YA Review: Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)

Title: Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

The final book in the Shatter Me series had a lot to deliver: superpowers, training, friendship, attraction, love, and war. And it didn’t disappoint.

Juliette has come a long way since the beginning of Book 1. She was locked away, denied contact with other people, and terrified that her touch would kill, again. Many of her thoughts were crossed out and confused, and she knew nothing about the collapse of society outside her asylum room.

Ignite Me continues her story of self-discovery, and her journey from fear to power. There’s more X-Men-style training, to help her control her powers. There’s a growing awareness of what has happened to the world, and what she can do to put it right. And we get more exploration of her complicated relationships with the person who saved her life, and the person she needs to trust in order to change the world. More steamy scenes, a very touching friendship, and some punch-the-air moments combine to make this a riveting read.

This could be the end of the story, but Tahereh Mafi has written a second trilogy. I have the first book. The second book was published in April. The third book isn’t available yet. I’m now in the painful position of having to decide whether to read Books 4 and 5, and then wait for Book 6, or to force myself to ignore Book 4 until Book 6 has been released. I know how hard it was to stop reading after the other books, and I don’t know how I’m going to wait for the final installment.

This series has grown on me, each book scoring higher than the last as I’ve come to know the characters, and as Juliette takes control of her life. The central characters are well-drawn, and their stories and relationships make for compelling reading. Juliette’s awakening, as a person and as a fighter, is inspiring to read, and by the end of the book I was punching the air. Yes, it’s YA, so there are details that don’t get explored, and the story is less complex than it would be in an adult novel, but the pace and the intensity of the writing make up for the lack of depth. I’m going to recommend this series – but make sure you have all three books before you start, and make sure you have time to read them.

Have you read the Shatter Me series? What did you think of Juliette’s journey? Were you impatient to pick up the next book in the series? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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YA Review: Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2)

Title: Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

There’s a lot going on in the sequel to ‘Shatter Me’, and once again I couldn’t put it down.

Juliette has found a group of friends to support her. She’s safe, for now, and surrounded by other people with powers like her own. There’s a side to this book that feels like an X-Men story – people with powers struggling to understand the limits of those powers, and how to control them. She has the chance to explore her abilities – killing with a touch of her skin, and the strength to punch through walls – and to discover what triggers her responses, and how to protect the people around her. Her journey from rejection to becoming part of a community continues, and by the end of the book she is stronger – less afraid and more determined to help her friends.

There’s more detail on the dystopian world of the series, and on the collapse of modern society. There’s more background on the person who saved her from the dystopian government in Book 1, and more background on the person who wanted to train her as a weapon. We learn about their families and relationships, and their motivations as the good guy and the bad boy of the story.

And there are some very steamy scenes. When your touch can kill, being close to someone else is a challenge, and Tahereh Mafi takes the opportunity to explore this aspect of Juliette’s life in heart-pounding detail. Her continued use of unusual phrases and metaphors adds to the intensity of these chapters, and the first-person present-tense narration puts the reader inside Juliette’s head, and in her skin. My copy of the paperback states on the back cover that the book ‘contains mature content’. Yes. Yes it does – but this is all appropriate to the story and the characters.

This book gripped me at least as much as ‘Shatter Me’. Juliette’s journey from victim to strong young woman is engaging. The people around her are interesting, and busy with their own problems, even while they support her through hers. The ending is tense and exciting, and once again I closed this book and reached immediately for the sequel. It’s still an easy read, but there’s enough going on to keep me hooked for Book 3. I need to know how this ends!

Have you read the Shatter Me series? What did you think of the books? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Enchantée

Title: Enchantée
Author: Gita Trelease
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 3/5

Camille and her sister are struggling to survive in Paris in 1789. Orphaned by smallpox and exploited by their drunk, gambling-addicted brother, Camille and Sophie must find a way to pay the rent and buy food. Sophie is a talented hat-maker, but her earnings are not enough to cover their costs. Reluctantly, Camille begins to work the magic her mother taught her. Turning scrap metal into coins pays for essentials, but the coins don’t hold their shape. When Camille discovers the tools to work more powerful spells, she follows her brother into the dangerous world of gambling at Versailles. Disguised as a Baroness, she makes friends among the aristocrats of the palace, and learns to earn a living from their games of cards. But magic requires sacrifce, and Camille discovers how hard it is to walk away from the gambling table, and from her friends. As Paris moves towards revolution, Camille must keep herself safe as her family life and her double life at court collide.

In Enchantée, Gita Trelease paints a vivid picture of Paris in the early stages of revolution. The details – from fashion, politics, the experience of poverty, and the texture of the city to the manners and expectations of the aristocrats at Versailles – are carefully researched and beautifully woven into the story. Magic is explained as a secret skill, passed down through aristocratic families, but used at great personal cost. The magic used by Camille feels real, and dangerous. It takes practice to perfect the spells, it doesn’t always work as intended, and it always requires sorrow to work at all.

Camille is an interesting character. She does what needs to be done to keep herself and her sister safe, but the secrets she keeps from the people around her grow more complicated and dangerous as she moves deeper into the court at Versailles. The story is told from Camille’s point of view, but with third-person past-tense narration. While I found the book engaging, I also felt that the story moved very slowly, probably because of the detachment of a third-person past-tense narrative.

I loved Camille, I loved Sophie, and I loved Lazare – the daring aeronaut with his ground-breaking hot air balloon. I enjoyed the intrigue of Camille’s double life, growing in complexity against the background of mounting political upheaval. I enjoyed the cameo appearances of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and getting to meet the very human aristocrats of Versailles. The history of the French Revolution is usually told from the point of view of the winners, so it makes a change to see the build up to revolution through the eyes of the rulers who lose everything when the people turn against them. The author uses aristocratic magic as a metaphor for the pre-revolution power of the court, adding to the tension and danger of political change.

Enchantée is an engaging story with a strong and sympathetic female protagonist, set in richly imagined and gorgeously described historical locations, and told with an enchanting dash of magic.

Have you read Enchantée? What did you think? Did you find Camille’s story engaging? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1)

Title: Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Edition: Kindle
Rating: 3/5

This was good. It kept me reading – over breakfast, over lunch, and way past my bedtime. I kept intending to stop, but then reading just one more chapter, and then another.

Juliette is 17, and locked away from the world. She’s in an asylum – the only place her touch can’t hurt another person. Abandoned by her family when she is locked away for murder, she has no contact with the people who control her life. But the murder was an accident – she can’t control what happens when she touches another person’s skin, and now someone wants to use her as a weapon.

At the start of the book, Juliette is frightened and alone. She’s practising speaking, because she hasn’t spoken to anyone else for months. She has learned how to survive in her solitary confinement, but she’s desperate for human contact. Over the course of the book, she learns to take back control over her life. She learns to stand up for herself, and she learns who to trust, and who to fight. She’s an interesting character – strong, but damaged by the guilt she carries for the death she caused, and by the rejection of everyone she cared about. The first-person present-tense narrative makes her story immediate and intense.

As Juliette changes and develops, so does the writing style. At first, many of the sentences are crossed out. She seems confused, her thoughts often contradictory and extreme. She uses odd turns of phrase and jarring similies and metaphors to describe her feelings and experiences. As the story develops, there are fewer crossed out sections. As she grows in confidence, her thoughts become clearer. It’s an original and experimental writing style, and it helps to immerse the reader in Juliette’s world, and her state of mind.

The dystopian world is clearly imagined, as is the process of societal collapse. The supporting characters are likeable and just complex enough to keep you guessing at who can be trusted, and who is a threat. If I have one complaint, it’s that some of the things things that happen to the characters feel a little too contrived, the violence a little gratuitous, pushing an otherwise horrifying antagonist towards cartoonish levels of enjoyment.

That said, I finished ‘Shatter Me’, and immediately ordered the sequel. This is the first book of a series, and it feels like an introduction to a larger story. It was an easy, quick read, but I’m hooked, and I want to know what happens next.

Have you read Shatter Me? What did you think of the story? Were you, like me, in a hurry to find out what happens next? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

Desert Island Books

This week at Taller Books, we’re wondering about Desert Island Books. If you were marooned on a desert island, which three YA books would you take with you?

Book image from Pexels.com

This is such a difficult question! It would be hard to choose ten books to pack in a desert island bag – but three?

My choices

If I had to pick my three books right now, I think I’d go for A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, and This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada. That way I’d have a quirky YA romance, a historical LGBT adventure, and a futuristic YA dystopia to choose from – along with some fantastic strong characters to keep me company on my island.

But then again … maybe I should grab The Hunger Games trilogy instead. Or the Divergent trilogy. Who better to inspire me to survive on the island than Katniss or Tris?

Or maybe I should go old-school, and take the first three of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and escape into a world of magic and dragons with Archmage Ged.

It’s impossible. I can’t choose.

Your turn!

What about you? What would you take? Use the comments to tell us which books you couldn’t live without!

We’d love to hear your recommendations, but please remember to keep them YA appropriate. Please be patient – comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.