sincere. The characters only had eyes for each other and forgot about everything else sometimes. I felt like the main aspect of the plot was this romance, and the dystopia and the information about the society were put on the side line. I wouldn't rate world-building among one of Mafi's strenghts: There is only few information about how the people are affected by the Reestablishment. Since this book is the first one in a trilogy, further information on this topic might be added in the following books, but it was not enough for me to get hooked. There were just too many questions left unanswered, so that parts of the story just didn't seem plausible.
I then read Unravel Me, because I really wanted to know what all the fuss was about, and because Tahereh Mafi seems like a lovely person on her social media, so I wanted to give her another shot. And I was very (!) pleasantly surprised by Unravel Me. I found the sequel to be a lot more thoughtful & well-conceived, and I could even relate to the main characters. I read it in one or two sittings and I've come to appreciate Mafi's writing style. So if you didn't like Shatter Me, even though it is a book that you normally might enjoy, do give this series another shot once you have some time to spare.