I like it when authors take chances. I’d rather see an author grab a surfboard, paddle out to the middle of the ocean, find the biggest wave, execute a wipe-out, and belly flop on the board. Tahereh Mafi certainly took chances with her debut novel, but she didn’t wipe-out or execute an unladylike belly flop. For a slew of reasons, I shouldn’t have enjoyed SHATTER ME—the recurrent strikethroughs, the sparse details about this science fiction/dystopian world, the not-yet-strong-but-not-completely-weak main character Juliette, the repeated words and phrases, a novel sprinkled with redundancies— and yet I did enjoy it.
The flowery language and overly descriptive nature of the main character didn’t toss me out of the story. Because in the end, I’ve met people (as I know you have) who use 20 words when two would do, tried to expand their vocabulary by tossing around words the way some folks might hand out Twinkies, and have trouble with basic human interaction. Mathematicians, scientists, and engineers come to mind, those folks who aren’t even on the same planet as the rest of us. So the fact that Juliette tossed digits around like she was tossing a salad didn’t affect me in the least. Like mathematicians, I like numbers and have a natural ability to memorize them, and so pages plastered with numerals added a level of enjoyment to my overall reading experience.
Sure, it’s easy to make the argument that this is romance disguised as dystopian or dystopian disguised as romance, and that this might even be dumbing down the dystopian genre, but if we live in a world without romance, I’d rather find a new universe, thank you very much. And the action was certainly a bit more internal than external, but this was first person, and for better or worse, we’re stuck inside Juliette’s head.
As for the arguments that Ms. Mafi has no talent or the book has no plot, that’s like saying a book isn’t popular just because you haven’t heard of it or read it. If the book has a storyline, the author has a definite plan, and the pages continue to build on one another to some definitive conclusion, then the story has a plot. To say otherwise is to say you read 338 pages of jumbled words and phrases. And if that’s the case, I’d wonder why you didn’t stop with page 2, I know I would have.
After reading several reviews, I’ve discovered you’ll pretty much either love this book or hate it. You’ll either applaud this author for what she did with SHATTER ME or you’ll want to throttle her. There is no middle ground.