Juliette feels trapped. She tries to tell herself that Omega Point, the secret underground headquarters for the rebel resistance, is not another prison, but the confining four windowless walls and lack of social interaction are saying otherwise. It only took a day for the other residents to find out about her lethal ability to shatter, break, and sap with her touch, and now they’re avoiding her. Not only does Juliette have no friends, but she has limited contact with Adam, who says he’s been busy training but is clearly hiding something from her. Compound that with her inability to harness or control her special energy in her own training sessions with rebel leader Castle, the fact that a full-blown war with the Reestablishment is ticking closer and closer, and that Warner is still after her, Juliette is being backed into a corner after all. But something’s got to give for Juliette eventually, right?
I opened Tahereh Mafi’s Unravel Me with conservative anticipation. Despite its somewhat predictable, derivative ending, Shatter Me was a surprise hit for me last year. The metaphor-ridden prose, perfectly angsty characters, and the swoon-worthy relationship between Juliette and Adam had me singing its praises. Though I was decidedly Team Adam, after reading Destroy Me, the enovella published last fall, I was conflicted. Told from Warner’s perspective, the supposedly evil villain suddenly had a sympathetic back story and a complexity that placed him in gray territory. I didn’t know it at the time but the novella was the perfect preparation for what happens in Unravel Me. It is equally Juliette and Warner’s book and will make any loyal Team Adam fan question their allegiance, the legendary chapter 62 aside. But for me, whether it was Warner or Adam, Juliette badly needed what happens in that chapter, and my happiness for her sake means that ultimately, I’m with her.
What also makes Unravel Me satisfying as far as middle books in a trilogy go is that Juliette is left far better than she started. She makes friends, she taps into what controls her energy, and she experiences the physical touch she craves. Her unsure reserve is replaced by an empowering need to act with a confidence she has never had before. As the story progresses, Juliette grasps a beautiful, tangible hope that only Mafi can describe:
It’s like a drop of honey, a field of tulips blossoming in the springtime. It’s fresh rain, a whispered promise, a cloudless sky, the perfect punctuation mark at the end of a sentence.
It’s the only thing keeping me afloat.
She also gains a training partner and friend named Kenji, who offered much needed comic relief. A favorite exchange:
He lifts his head to look up and freezes. Blinks, eyebrows up, lips parted. His eyes travel down every inch of my body, pausing to study the harness framing my chest, the guns slung close to my waist.
He says nothing. He runs a hand through his hair, presses the heel of his palm to his forehead and says something about being right back. He leaves the room.
I feel sick.
Kenji clears his throat, loud. Shakes his head. Says, “Wow. I mean, really, are you trying to kill the guy?”
Kenji is looking at me like I’m an idiot. “You can’t just go around all ‘Oh, Adam, look at me, look at how sexy I am in my new outfit’ and bat your eyelashes—“
“Bat my eyelashes?” I balk at him. “What are you talking about?’
“I’m just saying,” he says, hand up in mock surrender…
I kind of love him for how he can speak with no fear of others’ reactions. My likes of this installment said, I had my dislikes. While many readers found the poetically-overdosed prose of Shatter Me jarring, I missed that quality of the prose here, which seems to be toned down accordingly. I also missed Adam, who spends less time around Juliette and therefore receives less quality page-time. I have no idea how Mafi is going to resolve the ethically-questionable love triangle she’s formed but I have no doubt that I won’t be disappointed. I’m especially interested to see how the new understanding of Juliette’s ability plays out in the war against the Reestablishment. As for more intense characterization, unexpected plot lines, and striking prose in the final book? Bring it on.
Angieville review – “Unravel Me kicks butt and takes names with an ending that shot me to the moon and back.”
Babbling about Books review -”Fans of this series will love this one.”
Greads review – ” I adore stories that are this gripping and this one did not disappoint. ”
More than Just Magic – “I love everything … but it’s the characters that make it truly fabulous.”
Wild Heart Book Reviews – “The overwhelming Warner-ness of this book was the main reason I gave it this high of a rating.”