The Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi

You know that book that keeps showing up on your Goodreads feed and in conversations with your friends that you avoid, because your friends tell you they didn’t enjoy it, but you end up being the oddball for loving it after you finally get around to reading it? Well that is exactly what happened when I read the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. I FINALLY picked up this book to read after discovering a new podcast that I absolutely love. The podcast is called Adventures in YA and while I was making my way through the episodes of 2016 I listened to an episode titled “Boys of Summer/Book Boyfriends”. (When I mentioned this episode to the Hatter, he asked if he had made the list of “Book Boyfriends”. I of course had to tell him that he had not made the list, but that Warner from Shatter Me, the Hatter’s most recently read book, did.) During the episode it became clear that the two hosts have very specific preferences in book boyfriends and as the episode continued I found myself agreeing a lot with Sara whose tastes leaned more toward the damaged bad boy trope than Kristin’s preference of the more romantic, contemporary boys. So when Sara started discussing the Shatter Me series (specifically the character Warner) I decided that maybe there was something to this series that I would love.
Once I dived into the series I was pleasantly surprised that I loved it. I loved it so much that I found myself forgoing sleep on a Monday night in order to read two out of the three books in one night. The writing was well done, the characters were three dimensional (for the most part), and the plot moved at a steady pace that never left me bored. My absolute favorite element of the series ended up being the characters themselves. I instantly loved Warner, Kenji, Adam, and James. It took me longer to enjoy Juliette, but that was expected since the narrator starts off the first novel telling the reader that she has been locked up in a cell by herself for 264 days. That kind of confinement would damage most adults, let alone a teenager. So as Juliette grew into herself and recovered I found I liked her more. The characters that I loved right off the bat were all incredibly strong and vibrant. For instance, in  the first book when we get our first introduction to Warner the character and the author immediately delivers the image of a character with power, control, and beauty with the following quote:

I’m immediately struck by his youth. He can’t be much older than me. It’s obvious he’s in charge of something, though I have no idea what. His skin is flawless, unblemished, his jawline sharp and strong. His eyes are the palest shade of emerald I’ve ever seen. He’s beautiful. His crooked smile is calculated evil. He’s sitting on what he imagines to be a throne but is nothing more than a chair at the front of an empty room. His suit is perfectly pressed, his blond hair expertly combed, his soldiers the ideal bodyguards.

After reading this quote I knew that it wouldn’t matter whether this character ended up being the villain to end all villains or the hero. No matter what Warner became he was a character that would always demand my attention.
And just in case you aren’t as character driven as I am, this series did an exceptional job of world building and plot. The series is a futuristic dystopian society in which a society called the Reestablishment has taken over what is left of the world and killed all those too weak or different to conform in order to control the remaining population. This has left the remaining populace dependent on the Reestablishment to supply all the basic (and I mean very basic) necessities to live, while accepting that those that starved or died from disease/injury were simply too weak. Throughout the series the characters pass by the remnants of our society, such as houses, on their way to the structures built by the Reestablishment. This stark juxtaposition does a good job of highlighting what this new world really looks  and feels like.
I loved this series but I do want to mention that I found the whole series very white washed and lacking diversity. In the initial book it was almost expected since most of that book took place inside the military base of sector 45 that Warner was commander of. So the fact that the first book consisted mainly of white males did not surprise me, but as the series continued and the narrator’s world got bigger I had hoped to find more diversity hiding at the fringes of this very Nazi like society, but alas the most diversity that I encountered was a british kid and the fact that a character we had been introduced to in at the end of the first book was revealed to be asian in the second book. I mainly feel as if the author missed an opportunity to introduce a more diverse cast in the second book and beyond when the readers are introduced to Omega Point, a rebel base.
Below are the individual reviews for each book, but it is important to mention that beyond this point there WILL be spoilers.

SHATTER ME REVIEW

The Basics:

Title: Shatter Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA Dystopian

Series: Shatter Me

Publication Date: October 2, 2012

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: Kindle

ISBN-10: 0062085506

ISBN-13: 978-0062085504

Goodreads Synopsis:

I have a curse

I have a gift

I am a monster

I’m more than human

My touch is lethal

My touch is power

I am their weapon

I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

Quick and Dirty:

The story of a girl that could become a weapon in a dystopian society ruled by a singular and corrupt establishment.

Opening Sentence:

“I’ve been locked up for 264 days.”

The Review:

When the reader is first introduced to Juliette, our narrator, she is broken and possibly insane. The truth is the character openly admits that she is not sure if she is sane. Having a protagonist that starts off like this was a very smart decision made by the author, because the only way for Juliette to go is up and it is a pleasure to see this character grow, recover, and strengthen throughout the book.

In this first book there are three main characters that the reader spends time with. The first is of course Juliette, but then the reader meets the boys: Adam and Warner. Both of these boys are introduced as being beautiful to the narrator and written with very strong introductions and descriptions, but their main difference is that Adam originates from Juliette’s past and Warner is entirely new to Juliette. As the book moves forward I found myself much more interested in Warner for the simple fact that Juliette’s familiarity with Adam made him almost predictable, while Warner was much more fluid and would appear as the most despicable person imaginable one second and then there would be a flicker of humanity. This fluidity gave Warner extra dimension and made him the more interesting character to watch.

Overall the book was a good starting point for this series and the author used poetic language that I found exceptionally beautiful.     

Notable Scene:

5 full minutes under piping hot water, 2 bars of soap both smelling of lavender, a bottle of shampoo meant only for my hair, and the touch of soft, plush towels I dare to wrap around my body and I begin to understand.

They want me to forget.

They think they can wash away my memories, my loyalties, my priorities with a few hot meals and a room with a view. They think I am so easily purchased.

Warner doesn’t seem to understand that I grew up with nothing and I didn’t hate it. I didn’t want the clothes or the perfect shoes or the expensive anything. I didn’t want to be draped in silk. All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart. I saw the world and its lack of compassion, it’s harsh, grating judgment, and its cold, resentful eyes. I saw it all around me.

I had so much time to listen.

To look.

To study people and places and possibilities. All I had to do was open my eyes. All I had to do was open a book—to see the stories bleeding from page to page. To see the memories etched onto paper.

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.

They want to delete every point of punctuation in my life from this earth and I don’t think I can let that happen.

I slip back into my old clothes and tiptoe into the bedroom only to find it abandoned. Adam is gone even though he said he would stay. I don’t understand him I don’t understand his actions I don’t understand my disappointment. I wish I didn’t love the freshness of my skin, the feel of being perfectly clean after so long; I don’t understand why I still haven’t looked in the mirror, why I’m afraid of what I’ll see, why I’m not sure if I’ll recognize the face that might stare back at me.

I open the armoire.

It’s bursting with dresses and shoes and shirts and pants and clothing of every kind, colors so vivid they hurt my eyes, material I’ve only ever heard of, the kind I’m almost afraid to touch. The sizes are perfect too perfect.

They’ve been waiting for me.

The sky is raining bricks right into my skull.

I’ve been neglected abandoned ostracized and dragged from my home. I’ve been poked prodded tested and thrown in a cell. I’ve been studied. I’ve been starved. I’ve been tempted with friendship only to be left betrayed and trapped into this nightmare I’m expected to be grateful for. My parents. My teachers. Adam. Warner. The Reestablishment. I am expendable to all of them.

They think I’m a doll they can dress up and twist into prostration.

But they’re wrong.

“Warner is waiting for you.”

I spin around and fall back against the armoire, slamming it closed in the craze of panic clutching my heart. I steady myself and fold away my fear when I see Adam standing at the door. His mouth moves for a moment but he says nothing. Eventually he steps forward so forward until he’s close enough to touch.

He reaches past me to reopen the door hiding the things I’m embarrassed to know exist. “These are all for you,” he says without looking at me, his fingers touching the hem of a purple dress, a rich plum color good enough to eat.

“I already have clothes.” My hands smooth out the wrinkles in my dirty, ragged outfit.

He finally decides to look at me, but when he does his eyebrows trip, his eyes blink and freeze, his lips part in surprise. I wonder if I’ve washed off a new face for myself and I flush, hoping he’s not disgusted by what he might see. I don’t know why I care.

He drops his gaze. Takes a deep breath. “I’ll be waiting outside.”

I stare at the purple dress with Adam’s fingerprints  I study the inside of the armoire for only a moment before I abandon it. I comb anxious fingers through my wet hair and steel myself.

I am no one’s property.

And I don’t care what Warner wants me to look like.

I step outside and Adam stares at me for a small second. He rubs the back of his neck and says nothing. He shakes his head. He starts walking. He doesn’t touch me and I shouldn’t notice but I do. I have no idea what to expect I have no idea what my life will be like in this new place and I’m being nailed in the stomach by every exquisite embellishment, every lavish accessory, every superfluous painting, molding, lighting, coloring of this building. I hope the whole thing catches fire.

I follow Adam down a long carpeted corridor to an elevator made entirely of glass. He swipes the same key card he used to open my door and we step inside. I didn’t even realize we’d taken an elevator to get up this many floors. I realize I must’ve made a horrible scene when I arrived and I’m almost happy.

I hope I disappoint Warner in every possible way.

The dining room is big enough to feed thousands of orphans. Instead, there are 7 banquet tables draped across the room, blue silk spilling across the tabletops, crystal vases bursting with orchids and stargazer lilies, glass bowls filled with gardenias. It’s enchanting. I wonder where they got the flowers from. They must not be real. I don’t know how they could be real. I haven’t seen real flowers in years.

Warner is positioned at the table directly in the middle, seated at the head. As soon as he sees me Adam he stands up. The entire room stands in turn.

I realize almost immediately that there is an empty seat on either side of him and I don’t intend to stop moving but I do. I take quick inventory of the attendees and can’t count any other women.

Adam brushes the small of my back with 3 fingertips and I’m startled out of my skin. I hurry forward and Warner beams at me. He pulls out the chair on his left and gestures for me to sit down. I do.

I try not to look at Adam as he sits across from me.

“You know . . . there are clothes in your armoire, my dear.” Warner sits down beside me; the room reseats itself and resumes a steady stream of chatter. He’s turned almost entirely in my direction but somehow the only presence I’m aware of is directly across from me. I focus on the empty plate 2 inches from my fingers. I drop my hands in my lap. “And you don’t have to wear those dirty tennis shoes anymore,” Warner continues, stealing another glance before pouring something into my cup. It looks like water.

I’m so thirsty I could inhale a waterfall.

I hate his smile. Hate looks just like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into the semblance of something too passive to punch.

“Juliette?”

I inhale too quickly. A stifled cough is ballooning in my throat.

His glassy green eyes glint in my direction.

“Are you not hungry?” Words dipped in sugar. His gloved hand touches my wrist and I nearly sprain it in my haste to distance myself from him.

I could eat every person in this room. “No, thank you.”

He licks his bottom lip into a smile. “Don’t confuse stupidity for bravery, love. I know you haven’t eaten anything in days.”

Something in my patience snaps. “I’d really rather die than eat your food and listen to you call me love,” I tell him.

Adam drops his fork.

Warner spares him a swift glance and when he looks my way again his eyes have hardened. He holds my gaze for a few infinitely long seconds before he pulls a gun out of his jacket pocket. He fires.

The entire room screams to a stop.

My heart is flapping wings against my throat.

I turn my head very, very slowly to follow the direction of Warner’s gun only to see he’s shot some kind of meat right through the bone. The platter of food is slightly steaming across the room, the meal heaped less than a foot away from the guests. He shot it without even looking. He could’ve killed someone.

It takes all of my energy to remain very, very still.

Warner drops the gun on my plate. The silence gives it space to clatter around the universe and back. “Choose your words very wisely, Juliette. One word from me and your life here won’t be so easy.”

I blink.

Adam pushes a plate of food in front of me; the strength of his gaze is like a white-hot poker pressed against my skin. I look up and he cocks his head the tiniest millimeter. His eyes are saying Please.

I pick up my fork.

Warner doesn’t miss a thing. He clears his throat a little too loudly. He laughs with no humor as he cuts into the meat on his plate. “Do I have to get Kent to do all my work for me?”

“Excuse me?”

“It seems he’s the only one you’ll listen to.” His tone is breezy but his jaw is unmistakably set. He turns to Adam. “I’m surprised you didn’t tell her to change her clothes like I asked you to.”

Adam sits up straighter. “I did, sir.”

“I like my clothes,” I tell him. I’d like to punch you in the eye, is what I don’t tell him.

Warner’s smile slides back into place. “No one asked what you like, love. Now eat. I need you to look your best when you stand beside me.

UNRAVEL ME REVIEW

Purchasing Options:

Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  iBooks

The Basics:

Title: Unravel Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA Dystopian

Series: Shatter Me

Publication Date: December 31, 2013

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: Kindle

ISBN-10: 0062085549

ISBN-13: 978-0062085542

Goodreads Synopsis:

tick

tick

tick

tick

tick

it’s almost

time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.

Quick and Dirty:

The second installment of Juliette’s story of self discovery and growth in a world where her gift can make her into a monster or, maybe, a hero.


Opening Sentence:

“The world might be sunny-side up today.”

The Review:

I, like many of my fellow readers, am not a big fan of the middle book of a trilogy. Many times this point in the series becomes a transitioning point that sacrifices plot and pace in order to get the characters where they have to be by the third installment. This second book, thankfully, did not operate like this. The first book was a way to introduce Juliette, Warner, and Adam, the three main characters. The second book seemed to be a way to give the romantic pairing of Adam and Juliette a fair crack at a relationship, without Warner being in control; but don’t worry Warner fans, Warner is very much a part of this book, but without the authority and control that he had in the first book.

While the love triangle of this series is important, the second book also serves an important purpose is introducing the reading to a whole new cast of characters in the rebel base Omega Prime. The most important, and my favorite, of these characters is Kenji Kishimoto. The readers actually meet Kenji in the last half of the first book, but it isn’t until Unravel Me that Kenji really gets enough attention for the readers to get to know him. With this extra attention the readers find out that Kenji is not just the perpetual jokester and flirt that he seems in the first book. Don’t get me wrong, Kenji is still these things, but in Omega Prime he is also a person of authority, respect, and leadership.

The point my friends is this: Unravel Me introduces and makes readers fall in love with the rebel group that will become Juliette’s family and adds depth and conflict to the existing relationships between juliette, Adam, and Warner.

Notable Scene:

Things are getting worse.

The tension among the citizens of Omega Point is getting tighter with each passing hour. We’ve tried to make contact with Anderson’s men to no avail—we’ve heard nothing from their team or their soldiers, and we have no updates on our hostages. But the civilians of Sector 45—the sector Warner used to be in charge of, the sector he used to oversee—are beginning to grow more and more unsettled. Rumors about us and our resistance are spreading too quickly.

The Reestablishment tried to cover up the news of our recent battle by calling it a standard attack on rebel party members, but the people are getting smarter. Protests are breaking out among them and some are refusing to work, standing up to authority, trying to escape the compounds, and running back to unregulated territory.

It never ends well.

The losses have been too many and Castle is anxious to do something. We all have a feeling we’re going to be heading out again, and soon. We haven’t received any reports that Anderson is dead, which means he’s probably just biding his time—or maybe Adam is right, and he’s just recovering. But whatever the reason, Anderson’s silence can’t be good.

“What are you doing here?” Castle says to me.

I’ve just collected my dinner. I’ve just sat down at my usual table with Adam and Kenji and James. I blink at Castle, confused.

Kenji says, “What’s going on?”

Adam says, “Is everything all right?”

Castle says, “My apologies, Ms. Ferrars, I didn’t mean to interrupt. I confess I’m just a bit surprised to see you here. I thought you were currently on assignment.”

“Oh.” I startle. Glance at my food and back at Castle again. “I—well yes, I am—but I’ve talked to Warner twice already—I actually just saw him yesterday—”

“Oh, that’s excellent news, Ms. Ferrars. Excellent news.” Castle clasps his hands together; his face is the picture of relief. “And what have you been able to discover?” He looks so hopeful that I actually begin to feel ashamed of myself.

Everyone is staring at me and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say.

I shake my head.

“Ah.” Castle drops his hands. Looks down. Nods to himself. “So. You’ve decided that your two visits have been more than sufficient?” He won’t look at me. “What is your professional opinion, Ms. Ferrars? Do you think it would be best to take your time in this particular situation? That Winston and Brendan will be relaxing comfortably until you find an opportunity in your busy schedule to interrogate the only person who might be able to help us find them? Do you think that y—”

“I’ll go right now.” I grab my tray and jump up from table, nearly tripping over myself in the process. “I’m sorry—I’m just—I’ll go right now. I’ll see you guys at breakfast,” I whisper, and run out the door.

Brendan and Winston

Brendan and Winston

Brendan and Winston, I keep telling myself.

I hear Kenji laughing as I leave.

I’m not very good at interrogation, apparently.

I have so many questions for Warner but none of them have to do with our hostage situation. Every time I tell myself I’m going to ask the right questions, Warner somehow manages to distract me. It’s almost like he knows what I’m going to ask and is already prepared to redirect the conversation.

It’s confusing.

“Do you have any tattoos?” he’s asking me, smiling as he leans back against the wall in his undershirt; pants on, socks on, shoes off. “Everyone seems to have tattoos these days.”

This is not a conversation I ever thought I’d have with Warner.

“No,” I tell him. “I’ve never had an opportunity to get one. Besides, I don’t think anyone would ever want to get that close to my skin.”

He studies his hands. Smiles. Says, “Maybe someday.”

“Maybe,” I agree.

A pause.

“So what about your tattoo?” I ask. “Why IGNITE?”

His smile is bigger now. Dimples again. He shakes his head, says, “Why not?”

“I don’t get it.” I tilt my head at him, confused. “You want to remind yourself to catch on fire?”

He smiles, presses back a laugh. “A handful of letters doesn’t always make a word, love.”

“I … have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He takes a deep breath. Sits up straighter. “So,” he says. “You used to read a lot?”

I’m caught off guard. It’s a strange question, and I can’t help but wonder for a moment if it’s a trick. If admitting to such a thing might get me into trouble. And then I remember that Warner is my hostage, not the other way around. “Yes,” I say to him. “I used to.”

His smile fades into something a bit more serious, calculated. His features are carefully wiped clean of emotion. “And when did you have a chance to read?”

“What do you mean?”

He shrugs slowly, glances at nothing across the room. “It just seems strange that a girl who’s been so wholly isolated her entire life would have much access to literature. Especially in this world.”

I say nothing.

He says nothing.

I breathe a few beats before answering him.

“I … I never got to choose my own books,” I tell him, and I don’t know why I feel so nervous saying this out loud, why I have to remind myself not to whisper. “I read whatever was available. My schools always had little libraries and my parents had some things around the house. And later …” I hesitate. “Later, I spent a couple of years in hospitals and psychiatric wards and a juvenile d-detention center.” My face enflames as if on cue, always ready to be ashamed of my past, of who I’ve been and continue to be.

But it’s strange.

While one part of me struggles to be so candid, another part of me actually feels comfortable talking to Warner. Safe. Familiar.

Because he already knows everything about me.

He knows every detail of my 17 years. He has all of my medical records, knows all about my incidents with the police and the painful relationship I have had with my parents. And now he’s read my notebook, too.

There’s nothing I could reveal about my history that would surprise him; nothing about what I’ve done would shock or horrify him. I don’t worry that he’ll judge me or run away from me.

And this realization, perhaps more than anything else, rattles my bones.

And gives me some sense of relief. 

“There were always books around,” I continue, somehow unable to stop now, eyes glued to the floor. “In the detention center. A lot of them were old and worn and didn’t have covers, so I didn’t always know what they were called or who wrote them. I just read anything I could find. Fairy tales and mysteries and history and poetry. It didn’t matter what it was. I would read it over and over and over again. The books … they helped keep me from losing my mind altogether …” I trail off, catching myself before I say much more. Horrified as I realize just how much I want to confide in him. In Warner.

Terrible, terrible Warner who tried to kill Adam and Kenji. Who made me his toy.

I hate that I should feel safe enough to speak so freely around him. I hate that of all people, Warner is the one person I can be completely honest with. I always feel like I have to protect Adam from me, from the horror story that is my life. I never want to scare him or tell him too much for fear that he’ll change his mind and realize what a mistake he’s made in trusting me; in showing me affection.

But with Warner there’s nothing to hide. I want to see his expression; I want to know what he’s thinking now that I’ve opened up, offered him a personal look at my past, but I can’t make myself face him. So I sit here, frozen, humiliation perched on my shoulders and he doesn’t say a word, doesn’t shift an inch, doesn’t make a single sound. Seconds fly by, swarming the room all at once and I want to swat them all away; I want to catch them and shove them into my pockets just long enough to stop time.

Finally, he interrupts the silence.

“I like to read, too,” he says.

I look up, startled. He’s leaned back against the wall, one hand caught in his hair. He runs his fingers through the golden layers just once. Drops his hand. Meets my gaze. His eyes are so, so green. “You like to read?” I ask. “You’re surprised.”

“I thought The Reestablishment was going to destroy all of those things. I thought it was illegal.”

“They are, and it will be,” he says, shifting a little. “Soon, anyway. They’ve destroyed some of it already, actually.” He looks uncomfortable for the first time. “It’s ironic,” he says, “that I only really started reading when the plan was in place to destroy everything. I was assigned to sort through some lists—give my opinion on which things we’d keep, which things we’d get rid of, which things we’d recycle for use in campaigns, in future curriculum, et cetera.”

“And you think that’s okay?” I ask him. “To destroy what’s left of culture—all the languages—all those texts? Do you agree?”

He’s playing with my notebook again. “There … are many things I’d do differently,” he says, “if I were in charge.” A deep breath. “But a soldier does not always have to agree in order to obey.”

“What would you do differently?” I ask. “If you were in charge?”

He laughs. Sighs. Looks at me, smiles at me out of the corner of his eye. “You ask too many questions.” “I can’t help it,” I tell him. “You just seem so different now. Everything you say surprises me.” “How so?” “I don’t know,” I say. “You’re just … so calm. A little less crazy.” He laughs one of those silent laughs, the kind that shakes his chest without making a sound, and he says, “My life has been nothing but battle and destruction. Being here?” He looks around. “Away from duties, responsibilities. Death,” he says, eyes intent on the wall. “It’s like a vacation. I don’t have to think all the time. I don’t have to do anything or talk to anyone or be anywhere. I’ve never had so many hours to simply sleep,” he says, smiling. “It’s actually kind of luxurious. I think I’d like to get held hostage more often,” he adds, mostly to himself.

And I can’t help but study him.

I study his face in a way I’ve never dared to before and I realize I don’t have the faintest idea what it must be like to live his life. He told me once that I didn’t have a clue, that I couldn’t possibly understand the strange laws of his world, and I’m only just beginning to see how right he was. Because I don’t know anything about that kind of bloody, regimented existence. But I suddenly want to know.

I suddenly want to understand.

I watch his careful movements, the effort he makes to look unconcerned, relaxed. But I see how calculated it is. How there’s a reason behind every shift, every readjustment of his body. He’s always listening, always touching a hand to the ground, the wall, staring at the door, studying its outline, the hinges, the handle. I see the way he tenses—just a little bit—at the sound of small noises, the scratch of metal, muffled voices outside the room. It’s obvious he’s always alert, always on edge, ready to fight, to react. It makes me wonder if he’s ever known tranquillity. Safety. If he’s ever been able to sleep through the night. If he’s ever been able to go anywhere without constantly looking over his own shoulder.

His hands are clasped together.

He’s playing with a ring on his left hand, turning and turning and turning it around his pinkie finger. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to notice he’s wearing it; it’s a solid band of jade, a shade of green pale enough to perfectly match his eyes. And then I remember, all at once, seeing it before.

Just one time.

The morning after I’d hurt Jenkins. When Warner came to collect me from his room. He caught me staring at his ring and quickly slipped his gloves on.

It’s déjà vu. He catches me looking at his hands and quickly clenches his left fist, covers it with his right.

“Wha—”

“It’s just a ring,” he says. “It’s nothing.”

“Why are you hiding it if it’s nothing?” I’m already so much more curious than I was a moment ago, too eager for any opportunity to crack him open, to figure out what on earth goes on inside of his head.

He sighs.

Flexes and unflexes his fingers. Stares at his hands, palms down, fingers spread. Slips the ring off his pinkie and holds it up to the fluorescent light; looks at it. It’s a little O of green. Finally, he meets my eyes. Drops the ring into the palm of his hand and closes a fist around it.

“You’re not going to tell me?” I ask.

He shakes his head.

“Why not?”

He rubs the side of his neck, massages the tension out of the lowest part, the part that just touches his upper back. I can’t help but watch. Can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to have someone massage the pain out of my body that way. His hands look so strong.

I’ve just about forgotten what we were talking about when he says, “I’ve had this ring for almost ten years. It used to fit my index finger.” He glances at me before looking away again. “And I don’t talk about it.”

“Ever?”

“No.”

“Oh.” I bite down on my bottom lip. Disappointed.

“Do you like Shakespeare?” he asks me.

An odd segue.

I shake my head. “All I know about him is that he stole my name and spelled it wrong.”

Warner stares at me for a full second before he bursts into laughter—strong, unrestrained gales of laughter—trying to rein it in and failing.

I’m suddenly uncomfortable, nervous in front of this strange boy who laughs and wears secret rings and asks me about books and poetry. “I wasn’t trying to be funny,” I manage to tell him.

But his eyes are still full of smiles when he says, “Don’t worry. I didn’t know much about him until roughly a year ago. I still don’t understand half the things he says, so I think we’re going to get rid of most of it, but he did write a line I really liked.”

“What was it?”

“Would you like to see it?”

“See it?”

But Warner is already on his feet, unbuttoning his pants and I’m wondering what could possibly be happening, worried I’m being tricked into some new sick game of his when he stops. Catches the horrified look on my face. Says, “Don’t worry, love. I’m not getting naked, I promise. It’s just another tattoo.”

“Where?” I ask, frozen in place, wanting and not wanting to look away.

He doesn’t answer.

His pants are unzipped but hanging low on his waist. His boxer-briefs are visible underneath. He tugs and tugs on the elastic band of his underwear until it sits just below his hipbone.

I’m blushing through my hairline.

I’ve never seen such an intimate area of any boy’s body before, and I can’t make myself look away. My moments with Adam were always in the dark and always interrupted; I never saw this much of him not because I didn’t want to, but because I never had a chance to. And now the lights are on and Warner’s standing right in front of me and I’m so caught, so intrigued by the cut of his frame. I can’t help but notice the way his waist narrows into his hips and disappears under a piece of fabric. I want to know what it would be like to understand another person without those barriers.

To know a person so thoroughly, so privately.

I want to study the secrets tucked between his elbows and the whispers caught behind his knees. I want to follow the lines of his silhouette with my eyes and the tips of my fingers. I want to trace rivers and valleys along the curved muscles of his body.

My thoughts shock me.

There’s a desperate heat in the pit of my stomach I wish I could ignore. There are butterflies in my chest I wish I could explain away. There’s an ache in my core that I’m unwilling to name.

Beautiful.

He’s so beautiful.

I must be insane.

“It’s interesting,” he says. “It feels very … relevant, I think. Even though it was written so long ago.”

“What?” I rip my eyes away from his lower half, desperately trying to keep my imagination from drawing in the details. I look back at the words tattooed onto his skin and focus this time. “Oh,” I say. “Yes.”

It’s 2 lines. Font like a typewriter inked across the very bottom of his torso.

hell is empty

and all the devils are here

Yes. Interesting. Yes. Sure.

I think I need to lie down.

“Books,” he’s saying, pulling his boxer-briefs up and rezipping his pants, “are easily destroyed. But words will live as long as people can remember them. Tattoos, for example, are very hard to forget.” He buttons his button. “I think there’s something about the impermanence of life these days that makes it necessary to etch ink into our skin,” he says. “It reminds us that we’ve been marked by the world, that we’re still alive. That we’ll never forget.”

“Who are you?”

I don’t know this Warner. I’d never be able to recognize this Warner.

He smiles to himself. Sits down again. Says, “No one else will ever need to know.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know who I am,” he says. “That’s enough for me.”

I’m silent a moment. I frown at the floor. “It must be great to go through life with so much confidence.”

“You are confident,” he says to me. “You’re stubborn and resilient. So brave. So strong. So inhumanly beautiful. You could conquer the world.”

I actually laugh, look up to meet his eyes. “I cry too much. And I’m not interested in conquering the world.”

“That,” he says, “is something I will never understand.” He shakes his head. “You’re just scared. You’re afraid of what you’re unfamiliar with. You’re too worried about disappointing people. You stifle your own potential,” he says, “because of what you think others expect of you—because you still follow the rules you’ve been given.” He looks at me, hard. “I wish you wouldn’t.”

“I wish you’d stop expecting me to use my power to kill people.”

He shrugs. “I never said you had to. But it will happen along the way; it’s an inevitability in war. Killing is statistically impossible to avoid.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Definitely not.”

“You can always avoid killing people, Warner. You avoid killing them by not going to war.”

But he grins, so brilliantly, not even paying attention. “I love it when you say my name,” he says. “I don’t even know why.”

“Warner isn’t your name,” I point out. “Your name is Aaron.”

Purchasing Options:

Barnes & Noble  |  IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  iBooks

IGNITE ME REVIEW

The Basics:

Title: Ignite Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA Dystopian

Series: Shatter Me

Publication Date: December 30, 2014

Publisher: HarperCollins

Format: Kindle

ISBN-10: 0062085581

ISBN-13: 978-0062085580

Goodreads Synopsis:

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.

Quick and Dirty:

The final installment of Juliette’s story and a movement that can save her world.


Opening Sentence:

“I am an hourglass”

The Review:

In the interest of MAJOR spoilers I will not tell you who Juliette chooses in the end, but I can tell you that the author did a fantastic job at ending this series. There were no loose ends, and while I do not want her to continue the series for the plot’s sake I would love more time with these characters!

One relationship in particular that I loved seeing throughout this book was the friendship between Kenji and Juliette. These two became extraordinarily close and there banter and easy camaraderie made for some GREAT scenes! So great in fact that I couldn’t resist picking my favorite Kenji & Juliette moment for the “Notable Scene” below. Speaking of relationships, this book gave us some very valuable Juliette and Warner time in the same way that Unravel Me gave Adam and Juliette their alone time. Without the pretense of Warner’s Reestablishment identity and the distractions of Omega Prime Juliette and Warner get a chance to talk and interact in a way that they never have before: honestly. No matter the outcome at the end this is the book that Warner fans will want to read.  

Notable Scene:

I shuffle over to the door and Kenji grabs my arm to lead me outside. He turns back and shouts, “Get yourselves some dinner” to everyone else, just before we leave.

We’re standing on the landing just outside Adam’s house, and I realize for the first time that there are more stairwells leading up. To somewhere.

“Come on, princess,” Kenji says. “Follow me.”

And we climb.

Four, five flights of stairs. Maybe eight. Or fifty. I have no idea. All I know is that by the time we reach the top I’m both out of breath and embarrassed for being out of breath.

When I’m finally able to inhale normally, I chance a look around.

Incredible.

We’re on the roof, outside, where the world is pitch-black but for the stars and the sliver of moon someone has hung from the sky. Sometimes I wonder if the planets are still up there, still aligned, still managing to get along after all this time. Maybe we could learn a thing or two from them.

The wind tangles around us and I shiver as my body adjusts to the temperature.

“Come here,” Kenji says to me. He motions to the ledge of the roof, and sits down right on the edge, legs swinging over what would be his fastest path to death. “Don’t worry,” he says when he sees my face. “It’ll be fine. I sit here a lot.”

When I’m finally sitting next to him, I dare to look down. My feet are dangling from the top of the world.

Kenji drops an arm around me. Rubs my shoulder to keep me warm.

“So,” he says. “When’s the big day? Have you set a date yet?”

“What?” I startle. “For what?”

“For the day you’re going to stop being such a dumbass,” he says, shooting me a sharp look.

“Oh.” I cringe. Kick at the air. “Yeah, that’ll probably never happen.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

“Shut up.”

“You know,” he says, “I don’t know where Adam is.”

I stiffen. Sit up. “Is he okay?”

“He’ll be fine,” Kenji says with a resigned sigh. “He’s just super pissed off. And hurt. And embarrassed. And all that emotional shit.”

I drop my eyes again. Kenji’s arm hangs loosely around my neck, and he pulls me closer, tucking me into his side. I rest my head on his chest.

Moments and minutes and memories build and break between us.

“I really thought you guys were solid,” Kenji finally says to me.

“Yeah,” I whisper. “Me too.”

A few seconds jump off the roof.

“I’m such a horrible person,” I say, so quietly.

“Yeah, well.” Kenji sighs.

I groan. Drop my head into my hands.

Kenji sighs again. “Don’t worry, Kent was being an asshole, too.” He takes a deep breath. “But damn, princess.” Kenji looks at me, shakes his head an inch, looks back into the night. “Seriously? Warner?

I look up. “What are you talking about?”

Kenji raises an eyebrow at me. “I know for a fact that you’re not stupid, so please don’t act like you are.”

I roll my eyes. “I really don’t want to have this conversation again—”

“I don’t care if you don’t want to have this conversation again. You have to talk about this. You can’t just fall for a guy like Warner without telling me why. I need to make sure he didn’t stick a chip in your head or someshit.”

I’m silent for almost a full minute.

“I’m not falling for Warner,” I say quietly.

“Sure you aren’t.”

“I’m not,” I insist. “I’m just—I don’t know.” I sigh. “I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

“They’re called hormones.”

I shoot him a dirty look. “I’m serious.”

“Me too.” He cocks his head at me. “That’s like, biological and shit. Scientific. Maybe your lady bits are scientifically confused.”

“My lady bits?”

“Oh, I’m sorry”—Kenji pretends to look offended—“would you rather I use the proper anatomical terminology? Because your lady bits do not scare me—”

“Yeah, no thanks.” I manage to laugh a little, my sad attempt dissolving into a sigh.

God, everything is changing.

“He’s just . . . so different,” I hear myself say. “Warner. He’s not what you guys think. He’s sweet. And kind. And his father is so, so horrible to him. You can’t even imagine,” I trail off, thinking of the scars I saw on Warner’s back. “And more than anything else . . . I don’t know,” I say, staring into the darkness. “He really . . . believes in me?” I glance up at Kenji. “Does that sound stupid?”

Kenji shoots me a doubtful look. “Adam believes in you, too.”

“Yeah,” I say, looking into the darkness. “I guess.”

“What do you mean, you guess? The kid thinks you invented air.”

I almost smile. “I don’t know which version of me Adam likes. I’m not the same person I was when we were in school. I’m not that girl anymore. I think he wants that,” I say, glancing up at Kenji. “I think he wants to pretend I’m the girl who doesn’t really speak and spends most of her time being scared. The kind of girl he needs to protect and take care of all the time. I don’t know if he likes who I am now. I don’t know if he can handle it.”

“So the minute you opened your mouth you just shattered all his dreams, huh?”

“I will push you off the roof.”

“Yeah, I can definitely see why Adam wouldn’t like you.”

I roll my eyes.

Kenji laughs. Leans back and pulls me down with him. The concrete is under our heads now, the sky draped all around us. It’s like I’ve been dropped into a vat of ink.

“You know, it actually makes a lot of sense,” Kenji finally says. “What does?”

“I don’t know, I mean—you’ve been locked up basically forever, right? It’s not like you were busy touching a bunch of dudes your whole life.”

“What?”

“Like—Adam was the first guy who was ever . . . nice to you. Hell, he was probably the first person in the world who was nice to you. And he can touch you. And he’s not, you know, disgusting looking.” A pause. “I can’t blame you, to be honest. It’s hard being lonely. We all get a little desperate sometimes.”

“Okay,” I say slowly.

“I am just saying,” Kenji says, “that I guess it makes sense you’d fall for him. Like, by default. Because if not him, who else? Your options were super limited.”

“Oh,” I say, quietly now. “Right. By default.” I try to laugh and fail, swallowing hard against the emotion caught in my throat. “Sometimes I’m not sure I even know what’s real anymore.”

“What do you mean?”

I shake my head. “I don’t know,” I whisper, mostly to myself.

A heavy pause.

“Did you really love him . . . ?”

I hesitate before answering. “I think so? I don’t know?” I sigh. “Is it possible to love someone and then stop loving them? I don’t think I even know what love is.”

Kenji blows out a breath. Runs a hand through his hair. “Well shit,” he mutters.

“Have you ever been in love?” I ask, turning on my side to look at him.

He stares up at the sky. Blinks a few times. “Nope.”

I roll back, disappointed. “Oh.”

“This is so depressing,” Kenji says.

“Yeah.”

“We suck.”

“Yeah.”

“So tell me again why you like Warner so much? Did he, like, take all his clothes off or something?”

“What?” I gasp, so glad it’s too dark for him to see me blushing. “No,” I say quickly. “No, he—”

“Damn, princess.” Kenji laughs, hard. “I had no idea.”

I punch him in the arm. “Hey—be gentle with me!” he protests, rubbing at the sore spot. “I’m weaker than you!”

“You know, I can sort of control it now,” I tell him, beaming. “I can moderate my strength levels.”

“Good for you. I’ll buy you a balloon the minute the world stops shitting on itself.”

“Thank you,” I say, pleased. “You’re a good teacher.”

“I’m good at everything,” he points out.

“Humble, too.”

“And really good-looking.”

I choke on a laugh.

“You still haven’t answered my question,” Kenji says. He shifts, folds his hands behind his head. “Why do you like the rich boy so much?”

I take a tight breath. Focus on the brightest star in the sky. “I like the way I feel about myself when I’m with him,” I say quietly. “Warner thinks I’m strong and smart and capable and he actually values my opinion. He makes me feel like his equal—like I can accomplish just as much as he can, and more. And if I do something incredible, he’s not even surprised. He expects it. He doesn’t treat me like I’m some fragile little girl who needs to be protected all the time.”

Kenji snorts.

“That’s because you’re not fragile,” Kenji says. “If anything, everyone needs to protect themselves from you. You’re like a freaking beast,” he says. Then adds, “I mean, you know—like, a cute beast. A little beast that tears shit up and breaks the earth and sucks the life out of people.”

“Nice.”

“I’m here for you.”

“I can tell.”

“So that’s it?” Kenji says. “You just like him for his personality, huh?”

“What?”

“All of this,” Kenji says, waving a hand in the air, “has nothing to do with him being all sexy and shit and him being able to touch you all the time?”

“You think Warner is sexy?”

“That is not what I said.”

I laugh. “I do like his face.”

“And the touching?”

“What touching?”

Kenji looks at me, eyes wide, eyebrows up. “I am not Adam, okay? You can’t bullshit me with your innocent act. You tell me this guy can touch you, and that he’s into you, and you’re clearly into him, and you spent the night in his bed last night, and then I walk in on the two of you in a freaking closet—no wait, I’m sorry, not a closet—a child’s bedroom—and you’re telling me there has been zero touching?” He stares at me. “Is that what you’re telling me?”

“No,” I whisper, face on fire.

“You’re just growing up so quickly. You’re getting all excited about being able to touch shit for the first time, and I just want to be sure you are observing sanitary regulations—”

“Stop being so disgusting.”

“Hey—I’m just looking out for y—”

“Kenji?”

“Yeah?”

I take a deep breath. Try to count the stars. “What am I going to do?”

“About what?” I hesitate.

“About everything.”

Kenji makes a strange sound. “Shit if I know.”

“I don’t want to do this without you,” I whisper.

He leans back. “Who said you’re going to do anything without me?”

My heart skips a few beats. I stare at him.

“What?” he asks. Raises his eyebrows. “You’re surprised?”

“You’ll fight with me?” I ask him, hardly breathing. “Fight back with me? Even if it’s with Warner?”

Kenji smiles. Looks up at the sky. “Hell yeah,” he says.

“Really?”

“I’m here for you, kid. That’s what friends are for.”

Purchasing Options:

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