The Shatter Me series romanticizes abuse! And I have decided to take it upon myself to reread the series (at least, the first part; I haven’t decided if I’ll read the newer releases [4+] just yet) in order to shed some much-needed light on how horrendously damaging the romanticism of abuse in the three novels and two novellas that make up this series truly are. I’ve found this book series thoroughly disgusting from the moment Warner was pushed forward as a love interest and Mafi attempted to manipulate me into thinking it was okay and his abuse of Juliette was forgivable. Well, it’s not and here’s why:
I know I talk about Adam a lot.
And more often than not I reference him in a good light. There will be instances later in which I don’t, but for the most part, I genuinely see Adam as good. Now, the hardcore Warner lovers will often pinpoint Adam’s later behavior as a reason why he is supposedly awful and Warner is supposedly better…nevermind that nothing Adam ever did was as bad as what Warner did.
But here’s the thing: Adam is genuinely a caring person. He’s not inherently selfish. Yes, he thinks of himself. But he also thinks of others. And on a grand scale, when we’re comparing these two characters that is important. It is especially important when Mafi sets his character up to be this way and later eviscerates him solely to manipulate her readers into disliking him.
Adam deserved better and, frankly, what later becomes of his character was not realistic. At all.
Let’s play pretend…
So, let’s say Warner had decided not to force one of his soldiers into this potentially life-threatening situation. Let’s pretend that Warner decided to go in himself and meet Juliette to discern how stable she was. Let’s say his morbid curiosity brought him to act somewhat out of character and put himself at risk.
What would he have done?
Would he have been kind to her? Would he have slowly gotten to know her? Or is it more likely that Warner would have provoked her just to see what happened? Considering what will happen later with a man called Jenkins, I think we all know the answer.
Warner very quickly will fantasize that he is in love with Juliette. He barely knows her, he insists that she wants to be a psychopath like him, he projects his feelings onto her as though doing so will turn her into whatever creature he imagines her to be. And yet he claims he is in love with her. This, friends, is a fallacy.
When a boy projects his idea of who you are onto you without giving any consideration to who you actually are and what you tell him, he has built up this imagined fantasy in his mind. He does not actually care about you. He does not love you. He loves the version of you he has imagined you to be. This love is not founded in any sort of reality, but rather a dangerous and controlling desire built from the recesses of his depraved mind.
That is Warner. This is Adam.
In chapter four, Juliette has nightmares. She spends her time screaming. Adam watches. And then he asks her if she is okay. He is concerned.
Had this been Warner, he likely would have watched. He might have asked her if she was okay. I would bet my life that he would ask her in a manner that had serious undertones of ‘are you mentally sound’?
Adam is a genuinely caring person, concerned for her welfare. Warner sees her as an object, concerned for his welfare and the welfare of his plans for her.
And not only does Adam genuinely care about her, not for some misplaced ideas regarding what she could do for him or be to him, but because he sees her as a person and not as an object. He asks her if he can be there for her and he respects her when she tells him no. Compare that to Warner. Warner, unquestionably, would have just sat himself down next to her without even thinking to consider her as a person and ask if it was something she was okay with. Adam apologizes when he knows he was in the wrong. Warner believes himself to be right all the time without question. He wouldn’t understand compassion if it hugged him.
Now, I have a bit more context at the moment.
I’ve been rereading this series, after all. Most recently I have been annotating the chapter in which Juliette asks for the cameras to be removed from her room. The fact of the matter is that Mafi sets Warner up as this kind of person. I don’t know if she had always planned on manipulating her characters unrealistically in order to force this disturbing relationship or if she changed her mind somewhere down the line about where she wanted her story to go.
But the fact of the matter is that these are the characters she gave us to start with. This is what happened between them. This is who they were. Warner, no matter how broken, no matter how repentant and ‘changed’ he becomes later is not viable as a love interest.
If you give young readers a monster like Warner and tell them that it is okay to forgive your abusers because they are ‘broken’ and they will ‘change,’ you are opening them up to forever forgiving their own abusers because that’s what a character in a book they liked did. The likelihood of someone like Warner ever changing his ways with the girl he abused is so insanely low when compared to real-life that not only did Mafi perpetuate the romanticism of abuse, but she sends this ludicrous message that people like this will change if you forgive them enough.
In that regard, Warner’s “change” is unrealistic.