I have read online that some people think Juliette in Shatter Me is annoying, whiny, etc. I don’t disagree that she can come off that way a little, but I think it’s a classic case of being misunderstood. I mean if you grew up not having any friends and your parents abandoned you and the world sees you as a monster, wouldn’t you have a few issues? Then add to that being sent to juvenile hall for killing a child, even though your guilt is more than a punishment. Later you are put in an insane asylum, even though you are not crazy and the conditions there are such that a sane person would actually go insane, that is if they manage to live without sufficient food or care. You leave the insane asylum only to be used as a human torture machine or experiment by the sadistic Warren and when you finally manage to escape from that you discover that you can’t have a relationship with the boy you love. This is not the whining of the typical teen who complains about homework or didn’t get a car on her 16th birthday so I think the haters should just give Shatter Me a break! Most adults would be broken by these experiences and Juliette has been dealing with a truckload of crap since she was a child. It’s rather amazing that she retains her strength and her sweetness in the face of overwhelming odds to the contrary. For those who think she is too whiny, well that’s why author Tahereh Mafi has the character Kenzai comment on her behavior, to provide an outlet for those who feel that way about her actions in the book.
One of the things I really like about Shatter Me is the cadence of the writing, the rhythm of Juliette’s speech. It’s a writing device I haven’t seen much in other books and it really adds emphasis to how confused and broken she is and shows the damage caused by her isolation in the insane asylum. I think it mirrors naturally the way our thoughts work. That we flit from thought to thought, that we don’t always speak in full sentences when we are thinking to ourselves and that we self-edit, which is kind of ironic when they are our own private thoughts.
I think the book also explores what it’s like for a woman to have power. Yes, there has been a rise in girl power, but it is still unfamiliar territory for us when we live in a country where there has not been a female president and only a very small percentage of women are CEO’s or sit on company boards. Obviously, in the case of Juliette it’s about how she wields her physical powers, which are stronger than any of the male characters in the story, but it still has some parallels to the modern world and women having to be considered by the same adages such as “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Juliette is afraid of how much power she has and what she might be capable of if she uses it to the maximum extent, will she do something terrible?