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“What I want to say is who the hell do you think you are to tell me that it’s awesome to be able to kill a living thing, that it’s interesting to be able to ensnare another soul, that it’s fair to choose a victim simply because I’m capable of killing without a gun,” Juliette. –Unravel Me
Shatter Me #2
by Tahereh Mafi
Juliette has escaped from The Reestablishment, who wanted to use her as a weapon. She no longer has to hide her love for Adam. But even though Juliette can now make plans, she can never be free from her lethal touch. And even though she doesn’t want to hurt people, she cannot contain her power, and others continue to suffer at her hand.
Juliette doesn’t decide if she wants to join the resistance until Warner threatens her friends. When her friends are taken captive, Juliette knows she must join the fight. But she is haunted by her past and terrified of her future. In the end, Juliette may have to choose between her heart or saving lives—including Adam’s.
Although Unravel Me has an interesting premise, readers will find it difficult to connect with Juliette because she cannot look past her own needs. Not only is Juliette whiny, but she also constantly berates herself and apologizes for her actions. Instead of focusing on understanding her power, Juliette allows her powers to take control, which leads her to hurt others. Instead of taking action, Juliette repeatedly says she’s sorry, but the apologies lack depth because she does nothing to learn how to control her power and prevent further harm.
The evil leader, Warner, reappears in the second installment of the series. Although Warner is self-centered and craves power, Unravel Me tries to paint him in a more positive light. Soon Juliette is confused by her growing attraction to the man who tried to kill Adam. Even though Juliette is trying to understand Warner, the three-way romance just doesn’t work. Juliette was so devastated when she hurts others, but she is somehow willing to overlook Warner’s killing nature. Instead of feeling sorry for Warner, the reader will be left confused. How can Juliette have intense romantic feelings for a power-hungry man who is willing to kill to get what he wants?
Unfortunately, Unravel Me spends so much time delving into Juliette’s emotional pain and indecision that other characters never have the opportunity to make more than a quick appearance. Instead, readers will have a difficult time caring about what happens. Although the story is unique, there are just too many plot twists that don’t make sense. Readers may want to consider leaving Unravel Me on the shelf. If you’re looking for a fast-paced story with a sprinkle of romance, try A Little in Love by Susan E. Fletcher or the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.
- Adam kisses Juliette. “His left hand is cupping the back of my head, his right tightening around my waist, pressing me hard against him and destroying every rational thought I’ve ever had . . . Somehow I end up on top of him. He reaches up only to pull me down and he’s kissing me, my throat, my cheeks, and my hands are searching his body, exploring the lines, the planes, the muscle . . . This moment. These lips. This strong body pressed against me and these firm hands finding a way to bring me closer and I know I want so much of him. I want all of him. . .” The two only stop kissing when Juliette’s power begins to hurt Adam. The scene is described over five pages.
- Juliette asks a man if he spied on her when she was changing. He replies, “. . .you are definitely not my type. And more importantly, I’m not some perverted asshole.”
- Warner shows Juliette a tattoo on his lower back. She thinks, “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 on his body.”
- Warner asks Juliette to run away with him. Then he grabs her, and she feels “his skin against my skin and I’m holding my breath. . . I don’t say a word as his hands drop to my waist, to the thin material making a poor attempt to cover my body. His fingers graze the soft skin of my lower back, right underneath the hem of my shirt and I’m losing count of the number of times my heart skips a beat.” Then he kisses her and “he traces the shape of my mouth, the curves the seam the dip and my lips part even though I asked them not to. . .” When he kisses her, she thinks, “His lips are softer than anything I’ve ever known, soft like a first snowfall, like biting into cotton candy, like melting and floating and being weightless in water. . . He kisses me again, this time stronger, desperate . . . His lips touch my bare stomach. . . He’s leaving a trail of fire along my torso, one kiss after another, and I don’t think I can take much more of this. . .” Juliette freaks out and Warner leaves. The scene is described over ten pages.
- When Juliette sees Adam being experimented on, she freaks out. She punches “my fist right through the floor. The earth fissures under my fingers and the reverberations surge through my being, ricocheting through my bones until my skull is spinning and my heart is a pendulum slamming into my rib cage.” After her anger is spent, Juliette sees that her “skin is torn and blood is everywhere and I can’t move my fingers. I realize I’m in agony.”
- After taking hostages, the supreme commander demands to see Juliette. When she arrives, “He’s pinned me against the wall by the throat, his hands carefully sheathed in a pair of leather gloves, already prepared to touch my skin to cut off my oxygen, choke me to death and I’m sure I’m dying, I’m so sure that this is what it feels like to die, to be utterly immobilized, limp from the neck down. . . He lets go of me.”
- Later, the supreme commander tells his son, Warner, to kill Juliette. When Warner points the gun at his father, his father says, “Shoot me. . . So much talk and never enough follow-through. You embarrass me.” Warner’s father “backhands Warner in the face so hard Warner actually sways for a moment. . .” Then Juliette grabs Warner’s father’s neck and thinks, “I’ve pinned him to the wall, so overcome by a blind, burning, all-consuming rage that I think my brain has already been caught on fire and dissolved into ash.” Juliette shoots the man in both legs and she is “entertained by the horror in his eyes. The blood ruining the expensive fabric of his clothes. I want to tell him he doesn’t look very attractive with his mouth open like that but then I think he probably wouldn’t care about my opinion anyway.” One of Juliette’s friends pulls her away before she can kill Warner’s father. The scene is described over four pages.
- In Juliette’s diary, she talks about the day she was taken to the prison. The guards “handcuffed my hands behind my back, the one who strapped me to my seat. They stuck Tasers to my skin over and over for no other reason than to hear me scream but I wouldn’t. . . They slapped me awake even though my eyes were opened when we arrived. Someone unstrapped me without removing my handcuffs and kicked me in both kneecaps before ordering me to rise. . . I really can’t remember the part when they dragged me inside.”
- In a skirmish between the resistance and the Reestablishment, the Reestablishment’s soldiers “are unloading round after round, shooting at anything that could be a target. . . One man has his hands to the ground, freezing the earth beneath the soldier’s feet, causing them to lose balance. . .” One of the men collects a whirlwind of particles and forms a cyclone. When he lets go, “the soldiers are shouting, screaming, running back and ducking for cover but most are too slow to escape the reach of so much destruction and they’re down, impaled by shards of glass and stone and wood and broken metal but I know this defense won’t last for long.” Juliette uses her powers to cause an earthquake, which allows the resistance fighter to escape. The scene is described over six pages.
- The Reestablishment gathers a group of citizens together to kill them. In order to try to help the citizens, Juliette and her friends discuss their options. While they talk, they see “27 people lined up, standing side by side in the middle of a big, barren field. Men and women and children of all different ages. . . One of the soldiers fires a shot. The first man crumples to the ground. . .” During the scene, Juliette’s “eyes are locked on a little girl who can’t be much older than James, her eyes so wide, so terrified, the front of her pants already wet from fear and it rips me to pieces. . .” Juliette and her friends shoot at the soldiers and they “see one [bullet] find its mark in a soldier’s neck. . . We’re dodging the bullets aimed in our direction and I see Adam dropping to the ground, I see him shooting with perfect precision and still failing to find a target. . . 3 soldiers go down almost instantly.”
- During the fight, Juliette sees “dead dead dead is everywhere. So many bodies mixed and meshed into the earth that I have no idea if they’re ours or theirs. . . I’m tackled from behind. Someone pins me down and my face is buried in the ground and I’m kicking, trying to scream but I feel the gun wrenched out of my grip. I feel an elbow in my spine. . .” A soldier points a gun at Juliette, and “I’m only clawing at his covered arm, at the muscle he’s bound around my neck and he shakes me, shouts at me to stop squirming and pulls me tighter to cut off my air supply and my fingers are clenched around his forearm, trying to fight the viselike grip he has around me and I can’t breathe and I’m panicked. . . I’ve crushed all the bones in his arm. . .” Someone hits Juliette on the head, making her “almost entirely unconscious.” The scene is described over 10 pages.
- Warner’s father shoots Juliette in the chest. She thinks, “My heart has exploded. I’m thrown backward, tripping over my own feet until I hit the floor, my head slamming into the carpeted ground, my arms doing little to break my fall. It’s pain never thought I could feel, never would have even imagined.” Juliette doesn’t die from the wound.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Adam talks about his father, who would only come around “to get drunk and beat the crap out of someone.” After Adam’s mother died, his father would “come by just to get piss-drunk. He used to force me to stand in front of him so he could throw his empty bottles at me.”
- Profanity is used often. Towards the end of the book, the profanity ramps up and appears on almost every page. Profanity includes ass, asshole, bullshit, bastards, crap, damn, dumbass, goddamn, hell, holy shit, jackass, and shit.
- “Oh God,” “God,” and “Jesus” are used as exclamations often.
- Juliette remembers the world before the Reestablishment took over. She “remembers the pissed-off skies and the sequence of sunsets collapsing beneath the moon.”
- When Adam tries to tell Juliette how he feels, he ends up saying, “Jesus. What the hell am I saying. Shit. Shit. I’m sorry—forget that – forget I said anything. . .”
- One of Juliette’s friends yells at her. “And I should kick my own ass for it, but I feel sorry for you. So I tell him I’ll help. I rearrange my entire goddamn schedule just to help you deal with your issues.”
- One of Juliette’s friends says, “Jesus. How early is it? I would kick a soldier in the crotch for a cup of coffee right now.”
- When someone calls a man a “fetus,” the man gets angry and says, “I am mad. I’m pissed off. And I’m cranky as hell because I’m tired. And hungry. And I need more coffee.”
- Someone says Adam’s father was being a “dick.”
- Many characters have special powers. Juliette is trying to learn how to harness her energy. “Our gifts are different forms of Energy. Matter is never created or destroyed. . . as our world changed, so did the Energy within it. Our abilities are taken from the universe, from other matter, from other Energies.”
- When Juliette touches someone, she drains the life out of them.
- The first book in the series explains how Juliette goes to a compound where she meets a man who can move things with his mind. There is also a man who tells her, “Sometimes I electrocute people by accident” and another who is really flexible. He “loops one arm around his waist. Twice.”
- At the compound, two women are healers—one heals the physical body and the other heals emotional wounds. The healers “can set broken bones and repair bullet wounds and revive collapsed lungs and mend even the worst kinds of cuts.”
- Another person can “blend into the background of any space. Shift myself to match my surroundings.”
- Adam discovers that he can project his ability and can disable others’ abilities.
- Adam’s brother can heal quickly.
- Warner can sense other people’s emotions, which allows him to know when someone is lying. He can also be a conduit to transfer other people’s energy.