Saturday, November 24, 2012

on reading books a second time (shatter me)

I'm nearly 200 pages into my reread of Shatter Me and reading this book a second time is making me realize a few very important things about books and rereads. I'm realizing that first reads -- that is, reading a book for the first time -- is primarily an emotional experience. You're experiencing everything in the book for the first time, latching on to the things you love or the things you hate. I've reviewed dozens of books and read hundreds and hundreds, and I still do this to some degree, despite my best attempts at objectivity.

Sometimes reading a book a second time is so completely different than the first time and so it is with Shatter Me. I've talked a lot about how much I love love love this book. Tahereh Mafi's writing is completely amazing and totally blows me away. The romance between Juliette and Adam is oh-so-romantic and the characters themselves are some of the best I've found on their own merits, regardless of the romance between them. But even in my first reading of Shatter Me there were things that bothered me. I was surprised at how dark the book was in certain scenes and this is standing out even more to me in a second reading.

This book is so dark. The setting is barren and desolate and scary. The villain is horrifyingly awful and certain events are shudder-inducing. In a book with lesser characters, lesser writing, I probably wouldn't have picked up the book for a second read and it's possible I wouldn't have even finished the first reading. 

The truth is that Juliette is an amazing character. She's strong and good and solid and so, so wants to be a better person. To be kind and loving. And the love story between her and Adam is so beautiful and great. But the events in the book -- many of the events -- are so awful. It's hard to read them. I've heard bits and pieces about the second book in the series (Unravel Me) and one of the things I keep hearing is that Warner -- Warner the villain, Warner the horrible awful evil -- isn't quite as bad. That he's humanized. And what I've realized, the more I hear about this book and Warner's role in it in particular, is that I might....

I might be okay not reading it.

What I've realized is that Shatter Me and its subsequent books might be, as much as I love the writing and the (good) characters, and the hope Juliette refuses to let go of, just too dark for me.

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