Happy Rainy Friday!
First of all, apologies for missing my usual Tuesday post. I was a bit sickly, but now am feeling much better. Fingers crossed for a full-blown cold averted!
Secondly, I DID manage to finish Ken Follett’s gigantic Winter of the World since last week. It definitely lived up to my expectations—as a history recap, as well as being an engrossing read. Two nights ago, when I was turning the last few pages and thinking, “Oh, right, that’s what led to the Berlin Wall being built!” I was really glad all over again to have picked up Follett’s book. That said, my back and shoulders thank me for having finished it. It was a beast to carry around. 🙂
I immediately moved on to my next read: Tahereh Mafi’s (slim, paperback) YA debut, Shatter Me. I grabbed it thinking it would be a nice palate-cleanser after a heavy historical epic, and was really pleasantly surprised to dive into a beautifully written, engrossing, and touching post- (or rather mid-) apocalyptic story. The brief plot summary: Juliette is in isolation in a mental institution. There’s something wrong with her: she can kill people by touching them. In fact, she has, and although it was an accident, it caused her parents to officially give her up as a “monster,” and the authorities to run tests on her and, eventually, dump her in this horrible place. At the start of the book, she hasn’t talked to another person in 264 days.
The fragmented, pain-filled, beautiful narration at the start of the book drew me in right away. I haven’t read much else like it. Juliette thinks in stops and starts, in run-on sentences, in breaths and gasps. Mafi crosses out some of the narration, showing Juliette’s denial and terror on the page. You only find out why she’s locked up slowly—and, frankly, I was initially not sure whether her ordeal had in fact turned her a little insane. She seems desperate and just not quite all there. And no wonder, given everything she’s been through.
And then, on day 265, she’s given a new cellmate. Adam. A boy she went to school with, back when she went to school. A boy who doesn’t seem to remember her. (Or does he?) Just as she’s getting used to his presence, they’re both pulled out of confinement and brought to a young, hard, military leader named Warner. Warner wants to use Juliette’s “gift” for torture. For control. And so the story begins…
I don’t want to go too much further into the plot because a lot of what makes Shatter Me effective is that Juliette literally doesn’t trust anyone. She’s never had a true friend. She doesn’t know what hope feels like. So, as people are revealed to be trustworthy, and then untrustworthy, and then maybe trustworthy again, the reader (because we’re in Juliette’s head the whole time) is as off balance as she is. I will say that what I found really original and unsettling about the first half of the book kind of evened out as the story moved on, becoming a more mainstream YA apocalyptic fantasy romance thriller. (Yes, I said “mainstream YA apocalyptic fantasy romance thriller”…) By the end, it had gone to a place I can only describe as “X-Men.” I’m not quite sure if that’s where I wanted it to go.
BUT I really enjoyed Shatter Me, and am eager to pick up the sequel, Unravel Me. Mafi is a very skilled writer. Her sensory descriptions of Juliette being touched, after a lifetime of being deprived of skin-to-skin contact, are stunning. The characters feel pretty three-dimensional—even the villain, Warner, who is clearly not quite as heartless as he seems on the outside. And the love story, while of the “zero-to-sixty, I’ve loved you FOREVER” variety, is really touching and powerful. I have some B&N gift cards to burn, and I think Unravel Me is at the top of the list!
What is everyone else reading today? Anything I should pick up?