Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, with its unique spin on YA dystopian, was one of my favorite books of 2011 (Read my review). After what felt like a very long wait for my impatient mind, the next book in the series, Unravel Me is finally out and fans can catch up with their emotional heroine, Juliette, and her stoic significant other, Adam. As always with sequel books, there will likely be some spoilers for the first book in my review.
Unravel Me picks up right where Shatter Me left off. Juliette and Adam have been welcomed to Omega Point, the underground resistance movement they were introduced to by Adam’s fellow faux-soldier, Kenji. Many of the people at Omega Point have special abilities, and Juliette is attempting to train to harness her ability and better understand what exactly she can do. Fans of the first book will remember that Juliette’s touch is lethal, but that’s just one facet of her ability, and she certainly doesn’t know how to control it. Meanwhile, strange activity from the Reestablishment has the crew at Omega Point on high alert. Soldiers are patrolling the area above Omega Point more frequently, and the threat of war is imminent. Not to mention that Warner, the Reestablishment leader with a major Juliette obsession, is still looking for her.
I’m being purposely vague for a couple of reasons. First, of course, is that I don’t want to give anything away. There are several surprising twists in this book (one in particular still has me in a bit of a tizzy) and they happen throughout the book, not just toward the end. Second, Unravel Me is definitely a middle book in that much of the narrative depends on the fact that the reader is already invested in these characters. The first part of the book had a few spots of action, but a lot of it was really just being in Juliette’s head, dealing with her emotions and her relationships with others at Omega Point and, of course, with Adam. I’m not sure I would have gotten as much out of the beginning of the story had I not already read Shatter Me and connected with these characters.
Similarly, the tension and immediacy that was so much a part of the first book isn’t as strong in Unravel Me, at least not until the back half. As a general rule, Juliette is safe at Omega Point. Without a constant threat of danger, the pacing is a bit more slow and steady than the first book. I was hooked on the story from the start, but I didn’t feel quite the same sense of urgency as far as wanting to read it as quickly as possible to know what happens. Still, there was notable character growth and clear setup for what I can only assume will be an action-packed final book. And, like I mentioned earlier, there are still plenty of surprises along the way.
Personally I tend to appreciate really good character interactions, maybe more so than action-packed sequences. One really nice thing about the slightly more relaxed pace was that it gives the characters an opportunity to relate to each other in a different way. Let’s be honest, no conversation between Juliette and Adam is ever really relaxed, but at least at Omega Point they have a few more opportunities to talk without being shot at. There are also some really fantastic scenes involving Warner that I won’t elaborate on too much for fear of spoiling. I know a lot of readers really latched on to Warner in the first book, but I was absolutely not one of them. I still don’t know if I’d call myself a fan, but Mafi does a great job of making Warner more three-dimensional and unpredictable than he was in the first book, which was really just fun to read. I think Warner fans will be very pleased.
Another character we see a lot more of in Unravel Me is Kenji, who initially appeared as a bit of comic relief in the first book, but turns out to be a hugely integral part of the resistance at Omega Point. He still has a sense of humor, but we get to see some other sides of him as well. I was pleased about that because I really like how he cuts the tension and makes the whole situation feel more realistic. It’s almost like Kenji is a winking eye to the reader, calling out places where things are getting a little too dramatic or earnest. There was one passage in particular where Kenji gives Juliette a lecture and everything he was saying was just perfect, because it channeled the same frustrations that I as a reader had with Juliette during that point in the book.
So basically, I loved the character development in this book and the opportunity to see the relationships between the characters in a safe environment. I missed the tension and suspense of Shatter Me, but only during the first half of the book before the action picked up. I enjoyed the fact that there were surprises along with the set-up, and I’m excited to see how everything plays out as Juliette becomes more comfortable using her powers and the war between the Reestablishment and the Resistance continues. I absolutely recommend that you read Shatter Me before reading Unravel Me, and as long as you do that you’re golden.
The strong emotion, unique narrative structure and engaging combination of dystopian and science fiction elements that made me love Shatter Me are just as strong in Unravel Me. I felt like all the people and events that I wished I had learned more about in the first book were explored more thoroughly in the second, but there were still plenty of new surprises and questions raised in the second book that I look forward to reading about in book three. Middle books can be challenging, but Mafi did a fantastic job of balancing the various storylines and character relationships to create a book that resonates as both unique and memorable.
- An Interview with Author Tahereh Mafi
- Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
- Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
I spend too much time reading and watching TV. Puppies, Diet Coke and the ’90s make me happy. I mean really, who doesn’t love the days of Marky Mark?
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