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Book Review

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Shatter Me” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Juliette has been locked away in an institution for 264 days. Her parents willingly surrendered her to the government because they feared her. Ever since she was a child, Juliette’s touch has caused other people pain. She attended school, but was kept separate from her peers. They were warned not to go near her. Her incarceration came after she unintentionally killed a toddler. She only wanted to help him after his mother knocked him down, but when she touched him, he died.

In solitary confinement for almost a year, Juliette is surprised, and a little frightened, when she is given a roommate. Especially because he is a boy her age. Although she longs for companionship, she is hesitant to open up to him. She has been alone, emotionally and physically, for so long that she does not trust anyone.

Her only comfort until now has been the small notebook that she writes in daily. Only there does she admit her desires and fears. She records what she knows about the Reestablishment, a group that promised to help the nation recover what it lost to climate change. Birds, animals and fish are dying. Crops can no longer grow because the weather is erratic — one day hot, the next day cold. But the Reestablishment has become a violent tyranny, intent on subduing the people and keeping power and wealth for themselves.

Her new roommate is gentle and kind, but Juliette does not allow herself to trust him. After several days, Juliette admits to herself that she knows him. He is Adam, the only boy in school who ever looked at her with kindness, and not fear. She longs to tell him who she is, especially when he comforts her after a nightmare. It breaks her heart that he seems to have forgotten her. Before she gets the courage to tell him the truth, soldiers come, beat her and drag her out of her cell. As she blacks out, she fears that the soldiers have killed Adam for trying to protect her.

Juliette wakes up two days later and discovers that Adam is a soldier for the Reestablishment. She is heartbroken. At gunpoint, he and another guard take her to meet Warner, the officer in charge. Warner has studied her records and knows her power. He sent Adam into her cell to make sure she was not psychotic, that she could be rational.

Now that Juliette’s sanity is determined, Warner has a deal for her. In exchange for her freedom and a lifestyle of luxury, she will be Warner’s personal weapon. Juliette initially refuses his offer, but Warner will not be put off so quickly. He orders Adam to guard her and help break her. Adam drives Juliette to her new home. Along the way, she sees the how the Reestablishment has changed the landscape of the city.

Houses have been destroyed in favor of large compounds. She sees the hopelessness of the people in the streets, and their fear of being killed if they protest the government. She is shocked when Adam takes her into a huge institutional-looking building and discovers that on the inside, it is a testimony of greed and excess.

Her new bedroom is beautiful with a queen-sized bed and a bathroom with a shower. Adam tells her it is also filled with cameras everywhere but in the bathroom. Although she gives in to the temptation to bathe with real soap and shampoo, she refuses Adam’s request, per Warner’s orders, that she put on a new dress for dinner.

Warner tries to bribe Juliette with scrumptious food, but she refuses to eat. He warns her that his patience is not endless. When she goes to her room, she finds that Adam has been beaten because he had not convinced her to wear a dress. Although she hates that he is now a soldier, she will not allow him to suffer because of her. When Adam tells her to wear the purple dress, she takes it out of the armoire. It is then she discovers her notebook, hidden on a shelf. She hides it under the dress and takes it into the bathroom where there are no cameras. Once the door is closed, she opens the notebook and discovers Adam has written a note telling her that things are not as they seem.

Juliette puts the dress on, even as she wonders about the meaning of the note. Warner arrives and escorts her to a courtyard where hundreds of soldiers have assembled. He demonstrates his ruthlessness by shooting a soldier in the face for treason.

Juliette is returned to her room but wakes that night with nightmares. She discovers Adam sleeping on her floor. He comforts her, and she falls back to sleep. In the morning, she accidently walks in on him in the bathroom. Before he can put his shirt on, she sees the bruises he incurred for her disobedience. He closes the door and turns on the shower, then draws her close. He can touch her.

Adam discovered that he was immune to her power when he tried to wake her from a nightmare in the institution. He had not known why he should fear her until Warner made her touch another soldier. As Adam holds her close, he promises that he will find a way to set her free.

Warner becomes possessive and controlling. He escorts Juliette everywhere and orders her to speak only to him. She demands that he remove the cameras from her room. When Adam escorts her back to her bedroom, he dismantles the cameras. Without them, the two finally admit they have always known who the other was, and always cared for the other.

They share a moment of passionate intimacy before another soldier, Kenji, interrupts them. Once he leaves, Juliette tells Adam she wants to escape. He tells her he will help her and go with her. He has loved her since he first saw her.

When the other children pelted her with rocks or said cruel things, she never retaliated. She often helped them when they were in trouble. Adam tells her the troops are getting ready to mobilize. They will have three weeks at the most to make a plan to escape.

Two weeks later, they overpower Warner after he discovers the notebook Juliette keeps. He tries to convince Juliette that Adam is not what he seems, that she should stay with him. As she and Adam escape through her window, Warner grasps her leg to try and drag her back. She pulls herself away and flees with Adam, hoping that Warner does not realize he just touched her skin and did not feel any pain.

They evade capture, and Adam takes Juliette to his secret apartment outside of the city. She is shocked to meet his younger brother, James. He has kept his brother’s whereabouts a secret from Warner, knowing his superior would threaten his life if ever he found the boy. James attends an informal school with other abandoned and orphaned children.

While he is at school, someone pounds on the apartment door. It is Kenji, Adam’s friend. He has been shot while he pursued them, but promises that he was not followed. Adam insists he leave knowing that Kenji has a chemical trace that Warner will track.

Kenji begs for help and tells them he knows of a place where they all can hide. Unsure of whether they can trust him, but knowing their home is no longer safe, Adam agrees to escape with Kenji once his brother returns from school, but Warner’s soldiers find the apartment. Adam is shot in the leg. Warner takes Juliette prisoner, bringing her to an abandoned classroom.

Warner revels in the fact that he can touch Juliette without pain. He tries to seduce her into willingly coming back with him. She pretends to enjoy his advances so she can unbutton his jacket, steal his gun and shoot him. She runs throughout the school and finds Adam, tied to the ceiling but alive. They rendezvous with Kenji and James and escape the soldiers.

Kenji leads them to a secret resistance group. Adam is taken into their medical ward, while Juliette is led to a separate part of the facility. She meets Castle, the leader of the group he calls Omega Point. It is no accident that Juliette is here.

Castle requested that Kenji bring her. He explains that the world is not as bad as the Reestablishment has led humanity to believe. They have kept the food and animals away from the public’s eyes. Castle believes they can restore much of what is wrong with the earth.

But the real surprise is when she discovers that the facility has others like her, with special abilities. Castle has been bringing them all together to make up an army to fight the Reestablishment. He can move things with his mind. Kenji is a chameleon, blending into his surroundings so he seems to disappear. Another boy channels electricity. Still others can heal people. Castle believes Adam has abilities as well, since he is immune to Juliette’s touch. When she receives the news that Warner is still alive — he survived the gunshot —— Juliette and Adam know they must join Omega Point and fight.

Christian Beliefs

Juliette remembers when she was younger and people had Christmas trees.

Other Belief Systems

Castle refers to the planet as Mother Earth. The Reestablishment tried to stamp out all religious beliefs.

Authority Roles

Juliette’s parents feared her because of the pain she inflicted on them and others. They kept her in her room at home, and then made her keep three feet away from them when they let her out. They told her to be grateful that they treated her humanely, even though she ruined their lives.

Warner, an officer in the Reestablishment organization sent Adam into Juliette’s cell to make sure she was not psychotic. Once her sanity is determined, Warner has a deal for her. In exchange for her freedom and a lifestyle of luxury, she will be Warner’s personal weapon. Later, Warner goes to a courtyard where hundreds of soldiers have assembled. He demonstrates his ruthlessness by shooting a soldier in the face for treason. Warner becomes possessive and controlling of Juliette. He escorts Juliette everywhere and orders her to speak only to him. Warner revels in the fact that he can touch Juliette without pain. He tries to seduce her.

Profanity/Violence

God’s name is used in vain alone and with the words oh, hope to and dear. Jesus’ name is used as an exclamation. H--- is used alone and with go to. D--n, a--hole, *s--- and b--tard are also used.

When Adam explains what the world outside is like, Juliette imagines women and children wasting away in starvation and rotting corpses filling the countryside.

Soldiers threaten to shoot Juliette if she doesn’t cooperate. One hits her in the head with the butt of his gun. They kick her while wearing steel-toed boots. Later, another soldier hits her in the spine with his gun.

Juliette remembers accidently killing a small boy when she only meant to help him to his feet after his mother knocked him down. Warner orders a soldier to hold her bare arms. The soldier screams as she rips the life out of him. He cannot let go until she breaks the mental connection between them.

Warner shoots a soldier in the forehead for treason. As a test for Juliette, Warner makes her wear a skimpy outfit of short-shorts and a tank top. He then locks her in a room. Metal spikes appear suddenly from the floor and ceiling, rotating in and out of the room. Then Warner sends in a blindfolded toddler, wearing only a diaper. If Juliette does nothing, the child will be speared by one of the spikes, but if she picks him up, she may kill him.

She is forced to grab him when he is about to be skewered. The child screams in agony until he passes out. Then she is able to hold him by the diaper. After Warner stops the spikes, she places the child on the floor and then runs at the wall she knows Warner is behind. She destroys the concrete barrier and thick protective glass. Warner’s soldiers point their loaded guns at her head, but Warner orders them not to shoot.

Both Adam and Juliette hit Warner with the butt of their guns in order to keep him from stopping their escape. Soldiers shoot at them, trying to kill Adam and injure Juliette. Kenji arrives, injured and bleeding, to Adam’s home. He was shot in the leg and beaten by Warner.

When Warner finds Adam and Juliette, he shoots Adam and has him tied to the ceiling and beaten to a pulp. He is kept alive, however, as Warner wants to kill him himself. Juliette allows Warner to molest her physically, actively playing along, so she can unbutton his coat and take his gun.

She shoots Warner and believes she killed him. She finds out later that he was only wounded. In a panic at being separated from Adam when they reach Omega Point, Juliette uses her power to grab hold of Kenji. She is sedated to stop her from harming him or anyone else until she understands about Omega Point’s plans.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Juliette and Adam kiss several times, and it is very clear that, if they had not been interrupted, they would have had sex. Their physical encounters are explicitly described by Juliette as she revels in the experience of being touched. The descriptions are sensual.

Although Warner repulses Juliette, he is attracted to her. He makes her wear revealing clothing to show off her body. He makes comments about how much he loves and wants her. When he discovers he’s immune to her touch, he forces her to kiss him. The encounter is disturbing, as Juliette believes he is going to force her to have sex with him. She plays along with him so she can unbutton his jacket and take his gun.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Much is made of man/technology killing the environment, although much of what Juliette believed to be true was a lie from the Reestablishment. They claimed the animals were dead and the soil depleted so that they could control the population through fear.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

14 and up

Author

Tahereh Mafi

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

HarperCollins Publishers

Released

On Video

Year Published

2011

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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