Shakespeare tramp stamps, or, a review of Unravel Me

Surprisingly, Unravel Me, by Tahereh Mafi, is…Dare I say it? Better than Shatter Me. We have less annoying makeouts with Adam, Juliette works out some of the issues she struggled with in the first book, and there’s more Warner. Who has a Shakespeare tramp stamp. And a tattoo proclaiming IGNITE, which just happens to be half the title of the third book. Adam doesn’t stand a chance. For spoilers, click on.

I really enjoyed Unravel Me, but my feelings about it are a bit mixed up, so I’m going to dispense with my usual likes/dislikes. First thing I want to talk about is the setting, since I completely forgot about it in my previous review. I like totalitarian regimes (in fiction, I should add). Not only do they provide awesome uniforms, but stories about them often offer commentary on society and human nature itself, provided these stories are done right. Done wrong, the bad guys want to conquer the world and eliminate the werewolves/vampires/muggles/dwarves/whatever for no reason and the heroes must defeat them because Genocide Is Bad. And they’re probably based on Nazis.

The Reestablishment falls between these two extremes, probably closer to the Done Right category. For one thing, I can understand how this regime came about. The earth was beset by ecological disasters, and the Reestablishment stepped in to lend a hand, promising eventual relief. This makes sense. Throughout history, tyranny usually appears when people are desperate or mistreated. Although they only provide a modicum of stability with a heap of purge, the people are kept pacified by a mix of threat and promise. Also, if they were based on Nazis, I didn’t notice (not that Nazi-influenced villains can’t be done well; it’s just that it’s too easy to make them a lazy crutch). The Reestablishment’s kill pattern doesn’t seem to be based on race or class, though that may change with their discovery of people with supernatural powers (like Juliette). I do wish the Reestablishment had been fleshed out a bit more, but I liked the details provided, such as the the regime’s plan of erasing all traces of human culture pre-them, including the English language.

The good guys, meanwhile, live in an underground bunker and have a variety of interesting abilities, such as telekinesis and invisibility. Kenji, Adam’s former comrade from the first book, leads them to the rebellion thingie underground, where Juliette must get over her issues stat and harness her powers. Alas, that is harder than it sounds because Juliette is the queen of issues. It’s understandable, considering that she spent 264 days in an asylum for the criminally insane, but wow. Lucky Kenji is there to snark at her whenever she nearly drowns in glorious angst. Juliette is very reluctant to use her ability for the good of the rebellion because she has screwed up in the past so badly. Worse, she continues to screw up (which I found very realistic. Even when people set their mind on a new course for the better, life and old habits generally protest). Juliette feels useless. She has powers like everyone else, yes, but they’re so volatile that she’s deathly afraid to explore them. To make matters even worse, Juliette stumbles upon a Shocking Revelation:

Blocking her death touch is hurting Adam! Which means–ADAM CAN NO LONGER MAKE OUT WITH HER. OH, NOES!

It's really sad.
It’s really sad.

Now, to be fair, Juliette has gone her whole life believing she can’t touch anyone without killing them, so to find out that Adam (who wouldn’t tell her about it, btw. Idiot) can’t touch her without sapping is his energy until he’s exhausted to the point of death only reinforces her belief that she’s worthless and endangers everyone she’s around.

REALLY sad.
REALLY sad.

So, because Juliette and Adam have never heard of romantic asexuality, she breaks up with him. I guess without the 24/7 makeouts it’s just not the same? Cue angst. LOTS of it.

Stuff happens, etc, but THEN–Warner is captured. And Juliette begins to wonder if her initial assumptions about him were correct. Some time before he’s taken hostage, Juliette is on a mission and sees Warner GIVE FOOD TO A STRAY DOG. AND ISN’T POISONED. AND HE LETS IT CUDDLE IN HIS DESIGNER COAT, O M G. Hey, even I’m swooning. Boys being nice to cute animals FTW! Juliette is confused. Where is the psychopath she knows and hates? She ponders.

Through a series of circumstances that I am too lazy to explain, Juliette is introduced to Warner’s father, and she begins to realize why Warner is the lovely boy we know today. Just a little.

The evil just rolls off this guy, and I love it. If you think Warner was psycho, Anderson is the original HBIC. And he is pissed, mainly because Warner has actually fallen in love with a girl, which just isn’t sociopathic enough for Daddy. Unfortunately, there is no Dr. Phil in the future.

Juliette hates Warner, and even she’s appalled. So she just ups and shoots him. See, I knew there was a reason I loved this girl.

I’m running out of time to squee, so I’ll finish off with Kenji. I love him. He’s the one guy you can always depend on to lighten the mood and kick ass and interrupt Adam and Juliette’s mopey romantic moments. And he’s good with kids. And he’s awesome. Read it. Read it for Kenji.

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