There is so much I absolutely positively love about this book. The world these characters inhabit is bleak and unforgiving and just a little bit too real; the horror of the Reestablishment is terrifying and its leader, Warner, is despicable and disgusting. When this book goes bad, it goes all the way bad. And though it's more than a little uncomfortable, it makes the stakes of the story all the higher and ups the tension. But on the flipside of this is the fact that when it's good it's absolutely brilliantly bright and wonderful.
First and foremost, I absolutely love Juliette. Tahereh Mafi has written an original, unique, and thoroughly incredible character in Juliette, a girl whose strange power has caused so much misery for her and others. Her parents refused to help her and ultimately abandoned her; she's been locked away from society and deprived of any human interaction. More than this, she's a good-hearted person who wants to help others but only ends up hurting them... and she has no idea why. Juliette is a girl determined to keep her humanity in a world that insists she doesn't have any and her internal struggles are written so, so perfectly. Her romance with Adam became a love story I'm rooting for almost instantly and it's hard to pinpoint exactly why. This is definitely a case of YA insta-love, which I often dislike, but here it worked, and it worked incredibly well as Adam is the only person Juliette's ever known who treats her as a human being instead of a monster and the two have a connection that's impossible to deny. Juliette, who despite everything still believes in beauty and love and goodness, has found much of this in her relationship with Adam.
The writing in this book is wonderful. Though the constant metaphors and strike-outs will no doubt be a bit much for some readers, it suits Juliette's character and struggles perfectly. Mafi's writing is lyrical and beautiful, pages and pages and pages of absolutely stunning sentences, though I have a feeling that the polarizing effect of this book (everyone seems to either love it or hate it) is due to this writing. You'll either love it or hate it, and I love it. The writing in this book is amazing; I honestly can't say enough good things about it. Love, love, love.
And all of that being said, though for much of this book I loved it more than I could even comprehend, at some point in the second half of the story things took a turn. The feeling of the book changed. As more characters entered the story, along with new twists, some of the urgency and desperation that had been at the core of Juliette's story in the beginning, went away. It's hard to discuss what happens without spoiling the whole book, but I will say that it ended in a way I wasn't expecting, a way that, while I kind of liked it, didn't seem to fit with the rest of the book. Juliette's unique and strong personality seemed to get diluted in the mess of people and events that were so different from what had come before. Additionally, too many hormone-fueled scenes between her and Adam took the focus away from the more important parts of the story. While these scenes were well-written, they often felt inappropriate and gratuitous in the midst of everything else that was happening: it was as if Juliette's focus had shifted away from protecting herself and Adam and the larger issues she was grappling with earlier in the book and over to a complete preoccupation with sex. In a way this makes sense, considering that she hadn't touched anyone in nearly a year, but still it seemed like a lot of (fairly redundant) overkill that felt like way too much and also stalled the plot.
Still, despite my issues with the last quarter of this book, this is one story that completely captured my attention. It overwhelmed me with how beautifully it was written and how complex the characters are. The ending nicely sets up a second book and while I worry the feeling of this second book will be (judging by the ending) so different from what makes this first book incredible, I still love Shatter Me and am cautiously optimistic about book #2. There were so many huge passages from this book that were incredibly, searingly beautiful, and the character of Juliette has a place as one of the most original characters and a personal favorite of mine. Bottom line: I love this book. So much.