Are you already missing that hyperventilating feeling you got after watching the Hunger Games trailer? The one you had while reading the Hunger Games trilogy, too? Well, you could go skydiving to re-create the adrenaline rush while waiting for the movie to come out. Or you could just pick up Shatter Me, the book by debut author Tahereh Mafi that just hit shelves today.
“I’ve been locked up for 264 days,” 17-year-old Juliette says at the opening of the book, just when her solitary confinement has come to an end and she gets a cellmate, a boy who asks a whole lot of questions. The reason she’s locked up, we soon learn, is that she can kill a person simply by touching them. This affliction made her a pariah for her entire life, rejected even by her parents, and a terrible accident was the last straw. But as her new companion, Adam, tells her, the world outside the harsh asylum is hardly better. Before she was locked up, humans had already abused the earth so much that most animals were extinct, food was scarce and birds didn’t fly. But now a military regime called the Reestablishment has taken over the country, with their sights set on the world.
That plot alone is enough to reel us in (and it’s surely what reeled in 20th Century Fox, which bought up the movie rights back in March). But with so many teen dystopian novels flooding the market, what truly makes Shatter Me stand out from the pack is the beautiful, poetic nature of Juliette’s thoughts. (“I always wonder about raindrops. I wonder about how they’re always falling down, tripping over their own feet, breaking their legs and forgetting their parachutes as they tumble right out of the sky toward an uncertain end. … I am a raindrop.”) As she scribbles in her contraband notebook (and continues in her mind), many sentences are literally struck out, showing how she’s learned to censor her most vulnerable thoughts even to herself. And as she finds herself drawn to Adam, who may or may not be someone she knew long ago, her loneliness is palpable: “His touch is scorching through my skin through layers of fabric and I inhale so fast my lungs collapse. I’m caught in colliding currents of confusion, so desperate
so desperate so desperate to be close so desperate to be far away. I don’t know how to move away from him. I don’t want to move away from him.”
I spoke to Tahereh yesterday while she was rushing to finish line edits on the yet-untitled sequel, due out in the fall of 2012. I wondered where the inspiration to write Shatter Me came from — a need to catch this wave of dark dystopian visions? A desire to caution the world about impending environmental disaster? Nope.
“I really just heard [Juliette's] voice in my head one day,” she said. “I could just picture her. I knew she was locked up. I knew she was in a dark corner. I knew she was scared out of her mind and afraid to speak, and I didn’t know anything else. … I opened up a new word document one day and I just started writing. I had no idea where it was going. I didn’t know why she was locked up. I didn’t know what she’d done, and I just let her lead the story.”
Damn. Where can we get one of these voices?
Have you read Shatter Me? Share your thoughts about the book in the comments below. And come back to TheFABlife at the end of the month for Dystopian Week, where we’ll share more from Tahereh and other authors spelling out potential doom for our future in the most entertaining ways.
[Trailer via Hollywood Crush]