I’d like to preface this review with the statement that this is the first thing I ever wrote about the Shatter Me series and it was written well before I’d ever actually started really reviewing books, back when I would only ever write something when I was truly infuriated. But, as I am rereading the series in order to provide a more in-depth look into my immense issues with this series, I thought it would be good to begin with my initial thoughts on it as a whole as a comparison. Frankly, I’m looking forward to shedding some much-needed light on the problematic fact that this series promotes abusive relationships.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for the first three books of the series.
This series had an incredibly promising start for me. Everything about it was interesting. From the horrors the main character was forced to face from a young age up until the present moment in which the novel began, to the society the author built, to the absolutely fascinating character personalities and dynamics that were introduced. It was fascinating and intriguing and left a genuine feeling of wanting desperately to know more.
The first book, admittedly, dragged in places. However, it did not drag in a way that made one lose interest at all but rather frustrated me into wishing things happened a little faster so that I knew what happened sooner, a factor which can have its good and bad moments.
Juliette was fascinating from the start. Her obsession with counting was beautifully integrated into the novels in a way that I have never in my life experienced and I will admit that I was rather impressed with this new format even though it did confuse me at first. Everything about the first book was great. The enticing commentary; the beautiful, almost poetic prose; the ways the characters reacted to each other. I was extremely impressed to the point that I immediately sought out not only the novellas but the other two books as well.
And so, due to my pestering desire to read them in order, I read Warner’s novella next. And it is here that my high opinion began to plummet.
I rated Warner’s short narrative at a three. Now that I have finished the series, I realize I was being FAR too generous with that rating. But I was blinded by my earlier euphoria at the brilliance of the first novel that I thought it, though utterly annoying in the random and somewhat unrealistic turn around of the asshole and obsession filled character, was still worthy of a decent rating. As I progressed through the second novel and the second novella, I began to realize I was wrong.
Personally, I was hoping for more.
An interesting thought had occurred to me in the first novel–regarding the fact that both Adam and Warner could touch her. And I was curious as to how it would be resolved, my own assumption being that people who actually cared about and loved her would be capable of touching her. When Adam turned out to have powers of his own in the second book, I began to grow turned off to the series. It was just so ridiculously convenient. And stupid. And it removed an incredibly amazing story arc and lesson/message that could have really made the novels MEAN something. Needless to say, I was disappointed. And so I wondered, well how is this going to explain Warner?
And that brings me to the brother thing. You know what? Fine. Acceptable. Dumb. Unrealistic. Reaching. But acceptable. I’ll just refrain from making a long ranting commentary on how utterly annoying and stupid Warner’s “finding out” moment was.
However, that does bring me to Warner. And how utterly disgusted I was by the fact that his character arc was utterly ridiculous and now he was suddenly so “nice” when that made absolutely NO SENSE to how he’d been portrayed in the first novel. He was PRETENDING? Because he was MONITORED? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I still cannot seem to wrap my head around this again, stupidly convenient aspect of his personality. Everything about Warner’s “real” personality was thrown into place to represent some ridiculously easy and convenient explanation for how much of a dick he had been.
And then, not only was that depressing transformation made, but I was again disgusted by Adam’s abrupt and unnecessarily unrealistic turn around from nice to dick-ish and child-like in his tantrums. Angry? Yes. That makes sense. Upset? Yes, that makes sense. But a full transformation from who he was in the beginning to someone completely different? No. Hell no. An unrealistic EXCUSE to make Juliette stop loving him for 500, please? It was made even worse when the author tried to patch up this transformation with the repeated “we’ve both changed” comments that kept popping up in Ignite Me. Let’s not. Please. I’m begging you.
Juliette didn’t change. She came into herself and grew. Adam didn’t “change,” he was desecrated and destroyed by the author. All that promise from the first novel completely disappeared. In little more than a few chapters, the author painfully destroyed every bit of meaning there had been in the first novel. Juliette was simply so ecstatic at the idea of being able to touch someone that she faked an entire relationship? That she faked loving someone? Where in the HELL was all that information when I was reading the first book, hm? If that were the case, why in the HELL was she not freaking out about losing Adam and losing the only person who could touch her? Why, when he was locked in that room waiting for Warner to come and torture him–by the way, where the hell did that viciousness disappear to?–was she not utterly freaked out at the idea of never being able to be touched by anyone other than a psychopath?
Instead, why was she actually concerned for Adam’s well-being and not berating herself afterward for being so utterly selfish and insensitive? These are things that, if you are planning on heading in that direction, you truly need to include in some small way in your novel otherwise you’re going to end up leaving many readers feeling tricked. And instead, there was nothing. We got a beautiful character turned pathetic, a girl who genuinely wanted to be good turned vengeful and barbaric, and a sadist turned philanthropist? What?
Please tell me I am not the only one wondering what the hell happened. Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels misled. Please tell me I’m not the only one who is utterly disappointed.
In fact, the one saving grace of these novels was the fact that I truly enjoyed the author’s descriptive poetic writings. Because, unfortunately, a lot of the other things in BOTH novella’s and novels two and three practically ruined the ENTIRE series.
Truthfully, I don’t even know where to start when it comes to Kenji. Another promising comic relief character turned best friend who really did have a whole lot going for him was made rather pathetic and disappointing when he was turned into a “voice of reason,” and “tell the characters everything the author wants to say to them” character. I cannot even begin to fathom what the author was thinking when she had him bitch Juliette out for feeling sorry for herself when she realized that Adam’s powers weren’t foolproof, that she had lost someone so integrally important because her powers had gotten in the way again. Because Kenji, upset with the world and trying to fight against it thought she had no right to be upset when everything else was such shit?
Yet, did he, poor soul that he was, EVER have to deal with the misfortune of never being able to be touched? Did he have to deal with the utter depression associated with hurting people simply by giving them a hug? That’s NOT something that is easily dealt with. That’s NOT something ANYONE should feel GUILTY for being upset about. And here Kenji is being a royal douchebag because he thinks there are worse things to be upset about and that she should focus on them? Why doesn’t someone make him incapable of touching anyone and see how important the rest of the world’s problems are then.
Unbelievable. And even more unbelievable–Juliette just took it. Did she mention how awful it was to have the euphoria of being able to be touched after SEVENTEEN YEARS only to have it RIPPED AWAY so soon after finding it? Nope. Not even one comment. And while I see it in her character not to fight back at all, somehow fighting back became extremely important to her character in the third book–so why didn’t we get that little angry push in that moment when Kenji decided to be an insensitive douche? I’d like to know.
But fine. I can get over his moment of insensitivity because Kenji does truly care about the greater good even if he cannot fathom being understanding to his friends. What really pushed me over the edge with Kenji, and a big part of the reason why I couldn’t bring myself to rate this book any higher than three stars is that the author turned him into Mr. Matchmaker, annoying and pestering friend with multiple conversations he had with Juliette throughout the third book. Again, I ask, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Mr. Focused on the Rebellion. Mr. Get Over Yourself Cause Others Need Help. Mr. Fix Your Relationship Issues on Your Own is suddenly poking his nose into whether or not Juliette is in love with Warner and what is she going to do about it? Was he EVER interested in her relationship with Adam? Did he ever give any consideration to her feelings there? And yet suddenly he’s pushing her to go to Warner? A man who he has been most certain is psychotic? “Yeah–go to your crazy lover. Even though I still think he’s an ass. You know. You care for him, so have at it. I am totally invested in your well-being.”
Tell me where that makes sense.
Not to mention the fact that he’s supposedly Adam’s friend. But clearly the author thought that friendship was worthless and flushed it down the tubes as fast as she possibly could from both ends of the spectrum. Which, also, was ridiculous and made no sense.
Then where oh where did Juliette’s humanistic qualities go? Where did her “I care about everyone” and “I don’t want to hurt anyone” feelings disappear to? Why did she become such a royal bitch to Adam when that was not even remotely part of her personality? Why did she repeatedly butcher him? You know, no wonder she ended up with the sadistic asshole–she wasn’t any better herself. This man she claimed to have loved, supposedly loved in the first book–this kind soul who she pushed into hurtful positions over and over and over and over again suddenly received nothing but more hurt, exasperation, and cruelty from her. Dammit, REALLY?!
And finally, on an utterly useless thought, I am baffled as to why the author killed Warner’s mother, effectively removing one of, quite possibly the most interesting and beautiful ideas for a rather big bonding brother moment due to the fact that she conveniently gave Adam the power to DISABLE SOMEONE’S POWERS as in (I.E. WARNER’S MOTHER’S DISTURBING POWER TO HURT HERSELF) rather than allow Adam to do some good after she turned him into an unrealistic douche in comparison with his original character profile and remove her pain, at the very least temporarily for Warner.
Fat lot of good Adam’s power ever did, isn’t it?
Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
So, in conclusion: I’m disappointed. And I honestly thought I wouldn’t be. I was extremely excited about this series–and disappointment is really all I have left.
Not to mention that my greatest wish in the last few chapters was that Warner had died in battle.
4 thoughts on “The Shatter Me Series [Tahreh Mafi]”
you didn’t read the entire series so you can’t exactly say these words about the characters and the whole plot because there are a lot of things you don’t know and nothing about the traumas you find about LATER
++ Kenji didn’t just poke his nose around he CARED about her and wanted to make sure that her relationship with Warner is GOOD and SAFE!!
I read the first three books, including the short stories in between. I did not read past book three. I understand that there may be things in book four onward that are revealed that have resulted in readers forgiving Warner. However, none of his traumas make what he did to Juliette in book one okay or appropriate. Period. Trauma is not an excuse to abuse someone.