Book Review: Shatter Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Published: Harper Collins (November 15, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Purchased in store
Young Adult  * Dystopian * Apocalyptic

Description from Goodreads:
Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now. 

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.
Shatter Me was one of the most hyped YA debuts of 2011. It was drawing comparisons to The Hunger Games and X-Men, and it was the latest in a lost of young adult novels being optioned for a film adaptation, so I was very excited to see if it lived up to the hype. Thankfully, for me, it did. The story is very original -- a girl who has a lethal touch who is forced to be a tool of war or part of a revolution -- and the world is very inventive. This is set in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian America. This seems to be a popular genre in recent years, but somehow Shatter Me manages to create some interesting things about the world that makes it stand out. This book gives us tastes of some of the aspects of this new America ruled by The Reestablishment, but there is so much to be answered in future books. Who are the other people trapped in the prison with Juliette in the beginning? How did she develop her abilities? And so many other questions that I can't ask without spoiling the book for you...

One of the most interesting things about this novel is the writing style. The prose is written in a kind of stream of consciousness from Juliette's point of view. Every thought that crosses her mind and every poetic comparison she makes are documented, so that reading the novel almost feels like sifting through her mind as things are happening. Also, many of her thoughts are striked out, which is an interesting technique I've hardly (if ever) seen in prose. In the world of the novel, Juliette is characterized as a monster for her deadly touch, so when her thoughts become morbid or self-deprecating, and she thinks I am a monster or I want to touch you but I can't, I like that the strikeouts provide a visual for her inner struggle with who she is. Personally, I really enjoyed how original and different this prose is, especially in a YA context. It might be disconcerting for some readers, but for me it was very refreshing and unique.

The characters in the novel are really what hooked me. Even though the end of the novel took the plot in a direction I wasn't expecting, I still loved the book because the characters were so great. As I said before, Juliette was a great protagonist because I felt like I had a perfect view into her thought process, which helped me understand why she might shy away from people or behave in strange ways. I love how her character went from timid and reserved at the beginning of the novel to assertive and strong as she became more comfortable with her 'ability'. I also love Adam in the novel. He is the other main character/love interest/person-we-root-for in the novel. He is supportive, strong, quite sexy, and an honorable guy. Very crush-worthy, so you can add him to your list of book boyfriends. All of the characters are interesting and complex in the novel, and character development is undeniably one of Shatter Me's strengths.

My favorite character, though -- and I know I am probably alone in this -- is Warner. For me, Warner is the most multi-dimensional, complicated, and human of the book's characters; however, I think he is supposed to be the villain/antagonist so I know I'm setting myself up for future heartache in the series. The thing about Warner is that he does horrible things: he is ruthless, aggressive, and even cruel. BUT, he's doing what he has to do in order to survive, so I can't fully hate him for trying not ot be a victim. Also, beneath his hard exterior, I think there's real emotion and sincerity in him. I really hope that future books explore his back story more, particularly his family history, because I have some theories about him and just find him so fascinating.

Honestly, I really loved Shatter Me. The plot began on Page One and the story moved quickly, with exciting twists and a great mix of action, romance, drama, and suspense. As I said before, the ending took the story in an unexpected direction, so I'm eager to see how that affects future books. I highly recommend this, particularly for fans of Wither (Lauren DeStefano), Divergent (Veronica Roth), and Incarceron (Catherine Fisher).

Tahereh Mafi is a girl. She’s 24. She writes books and reads books and drinks way too much coffee. SHATTER ME is her first novel, and the first of a trilogy, coming from Harper/HarperCollins on November 15, 2011. Film rights have been optioned by 20th Century Fox. Her work is represented by Jodi Reamer of Writers House, LLC. You can follow her on her blog: or on Twitter: @TaherehMafi

Her website is:

Two Voices Review: Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1)

Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (June 7, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: Book for Review
Young Adult * Dystopian * Apocalyptic

Description from GoodReads:
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. 

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

We are trying something a little different with this review.  Blood Red Road is a book that we both wanted to read and review. Instead of just flipping a coin to see who would review it, Renée and I decided to both share the responsibility.  It was kind of fun processing the book together via Skype.  Since we had fun working together on this one, we decided to try it with another book in the future.  Let us know what you think of our Two Voices Review.

Blood Red Road has been on my "to-read list" since before it's release.  I always worry a bit if a book will live up to the hype.  Will the book that all of my friends love turn out to be the one that I don't like?  I am happy to announce that I devoured this book in one sitting and it was kind of late at night which is a positive sign.

Here's what I loved about the book -

The characters.  I love books that have great characters and not just the main character but all of the characters.  Saba, the main female character, starts off having no real idea of who she is or what she is capable of.  When her whole life changes in a minute, she begins on a journey.  A journey to find and rescue her brother, but also one where she learns more about who she is.  And Saba is tough!

And then there is Jack.  Yes, most YA fiction would not be complete without a love interest and Jack does a very nice job filling that role.  He is tough, and mysterious, and funny.  And a great match for Saba.  But there are more characters and they are just as essential to the book.  There are the Free Hawks, girl revoluntaries, and Ike, a friend of Jack's, and characters that you want to dislike and others that you want to know their secrets, and one annoying but brave little sister.

The setting.  The world has transformed into a very dangerous place.  Saba learns just how wild and dangerous the world is after her brother is taken.  Hopetown, one place Saba ends up on her journey, is anything but a place of hope.  It actually reminded me of the Wild West with a touch of Roman cage fighting thrown in for excitement.  Though the various locations that Saba passes through on her way to Lugh (her brother) are interesting, I really wanted to know more. How did the world fall into this state?  Who were the Wreckers?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and how Young wrapped it up.  I also liked how the author developed the "romance" part of the book.  I am not sure how to talk about it without spoiling the story.  (Renée, I'll leave that challenge to you if you want to take it on.)  However, I am hoping that the reference of Dustlands #1 means that there will be more to come - especially more of Saba and Jack.

Like Aly, I had heard a lot about Blood Red Road before it came out. It was yet another addition to the fast-growing collection of YA dystopian that was highly recommended by bloggers, so I thought, 'Why not?' Also like Aly, I was blown away by this totally original part-apocalyptic, part-dystopian world, with a wildly original guide in our fierce protagonist, Saba.

Characters were also the best aspect of the story for me. Saba felt like such a real person -- there were even moments when she really annoyed me. She made mistakes, she didn't always act her age, and beneath her tough exterior, she was vulnerable and innocent and felt completely relatable. Her relationship with her sister was one of the most frustrating/beautiful things in the book.... And Jack. I won't keep hammering on about everything Aly mentioned, but I really can't talk about what I loved about the book without mentioning him. Jack. There. I got it out of my system. Anything more risks me going into fangirl-mode and spoiling all the fun squeal-worthy details for you.

Another really interesting thing about Blood Red Road was the writing style. The premise of the novel is of a girl searching the wasteland (or "dustlands") that is post-Wrecker world. (We're led to believe that the world was destroyed, or torn down, by the Wrecker civilization who sound very similar to present day Western world.) Because of this destruction, formal language is gone and they speak in  broken, rural English slang. Except, not just the characters' dialogue is written like this, even the narration is written in this broken style. Words like 'figger' replace 'figure,' and other words are misspelt phonetically. It really immersed me in the story. I felt like I was really reading a narrative from a different culture and time.

There was also an interesting non-normal element to it. (I don't want to say paranormal, because it doesn't appear to involve vampires, faeries, or any kind of creatures.) There is a mysticism to the story that I liked, but it's very subtle. Is there any truth to the saying "written in the stars?" Are some of the old folktales about certain magical objects true? Are these animals just very intelligent or is there something more...? The novel doesn't bury you with fantasy, but I liked the small hints at something different that might be going on.

I don't want to repeat everything Aly said, but I really loved this book, so much of what she enjoyed, I enjoyed. I really hope there is a sequel, because even though the ending wasn't a cliffhanger, there are so many tangents and threads left hanging that I want need answers to! I want more Saba and Jack. I want more of the barren dustlands ruled by a corrupt and cruel government. Mostly, I want more exciting and original books like this on the market to gain popularity and attention.

For more information about debut author, Moira Young:

Official Simon & Schuster Author Page

Moira Young's LiveJournal Page

Check out the Simon & Schuster official trailer for Blood Red Road created by the talented Vania of VLC Productions.

Book Review + Giveaway: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth
Published: Katherine Tegen Books (May 3, 2011)
Audience: Young Adult
Source: For Review, Also purchased a copy
Young Adult * Dystopian

Description from Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Firstly, I want to mention that it's not my habit to compare all YA dystopians to The Hunger Games series (just like I don't try to compare all YA paranormal romances to Twilight). That being said, if you're looking for a YA dystopian that matches the intensity and high stakes of Suzanne Collins' series, then Divergent is the series for you. This is the exciting first installment in what looks to be a very exciting new trilogy. I loved Divergent right from the start. One of the really outstanding features that makes this series better than some others that I've read is Veronica Roth's spectacular world-building. The government and societal structure is so well explained and elaborate. I loved how everyone is divided into one of five factions -- Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite -- and your faction is more important than your family. Sometimes I find that stories really develop characters, while the world the characters live in is under-developed; but this world is well thought out and complex. Instead of just one corrupt government, there are five different factions, therefore five different groups with five different stories. You never know who to trust, which makes it very exciting.

Divergent isn't all about a cool concept, though. The characters are really fabulous, people you can really empathize with and root for. Tris, the protagonist, is very tough and headstrong, making her a very strong female lead. She, along with her friends Christina, Will, and Al, faces a dangerous initiation into her new faction and learns that something isn't right with all the factions... and that something might not be so right with her either. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and well-developed. I can feel the insecurity masked by bravado when Tris does something stupid and I can sympathize with her friends when they say harsh things to her out of jealousy. They all had interesting back stories and secrets. I especially loved Tris' mother and brother, who were so richly characterized. The characters felt like such real people in Divergent that sometimes I even got a little annoyed with their actions, but I really appreciated the realness of them.

My favorite character, though, was Four, Tris' instructor, who helps her through her initiation. I loved every scene Four and Tris shared; there is always so much tension between the two of them -- good and bad. Four was my favorite because he wasn't a brooding romantic lead, but an intelligent, talented male character with several secrets, like how he got the nickname Four, and who he was before he became 'Four.'

Divergent does a nice job of including some romance in an otherwise adventurous, heart-pounding thriller without overwhelming the story with sappy moments. For that reason, I definitely think that Divergent will be enjoyed by both boys and girls. The stakes are high and the author isn't afraid to take risks. Several important and interesting characters die and the novel ends on a high note, making the wait for its sequel, Insurgent, nearly unbearable. I highly recommend this novel... it has been one of my favorite reads of 2011 so far.

 Veronica Roth is only 22, so her bio will be short. She’s from a Chicago suburb. She studied creative writing at Northwestern University, and wrote Divergent, her YA dystopian thriller (Katherine Tegen Books, May 2011!), while she was supposed to be doing homework. This was a decidedly good choice that will unfortunately make it difficult for her to someday lecture her future children on how important it is to get your homework done. You can follow her on twitter: @VeronicaRoth or on her blog:

Complete the form below for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Divergent. Please read contest rules carefully.


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Book Review: Restoring Harmony

Author: Joelle Anthony

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (May 8, 2010)

Reading Level: YA (6th grade up)

Source: ARC for review

Rating: 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

When I received the Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of Restoring Harmony, I was bogged down with books to read for book club or prior books for review.  In addition, work/life was just really busy.  Some books I have a gut sense that I am going to enjoy and I don't want to rush through them. I had that feeling about Restoring Harmony and I found myself carrying it around but not reading it because the time wasn't right.  Finally, I had just the right time and I devoured the book in one sitting.

Let me just start with what I liked about the book...

I have discovered that I love books with short chapters.  This may be a silly thing but it makes the book feel like a super fast read even if it takes me exactly the same time to read as any other book with the same number of pages. Additionally, it means that the book will go on my list to recommend to reluctant readers.

Another reason that this will go on my list for reluctant readers is that Anthony grabs you from the beginning and keeps you hooked in until the end.  I really don't feel that as the reader I should wade through 75 or 100 pages before the book "gets good".  My reluctant readers won't even hang in there for that many pages before giving up on the book.

My third reason for loving this book - I loved the characters.  Molly is a wonderful protagonist.  She is bright, tenacious, resourceful, and just plain likable.  She is sent out on a journey to contact her grandparents and convince them to return to Canada with her.  Molly embraces her mission and despite obstacles and set-backs plunges forward without giving up and without annoying the reader.  Molly isn't the only character I loved.  There is Spill.  You really need to read the book - you will fall in love with Spill too.  He is swoon-worthy in a very good way.  I am adding him to my list of fictional crushes.

My fourth reason for loving this book - I truly appreciate books that have a sense of community in them and adults who are not all jerks.  I realize YA is written from the perspective of teens, but not all teens hate all adults.

Just a few more things...I can share Restoring Harmony with readers from sixth grade on up.  I appreciated the timeless feel to the book, and the dialogue did not annoy me.  Have you ever read a book where the voice of the characters just irritated you?  I have and it really is a turn off - not so with this book.

Finally, the writing of the book was wonderful.  Anthony does an incredible job in describing her world, the struggles of the society, the challenges facing the characters, the emotions behind the words.  There is intensity and darkness balanced with hope.

Joelle Anthony's debut novel, Restoring Harmony, is a wonderful offering and one that I hope really gets the attention that it deserves.  I look forward to future books by this author.

Check out Joelle's blog for more information about Restoring Harmony and to listen to some related music or check out the wonderfully done book trailer.