I’m back again to continue on my journey of educating as many people as possible on the problematic aspects of abuse romanticism that happen within the Shatter Me series. This is the discussion of chapters five and six, but you can still read my earlier posts to catch up.
Not a lot happens in these two chapters.
At least, not a lot happens that really alludes to the abuse romanticism that this series will later become. You see, chapters five and six are really more about Juliette. They’re also about Adam and how he connects to her. There’s very little in these chapters that really makes you look at this book and say, yes, it romanticizes abuse.
What it does do, however, is introduce you to how Juliette has been abused her whole life. And it shows you what can happen when you’ve lived your entire life that way and only now are finally getting any compassion from another human.
Juliette has been abused her whole life.
There has to be some sort of cognitive dissonance in the way Juliette’s mother turns on her. In a sense, I suppose I understand a father seeing his child as a demon a little more; it’s definitely more common for men to abuse their children. I imagine that what must have happened to Juliette’s mother is that a part of her had convinced herself that this girl was not her child. Perhaps she thought her real child had been stolen and replaced with a monster. Perhaps she wasn’t fully able to commit herself to this delusion. I imagine that’s why they keep her and abuse her.
The fact of the matter is that from an incredibly young age–whatever age it was that her powers began–Juliette is mentally abused by her parents. There are implications that she was physically abused as well, though it is not outright stated. Ultimately, it paves the path for Juliette to desperately crave affection. In that sense, it comes as no surprise that the first person who is nice to her becomes someone she cares about deeply. It comes as no surprise that the first person unafraid to touch her comes to matter so much. After craving that her whole life, how could she not fall in love with finally having it?
I’ll talk about that a little more next week.
Adam, Adam, Adam…
There are things we’ll learn later about Juliette and Adam’s relationship that puts so much more to what you get in the first few chapters with them. It explores so much more of who she is to know that she saw him hurting and cared about him; perhaps she saw herself in that. You see, this isn’t the first time they’ve met. This isn’t even the first time they’ve cared about each other. In fact, Mafi very much sets it up as Juliette and Adam watching and liking each other from afar for a long while before this moment even occurs. Perhaps that makes it incredibly jarring, what Adam did when he first met her in the cell, but I think in a way Juliette almost expected it.
I imagine it still hurt, despite her believing that it was what should happen.
Adam is, in his own way, a mirror to Juliette. He, like her, was abused. He, like her, still wants to help rather than to hurt. This set up for their characters leads very smoothly into their later connection. This is why it is so baffling to me that Mafi decided to manipulate her readers in this way. She sets up Adam and Juliette, compares them, and builds them together…only to shit all over it later in the most unrealistic way imaginable.
He is the first person who is nice to her. He is the first one to show her any compassion. And he does so, mostly, in the nicest way possible. He is also the first person to ever let her make a choice on her own in her life. She had always been at the mercy of someone else deciding something for her up to this point. In fact, the only decision she’d ever made for herself was one with the intent to help. It did turn out poorly, but that ultimately makes sense considering how she was raised. And sure, Adam doesn’t understand–how could he?–but at least he asks.
I’ll give Adam haters this, there is a moment here when he doesn’t do the right thing. In this one instance, he tries to push her. It’s a clear indication of the fact that he has no idea what she has truly been through and cannot fully relate to the trauma that she’s experienced at the hands of knowing what her power has done. He tells her he wants to touch her, countering her telling him not to. And I want to break this down for you all.
Juliette tells Adam not to touch her.
Adam says “maybe” he wants to.
Juliette tells Adam “maybe” she doesn’t want him to.
Adam takes it personally and is hurt.
There are some important things here. One is the fact that Adam takes her no. He lets her have it. She tells him that she doesn’t want him to touch her and so he doesn’t. He respects her, despite having been hurt. This is the worst we see of Adam for the most part. And it’s partially because he thinks that she is kind, therefore is unable to comprehend why she would respond to him this way. It’s partially because he likes her, thus he handles her rejection by taking it personally.
But, contrast that to what Warner will later do; namely, Warner will touch her without her consent, demand she touches others, force others to touch her without her consent, and manipulate her into touching him and others while fully aware of how she feels about hurting people.
I’ll take Adam’s compassionate misunderstanding any day.