Juliette Ferrars’ reign over Sector 45 has been a little shorter lived than she imagined. Due to her ideas of politics, she was shot at when she attended a huge world leader conference, and her screams ended up literally killing six hundred people. She blacked out and got kidnapped to some sort of island where her biological mother is living. Warner has also been not only captured but drugged, reminiscing about his abusive life under his deceased father as he falls into a ponderous coma. Now it seems the agitated world is now going to try to overtake Sector 45 in Juliette’s absence, and the remainder of the group has to flee knowing it would be a losing fight, and now they have to figure out how to rescue their two friends before they get skewered.
In my review of the last Shatter Me book, Restore Me, I go into a lot of detail as to my mixed admire-hate relationship with the series. If you don’t want to hear the long story, basically, they are heavy on story opportunities and world corruption but substitute adventure and potential for exciting fight scenes for six-paged makeout sessions that go so far you feel awkward reading them. And the beginning is quite flawed, on account of it dismisses an event we thought happened at the end of the last book, intending to make us feel fooled in a funny, relieved way, but it comes off more like Mafi either changed her mind or just needed to give us a reason to be excited for this book. And the ending has more of the same habits. Plus, altogether, a major character is absent and disregarded for too much of the story. But the rest of this book is quite entertaining and smooth and even stark, to the point of being up there among the stories of torture that have chilled us to the point of heartbreak and anxiety over if we could be put through what they’re put through as well.
The series used to be entirely from Juliette’s point of view, but now we have three. Let’s talk about Juliette’s POV first. She’s put through what she ends up calling the worst weeks of her life, and, unsadistically, that’s all the better for us. She’s put through a ring of torture to the point where she feels like she’s drowning but unable to die and put an end to the suffering. The choices she has to make and the thoughts that feel like her life is flashing before her are poetic and eerie enough to make all of this feel worthy of being what a big chunk of this book is about, whereas it used to feel unworthy.
Warner’s the one put into what seems is the most inescapable situation. In Escape from Furnace there was at least a view of the rest of the prison, and the ability to roam around. But here, from the get go, it’s like solitary confinement in that jail, with just thoughts and pretty much zero food. To read about him fasting himself because the little food he’s given drugs up his thoughts and energy makes us worried about him and rooting for him to escape on his own, despite the fact he’s, while definitely interesting, not as likable and sympathetic a character as Mafi wants us to feel he is.
Kenji has the most walking around, allowing us to stay with most of the other side characters, and a small makeout session at the beginning that thankfully does not linger for the entire book on his behalf. Him now being taken more seriously by his love interest makes the story a little bit more refreshing, even if Nazeera is too smug for my taste.
With all three main characters separated from each other and confined to their thoughts and not to one another, we get a chance to explore this dystopian world like never before, and not have to roll our eyes at the pointless romance sequences. We instead earn varieties of events that make us worried how the next few pages will play out. There are also some welcome twists that bring promise to the next and presumably final book in the saga (the fact one of them makes an entire previous book almost completely irrelevant is not too bad, primarily because I hated that entry anyway) and though I know of many ways Imagine Me could let me down with some of the choices this book makes and foreshadows, I had low expectations for this book too that weren't met.
And while the ending brings some bad habits back up as the finishing cherry on the cake, it at least ends the book on my favourite cliffhanger of the series so far, because it’s light, innocent, does not give out cliffhanging promises that I may distrust, and is just celebratory of the fact that Defy Me is the best Shatter Me book since the first one, because Mafi’s finally defected from habit a little. I still don’t think Juliette and Warner are a good pair.