Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #60: Unravel Me

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #60: Unravel MeUnravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #2
Published by Harper on February 5, 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance
Pages: 461
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-stars

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it's almost
time for war.

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.

She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.

Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.

Recommended by: Scott Pilgrim (Scott Reads It)

SURPRISE! You’re all (well, those of you who know me well anyway) looking at my rating and going “what the eff? I came here for a ranty review; this is a prank, right?” Nope, it’s not a prank. In fact, I would like to hold up this review as proof that I go into books with an open mind, and not with my decision all set. As you all know (or can find out if so inclined), I didn’t loathe Shatter Me, but I wasn’t really impressed either. With Unravel Me, everything isn’t fixed, but a lot of my issues were addressed, and I had a great time reading the book. Thus, here we are with a four star rating. Now let’s break it down.

World Building

Alright, I’m following the formatting from my Shatter Me review, which just happens to put the weaker stuff for this book up front. The world building remains pretty damn minimal. Of course, let’s be honest, the dystopian stuff was totally not what the series is most about. Anyway, I really don’t feel like I know too much more about the world than I did in Shatter Me. What caused this world? There’s no more on that. What’s causing the powers? Hell if I know. But, like with the first go-round, I really don’t care too much. I’m down for powers, and the world building’s no worse than what I’ve come to expect from YA dystopian, so, as long as everything else is fairly solid, oh well.

It's Always Sunny shrug

Plot

Again, plot isn’t necessarily the strong point of this series, at least so far. Unravel Me does a bit better, but it’s mostly a bunch of interaction with the occasional battle or something as everyone remembers there probably should have been a plot in there somewhere. So, while I’m not impressed, the book did keep me entertained, so I think there was sufficient forward motion offered by the drama to keep the minimal plot from being a huge drawback for me.

Drama drama drama

Also, here’s where I’ll start passing out some props. I was judging Mafi pretty hard for the fact that both Adam and Warner, BOTH LOVE INTERESTS, just happen to be able to touch Juliette, when no one else can. Holy convenience, Batman. Only, actually, I’m okay with the way that she explained that. In fact, part of the explanation totally added to my jollies as I read the book, so I totally approve. Though I could have done without View Spoiler ».

Writing

Last time, I had a LOT to say about how crazy go nuts the writing in Shatter Me was, particularly the metaphors. Now, that’s not totally gone, of course, but there were a lot less phrases that tossed me out of the narrative. There are, I think, a couple of factors playing into this. First off, Juliette is, from what I’ve heard Mafi say at an event, getting more sane, so her thoughts are a bit tamer. Also, she’s in company for most of the book, which, as I observed in the previous book, tends to keep her from going off the metaphorical rails.

train off the rails

For the most part, though, it’s that this time, Juliette refrains from a lot of the metaphors that came out of left field. Some of them are weird, of course, but they make a certain sort of fractured sense, and I can totally see where her mind is coming from, which is a huge thing for me as a reader. If I’m in a first person narrative, even if I’m nothing like them, I want to be able to understand their thought processes, and this time I felt like I could. For example, the book opens with a kooky metaphor that I actually liked:

The world might be sunny-side up today. The big ball of yellow might be spilling into the clouds, runny and yolky and blurring into the bluest sky, bright with cold hope and false promises about fond memories, real families, hearty breakfasts, stacks of pancakes drizzled in maple syrup sitting on a plate in a world that doesn’t exist anymore.

I like you but you're really weird

And, really, that’s about as weird as it gets, aside from the continuing organ shattering metaphors and forgetting to breathe.  There were still a few clunkers, but not nearly as many as in the first book. If the writing in Shatter Me consistently annoyed you, then I don’t know that Unravel Me will be a welcome respite, but, if, like me, you thought it was mostly fine if Juliette would lay off some of the damn metaphors, Unravel Me might be worth giving a try.

Kenji

Yeah, that’s right. I’m making a new category just for Kenji. Because he’s fucking awesome. Listen, everyone TOLD me Kenji was amazing and that he made this book, but he was boring and smarmy and just another guy obsessed with Juliette in Shatter Me, so I was frankly a bit skeptical, which is my natural state after all. Kenji, though, he wears the hype well. See, Kenji deserves most of the credit for how much I liked this book. In a way, Kenji is me. He is every reader frustrated with Juliette and the ooey gooey romance. Kenji observes Adam and Juliette true loving and/or moping all over each other, and says the things that a person might want to say to them. When they’re being ridiculous and all “OMG I WANT TO DIE FOR YOU” and stuff, Kenji calls them on it.

Slow down crazy sassy gay friend

Throughout the book, he’s basically dropping truth bombs like this one, after Adam told him Kenji he should leave if he doesn’t want to watch them play footsie under the table:

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Kenji says. “I told you this morning that I had to sit with you guys. Castle wants me to help the two of you adjust.” He snorts. Nods in my direction. “Listen, I don’t have a clue what you see in this guy,” he says,” but you should try living with him. The man is moody as hell.”

Look at your life look at your choices sassy gay friend

More on Adam later. Kenji actually serves this role with EVERYTHING. When Juliette’s whining about how useless she is or how hard her life is, he is there. When people are too focused on romance when there’s important shit going down, he’s ready with a truth bomb.

“My ass you’ve accepted it. You haven’t accepted anything.” “I’ve been like this my entire life, Kenji—I’m pretty sure I’ve accepted it—” “No.” He cuts me off. “Hell no. You hate being in your own skin. You can’t stand it. That’s not called acceptance. That’s called—I don’t know—the opposite of acceptance. You,” he says, pointing a finger at me, “you are the opposite of acceptance.”

you're a crazy bitch sassy gay friend

Kenji may not be the smoothest with words, but he has a very Kenji way of putting things. His superpower apparently also includes the ability to say what people truly need to hear and in a way that makes them listen. And he is SO VERY CATHARTIC for the reader. If Juliette and/or Adam frustrate you, then you will be praising Mafi for Adam, who brings sense to these absurdly melodramatic teenagers.

Juliette

In Shatter Me, Juliette was very powerful, but weak and whiny and pathetic pretty much the whole time. In Unravel Me, she continues to do a lot of that, BUT I am okay with it because there is a definite character arc happening. Juliette does engage in a lot of self-hatred and moping and angsting as per usual, especially when involved with Adam in any way, but she also makes progress towards personal growth. Not to belabor this point, but she owes a lot of her progress to Kenji. He gives her a lot of speeches about how much she doesn’t know herself, and over the course of the book, they begin to have an effect.

She's channeling a new Juliette.

She’s channeling a new Juliette.

Eventually, not only is Kenji making fun of her for being absurdly melodramatic, but she actually starts doing it to herself as well. She’s not yet self-aware enough to put a stop to the behavior, but she does know she’s being over-the-top and ridiculous, and we all know the first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one. She is on her way.

On the physical strength front, Juliette is starting to realize that she’s not a fluffy bunny, but she also still wishes she were a fluffy bunny. It’s all very confusing for her. She really resists her training at first, which does come from a good-hearted place, but is also a serious hindrance to her in being able to safely and effectively use her powers. Again, Kenji’s a pretty helpful guy in getting her to recognize some of the benefits of learning how to truly be herself and take advantage of what she can do. This hasn’t happened yet, but there have been many signs indicating Juliette might graduate to badassery, or at least the fringes thereof, in Ignite Me.

glove coming off X-Men

While I still don’t love Juliette or even really like her, I am not annoyed by her as much as I once was. She’s showing glimmers of becoming someone I might respect. What that means is that Mafi has crafted a pretty awesome character arc for her so far.

Romance

My analysis/prediction from book one about Juliette being SO MUCH WORSE when paired with Adam was super true. I mean, man. I totally called that one. They are a gross and awful, sappy as fuck couple, but that is mitigated by how hilarious they are and by the fact that Kenji calls them on it. Like, they are so much every possible cliché that I’m relatively positive that Mafi was having a laugh, though I can’t actually know for sure. It felt pretty self-mocking to me, but I could just be applying my own feelings to it, I suppose. Either way, I was definitely laughing out loud at several scenes, particularly View Spoiler »

Vampire Diaries crying

Anyway, officially Team Warner, petter of fluffy puppies and View Spoiler ». While they’re not a ship of ships, they do have much better chemistry than Adam and Juliette ever did. They also have a lot more in common, even though I’m still rolling my eyes at their instalove and Juliette’s being okay with how he read her diary. I mean, I get that she feels comfortable with him because he’s seen her at her worst, but still totally not okay. On the other hand, he does actually have a better idea who she really is, so his love is slightly more believable than Adam’s, if still stalkery. And, of course, Warner has the emotional scars to match hers, brought up alone and friendless in a way that Adam can’t understand.

Damon smirking Vampire Diaries

Chapter 62 was admittedly pretty hot at points, but also I am frustrated because I’m not sure how far they got, and, thought it doesn’t really matter, the imprecision in books always bothers me.

Conclusion

As it turned out, there was a reason I felt the need to finish this series: I knew it had promise. Unravel Me still has plenty of problems if you want to get into that, but I was genuinely and seriously entertained, and there was also a lot of surprisingly good stuff. I’m feeling like looking on the bright side at the moment, and so I shall. I really liked this book. And I am grumpy that I have to wait until the hold for Ignite Me arrives from the library.

Favorite Quote:

“And you and Kent need to sort out your drama ASAP,” he adds, just as Sonya and Sara walk back into the room. “I don’t have the time, the energy, or the interest to deal with your problems. I like to mess with you from time to time because, well, let’s face it”—he shrugs—”the world is going to hell out there and I suppose if I’m going to be shot dead before I’m twenty-five, I’d at least like to remember what it’s like to laugh before I do. But that does not make me your clown or your babysitter. At the end of the day I do not give two shits about whether or not you and Kent are going steady. We have a million things to take care of down here, and less than none of them involve your love life.” A pause. “Is that clear?”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

Don't be afraid, you know, to really get into it Once Upon a Time

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14 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #60: Unravel Me”

  1. Angie F. says:

    All I can really say is…HOORAY! and KENJI! and CHAPTER 62! and I’m so glad you liked this! and more HOORAY! 😀

    I’m waiting on Ignite Me from the library, too. *drums fingers impatiently*
    Angie F. recently posted…Mini Review: Ghost Aria (Master of the Opera, #2) by Jeffe KennedyMy Profile

  2. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY

    Hahaha I’m so excited by this review. I’ve seriously been reading it with a grin from ear to ear. I’m so happy that this series is working out for you 🙂 🙂 🙂 YAY KENJI. He is seriously probably the highlight of the series, but especially this book. He is made of awesome. And hilarity. Those gifs are absolute perfection. Also the gifs for Adam and Warner. Lololol totally Stefan and Damon. DAMON ALWAYS WINS.

    I will cross my fingers that your hold comes in soon because I really hope you can devour Ignite Me soon ♥ I AM EXCITE. Based on this review, I think we’ll probably be on the same page with that one 😉 so you’ll probably really love it in spite of its faults.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…ARC Book Review: Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl KlamMy Profile

  3. Stormy says:

    I was one of the people who liked Shatter Me, but still rolled my eyes at some bits, so Unravel Me was a huge step up for me too. The lack of plot is definitely the fault that still annoys me the most about this series, but Juliette’s character arc really is quite something. And Kenji! Kenji is totally the best. Juliette can be torn between Adam & Warner all she wants, and I’ll totally take Kenji to come sit on the sidelines and say all the things I’m thinking about Juliette’s mess up relationships in my head.
    Stormy recently posted…Book Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiMy Profile

  4. Kelly says:

    I never really got the Kenji love. I mean, I loved that he often put Juliette/Adam in their place, but I felt like he had his own mopey melodrama going on at the same time and it was just too much!

    Yours is not the first review to mention that you saw some growth in Juliette in this, from Shatter Me. It makes me really want to re-read the whole series, to see if I can pick up on it a second time. I also often wonder if I read this for what it was, a story of finding oneself amidst a lot of relationship drama, if I would enjoy it more; I went in expecting full-on dystopian.

    I’ll be keeping an eye out for your review of Ignite Me. It was easily my favourite book of the series, despite its lack of plot/worldbuilding/etc., because I finally saw the growth in Juliette that everyone else was talking about!
    Kelly recently posted…Pretty Little Discussion: Adults Reading YAMy Profile

  5. Gillian says:

    YUSSS. This makes me super happy, not because OMG NEED CHRISTINA TO LIKE THE THINGS I LIKE AND THEREFORE VALIDATE MY EXISTENCE but because yayyyy, Christina likes a thing! A previously eye-rolly thing that saw marked improvement over its predecessor!

    You’re so right. Worldbuiling is basically not a thing in this series, and spoiler alert: it never is. You just kinda have to decide if you can handle that or not, because it’s definitely not Mafi’s forte or what she’s at all trying to focus on.

    Plot. yeah. Also not the point of Mafi. The point is the powers and the shipping and the WarnerKenji, if you ask me. Drama drama angst angst emo Adam PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER blah

    The writing really DOES clean up, which is nice. Ignite Me is even neater and less chockful of metaphoric lunacy.

    KENJI KENJI KENJI KENJI KENJIIIIIIIIII

    I THINK THIS MAKES ME HAPPIEST OF ALL

    “His superpower apparently also includes the ability to say what people truly need to hear and in a way that makes them listen.” PERFECT.

    Couldn’t agree more on your Adamical Arguments (I binge-read John Green last night, forgive me) and how NO NO NO they are as a couple. Bleghhhh. Also we can discuss what Mafi was doing with the A/J pairing once you have read Ignite Me, because there’s something you just said that I find very iiiiinteresting.

    WARNER WARNER WARNERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

    WELCOME TO MY TEAM. WE HAVE T-SHIRTS. WE LIKE PUPPIES. WE TALK IN CAPS A LOT. Shhhh, they are a ship of ships, you know not of what you speak.

    Yayyyy! I’m so glad you were entertained! That’s the thing about this series (the latter two books, anyway): they’re kind of seriously flawed, but they’re also so *fun* and feelsy and Kenjiful.

    Oh, and a hot Hook gif. I am a very happy camper right now, despite the oxymoron inherent in that expression
    Gillian recently posted…Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenMy Profile

  6. Meg says:

    The first line of your review made me LOL because I was totally blinking at your rating like whaaaaaa?

    I can see where going in with a low bar would help your enjoyment of this book. (That sounded so mean, obi I don’t totally hate this series as I own all three in hardcover, no less) But yes, not expecting much from the world building will improve your ability to enjoy this series.

    Lol, I totally forgot that spoiler. Riiiiiiight. Ugh, why?

    TRAIN GIF IS AMAZING

    YES KENJI. KENJI SAVES ALL. KENJI IS THE VOICE OF REASON AND THEY SHOULD PUT UP A SOLID GOLD STATUE TO COMMEMORATE HIS GREATNESS. (I really like Kenji, can you tell?) EVERYTHING YOU SAY ABOUT KENJI IS PERFECT AND TRUE. I would like to formally requests a Kenji parody spin off series where he goes to other YA books and wanders through dropping necessary truth bombs (picture him showing up in Insurgent/Divergent shouting WILL YOU JUST FREAKING TALK TO EACHOTHER AND OH YEAH NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE AT ALL)

    I see what you’re saying about Juliette’s growth but it wasn’t enough for me, I still want to throw things at her until she goes away. I guess I ship her with Warner as long as you take that to mean I really don’t give two shits either way. (Sorry Team Warner, it’s not you, it’s them. It’s hard to ship something when you’d be totally okay with everyone (except Kenji, obvs, and maybe Adam’s little brother) dying in a fire).

  7. Katie says:

    YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!! I’m so glad you liked this one! Yes, Kenji is amazing! He’s one of my favorite parts of the series.

    My guess is you’ll like IGNITE ME less in terms of plot (because, honestly, there isn’t one), but I thought it was great in terms of character development. Also, Warnerrrrrrrr <33333
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  8. Aww I never noticed how Juliette was getting saner as the books went on (probably because I read it years ago as a little naive reader who had no idea what was going on) but that’s so cool! I can definitely see that happening and I love the idea of her growing that even her inner dialogue gets less and less. Also someone pointed out how the strikeouts get fewer and far between because she starts to get more and more sure of herself. I feel like that’s just so fun! 😀

    YESSSS KENJI! There was this one page where Kenji just went on a TOTAL rant to Juliette over how whiny and ridiculous she was being, and that kind of clinched it for me. He’s my favorite character out of the entire series because he isn’t afraid to call people out over their bullshit and THAT IS JUST SO PERFECT ABOUT HIM! And the fact that be makes hilarious jokes as a way to completely put down ridiculous behavior makes me so happy!

    Everybody’s on Team Warner right now and I feel so conflicted! On one hand I absolutely love Adam from the first book and on the other hand I can’t remember Shatter Me or Unravel Me very well so I have NO idea how well I’d like either of them if I read it again now. My feels are allllll over the place.

    I’m glad you really liked this one, Christina! 😀 I definitely did a double take when I saw the rating because I was all, “WAIT SHE ONLY GAVE SHATTER ME TWO STARS WAIT WHAT?” Fantastic review! <33
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  9. All the awards for this review! I was laughing out loud several times xD I have to give you two thumbs up (and two big toes up if possible) for your section on Kenji. I love that guy so much – and if you adore him in this book, just wait for Ignite Me. He is probably the best character in the entire series.

    One thing you mentioned: I also agree that I’m not sure how far chapter 62 went. Although I guess on the other hand it fits Mafi’s style – writing emotions and impressions rather than cold facts.
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  10. My jaw is on the ground. In shock. Is that… 4 stars??? Lol Going off the metaphorical rails. Yes, I did appreciate that aspect of this one (and the crazy metaphors are virtually non-existent in book 3 fyi). I think that’s interesting what Mafi said, about her becoming saner as the books progress. Does really make sense though. Kenji is the freaking best, I completely agree.
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  11. fakesteph says:

    Yes, to all of this! I was surprised how much I really, really enjoyed this one. Kenji TOTALLY makes the book, and loooove Warner. Although, I liked him better before he was secretly petting puppies.
    fakesteph recently posted…Fiction: Writing the Outcast (Los Angeles Times Festival of Books 2010)My Profile

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