In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

copyright date: November 2011
primarily marketed for: young adults (14 and up)

This book was a gift to me from Mrs. Wisniewski.  If you know Mrs. Wisniewski, you know that means it is going to be Good (notice the capital ‘G’).  

When the story opens, Juliette is imprisoned.  She has not touched or spoken to anyone in 264 days.  The story starts inside of this isolation.  She has been locked up because she touched someone.  And her touch is lethal. 

The story picks up when someone is thrown into the cell with her (and her deadly touch).  She remembers him from her life before.  Before she used her touch to kill someone.  She knew Adam when they were kids, before the world destroyed itself, but he doesn’t seem to remember her.

Soon, Juliette is released from the darkness of her prison only to be imprisoned by a dangerous leader who wants to use her touch as if it is his own power to advance himself politically.

While Juliette is there, she encounters the same person with whom she had been imprisoned—Adam.  She is not sure whether or not she can trust him, but she is definitely falling for him. 

Eventually she figures out a way to attempt escaping her captor.  And although the ending sort of provides closure, it is clear this is the beginning of a series.

The result is a story filled with tension, action, and intense romance.  There is a very small amount of somewhat mature language, but the real edge in this book comes from how intensely she desires Adam.  Although the romance is ultimately rather innocent, the passion is heated. 

However the best thing about this book isn’t even the gripping story itself—it is the craft Mafi used to convey the story. 

She uses strikethroughs that reveal Juliette’s inner struggle:

“He doesn’t touch me and I’m disappointed happy he doesn’t.  I wish he would.  He shouldn’t.  No one should ever touch me.”

She uses this repetition of numbers as a means of organizing Juliette’s thoughts—as if counting things is calming to Juliette:

“My eyes break open.  2 shattered windows filling my mouth with glass.”

“His voice hugs the letters in my name so softly I die 5 times in that second.”

She uses striking metaphors.  Constantly.  To tell the whole story.  Not peppered here and there.  Figurative language is the language.  And it is breath-taking:

“I open my palm to him.  The paper is a crumpled wad of possibility.”

“His face is a forest of emotion.”

“His eyes are a midnight moment filled with memories, the only windows into my world.”

“His lips are spelling secrets and my ears are spilling ink, staining my skin with his stories.”

“I’m too poor to afford the luxury of hysteria right now.”

I am in love with Shatter Me.  Thank you, Mrs. Wisniewski!

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