I feel like it’s impossible to talk about these books without discussing the larger context of the whole series, so I’m gonna do quick thoughts for each individual books, but I have a spoiler-free semi-series review in my review of Book 1 and a spoiler-ful discussion at the end of this review. Then I’ll do the same for Books 4-6.
Quick Thoughts on Book 3
This book really improved the realism and nuance of characters and their emotions.
I will say though, I ended up finding Adam to be more interesting and Warner less interesting by the end. (More on that in the spoiler section.)
This book, which I believe was originally going to be the final book, ended really rushed and bluntly with no resolution for a lot of things. But, at the same time, it does work as an ending. It wraps up kind of the very specific main goal, certain other things, like relationships, are implied, and strange or unexplained things from previous books do get addressed or explained by the end.
Anyway, this one was my favorite of the whole series.
My thoughts on the audiobook can be found in my review of Book 1.
*SPOILER* Discussion of Books 1-3
The author also did a great job and progressing the romance between Juliette and Warner, because I did believe those feelings and feel that chemistry. They understood each other and accepted everything about each other in a way that no one else did. The way Warner went about doing things was creepy and crossed the line, but I believed their feelings nonetheless.
Speaking of Warner, he was an interesting character, and the guy can give a swoon-worthy speech (even if it was entirely unrealistic because no teenage boy talks like that). He was intelligent and clever and closed-off and rigid and intense. In the first book, and somewhat the second, he was also kind of unhinged. But what bothered me about his character was that he and everyone else kept repeatedly saying how AWFUL he was. Terrible. Heartless. The WORST. And yet… no one ever said a single bad thing that he did, except vaguely that he murdered people. But they all did that. The worst thing we actually know of that he did was hang Adam up by his wrists so he could kill him later. Everything else, it turned out, had an explanation. Everything else we ever saw him do or learned about was actually just him being kind and compassionate. Checking in on the families. Trying to help his mother. Feeding stray dogs. I just found it kind of disappointing and annoying. If you’re gonna tell me a character is terrible, make him terrible, and then make me love him anyway. (I know we do get some info in Books 4-6.) It made him a little less interesting to me. But his personality was still unique to him and not badly written.
As for Adam, he got more interesting to me as the series went on. I feel like some people disliked him by the end? I don’t think he’s a bad person though. I could understand his feelings. He was under extreme stress. The girl he’s always loved left him, didn’t even give him a chance when he wanted to work on holding his powers so they could be together, and then ended up falling for the guy he hates. Who turned out to be his brother. Adam was the one most personally harmed by Warner, so I could also understand why he still hated him and couldn’t get why everyone else was so willing to work with him and was so hurt by that. And I could also understand him not wanting to risk his life to keep fighting because he had James to worry about. He was a great brother, even putting himself in a situation that made him miserable just to keep James safe. He was feeling hurt and betrayed and embarrassed. And he’s a very passionate and emotional person, so he didn’t always handle things the best way. He was a jerk and made mistakes, but he can still learn and grow. Anyway, Juliette and Warner both said cruel things to each other in the past too, and we all let that slide, so it seems kind of unfair to not give Adam a chance to change too.
I also really liked that the author didn’t take the easy way out with the love triangle, that Adam wasn’t just like, “Oh, it’s cool that your feelings faded, so did mine! I’m so glad you’re happy with someone else! Let’s be friends!” With Adam’s explosive personality and the pressure-cooker situation they were all forced to live in, his reaction made sense.
Kenji was great! An annoying douche bag in the first book who turned out to actually be a fun, lovable, caring, intriguing person. Kenji might’ve been the best thing about these first three books. He definitely brought the comic relief, but the author made sure to make him so much more than just that. He was also so smart and determined and generally just the heart and soul of the group. Oh, and that scene when Warner insulted Adam, and everyone was silent because they were all afraid of Warner, and Kenji was trying so hard not to laugh but just couldn’t do it? Best scene in all three books lol.
James was adorable.
Juliette had a strong moral compass and a lot of feistiness from the start. She was strong-willed. She did frustrate me in the second book though. She was supposed to be practicing her abilities, but instead she sat around moping. She was supposed to be getting info from Warner so they could save their people, but instead she sat there chatting with him for funzies. She was supposed to be focusing on important things, but intead she was constantly just worrying about her feelings and her romance and her relationships. I can’t say her behavior was unrealistic, just frustrating. She did grow over the course of the series though. And she was always very kind (unless someone truly didn’t deserve kindness). But I did think it was weird how she suddenly decided she would be the new leader of the nation despite having no experience or skills in anything remotely related to leading. (I know this is another thing that gets addressed in Books 4-6.)
Random side note: The explanation for the simulation room was really nonsensical. Juliette wasn’t wearing a VR helmet and they didn’t give her any sort of drugs as far as I know, so how would she have seen and felt things as if they were real? I know it’s sci-fi, but that seemed like a stretch.
Anyway, I think that’s about it for my thoughts on these three books!
*I’ve read this book multiple times. This review was written after my 2nd read.*
Fans of Books 1 and 2 in Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me series. Anyone who likes YA, dystopia, romance, superhuman abilities, dramatic writing, and twisty revelations.