It has been sixteen days since the last book of the series, aka the false conclusion of the Shatter Me trilogy, er, series. Juliette Ferrars, the girl who kills with a single touch, has managed to control her powers and receive the love of Warner, the former antagonist’s son. Juliette doesn’t mind this fact, not really, but now that the despicable man is completely out of Warner’s life, there’s some discomfort he’s starting to feel. But Juliette and all her accomplices are unsure themselves. Taking over Sector 45 has made her the ruler of North America, yet the rulers of the other sectors have not requested any meetings or made any announcements, including some that were close with the former ruler. She has a feeling there’s something they’re planning to trap her, and now with every second counting towards figuring that out, she seems already trapped, both unsure what to do and upset when the former ruler of Omega Point, Castle, seems to agree. As everyone tries to get on the same page, visitors are coming, relationships are clashing, and the happily ever after evaporates in the fourth Shatter Me book.
Now, backpedaling here. This is my prior experience with the Shatter Me series. I gave the first one a positive review of 2 and a half stars, finding it overly romantic but appreciating the writing, especially the terrific crossouts, allowing us to really read between the lines of Juliette’s mind. Unravel Me disappointed me, with a reward of 1 and a half stars, remaining literally underground for over half and a big anticlimactic final fight. But Ignite Me was 1-star insufferable, all talk and no show, including no show of the crossouts, probably intending to show Juliette was now fierce, but that meant 350 pages of either training or swooning, and 50 pages of war with the whole series taking place only in one Sector 45 against one small antagonist. And that was it. In my review, I talked about how Ignite Me had the aura of needing another book to make things wrap up properly under this storytelling style. And look! Tahereh Mafi listened to me and is continuing the series!
And quickly it seemed like she listened to me intricately. Juliette is put into politics, now known as the ruler of the most powerful sector, and she has no prior experience whatsoever. But she still tries, not handing everything off to Warner or Castle or Kenji. And even if the crossouts are still missing (well, almost missing), I found Restore Me to be better than the last two instalments. But that’s kind of a conditional compliment. Here’s why. My relationship with this book at the end of it was a similar reaction to having put down the first book, curious about how much more there was to explore in this world and feeling it was completely possible for the series to go far with two more books. If there was supposed to be only one book left, I’d have given this a lower grade, even though that would be putting it in the habitat of books that have been far harder to get through.
I put it this way. Picture the army is approaching on the town. And two teens in love are about to go into battle but they still have enough time to be in bed together, so they do, taking the time to think about their movements in sync with each other and their warm breath and how alive they make them feel. Then when they pull apart, they each get themselves cleaned up, then go to the weapons basement and try to pick one out. But then one of them has a confession to give right before they go into battle, and the other one runs off in despair. All of this stuff is interesting. It really is. But there is a big battle about to take place, and we have already read so much stuff about their relationship already. We want them to go out and fight and make a table turn somewhere. Restore Me is like that. It just keeps stalling, not necessarily making the book harder to read. Tahereh Mafi’s metaphors that go through Juliette’s head have always been beautiful, inventive and steady-paced, and we now have Warner’s thoughts that are written the same way. But pleeeeeeease! We had 200 pages of thinking about love in Unravel Me and 300 in Ignite Me. We didn’t need 200 pages of filler in this book either. I’ll admit it’s better this time around because the secrets Warner has, which we partially learn about because we now get to be in his head, arouse complex emotions from him, and I was oftentimes grateful they were realistically and sensitively acknowledged. But there’s only so much one can take. In fact, the end climax of Restore Me is the biggest in maybe the entire series so far. Even more than Ignite Me! But it takes place over the contents of just, like, 3 pages! And told from the wrong person’s point of view! That annoyed me to high heaven and if it was in the opposite viewpoint and was written properly, I would’ve recommended this book. There’s going to be two more books, the next one coming out this April and I’ll probably read it thanks to the half-dozen new cliffhangers but I bet at this point it’s safe to bet I’ll have similar criticisms.
Look, this book is set up to be easy to read. Whenever it shifts to Warner’s point of view, there are at least three blank pages instantly devoured, and readers will feel like they’re speeding through it. Reluctant or slow readers will probably appreciate this series best, and the book opens up some brand new doors and I’m curious what will be on the other side of them. But this is the third Shatter Me book in a row where I’ve been looking forward to it and my enthusiasm has been higher going into it than out of. Beneath the surface is another 200 pages of stalling.