Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)
By Tahereh Mafi
Summary: Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?
Source: I preorded a hardcover
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If you know me, you know that the Shatter Me series is one of my absolute favorite YA series. I reread it almost every year because I sometimes miss the unique writing style and I just haven’t found anything quite the same. So when I found out the author was continuing the series, I was excited. And I knew we’d be getting a POV from Warner, which I liked in Destroy Me, so I thought Restore Me would be amazing.
What I liked about Restore Me:
As a dystopian story, even I will admit the Shatter Me series failed to really give readers much in terms of worldbuilding. We are caught up in Juliette’s brain and she was not aware of a lot of what was going on. She was also focused on other things. As the story progressed and she turned outward, we got a lot more information, but there was still a lot to build on. I liked that Restore Me acknowledged that by being a book that dealt with the state of the sector and became more of a global book since there were additional characters, areas, plots, and Juliette wasn’t the only narrator. In terms of dystopian stories, Restore Me was a great book that dealt with the hardships of running things, leading others, and fighting against an entity that oppresses people.
As a standalone, if we vaguely knew some backstory about the series, it would be a good dystopian novel of its own that would compete with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.
However, it’s not a new series.
It’s a continuation of a series. It’s a continuation of a series I love, a series that is written differently than this book… and that is where it ultimately fails for me.
To understand why I didn’t like Restore Me, you have to understand why I love the original series.
I love that the series starts with Juliette in an asylum frantically counting and crossing out her thoughts and then progresses and the writing style with it. As Juliette grows into a person who isn’t so afraid of her own bad thoughts and demands to exist in her own way, the crossing out of lines stops and she becomes who she was always meant to be. And along the way, her relationships and own perception of other people change as well. It’s so ingenious because we realize as readers how unreliable she is as a narrator when she’s trapped in her own head. Although the outside plot of the original series was open and largely unexplained, the story arc of Juliette was completed. She became herself. The story was never about the rest of the world. It was a story about her. The poetic writing worked with the story, the fact that Juliette’s narration wasn’t focused on the outside world was sort of the point to me.
I already said that there was definitely room to expand upon the actual world of Shatter Me and include other characters, but that it wasn’t the point of the story. While the original series is a YA dystopian series, it’s not really a YA dystopian if you compare to other books. For me, the story mirrors growth. Juliette’s relationship with Adam was a symbol of what society always wanted her to be, what she thought she HAD to be to survive, and her growth and development into a confident and strong person who discovered her own strength didn’t leave room for that scared and meek girl Adam loved. Her relationship with Warner was a result of finally understanding herself, what she was capable of, etc. She even said in Ignite Me how awful it was that the entire time she was counting in a corner in the asylum, she was capable of walking through concrete and didn’t know.. didn’t get angry or focused enough to even try. That’s the point of the series to me. We see Juliette’s character growth and her narration changes along with her.
So this is why I didn’t like Restore Me:
Restore Me feels like what happens when you grow up and perhaps grow out of things. You grow up and think, You’re a teenager, Juliette, what could you possibly hope to accomplish by becoming Supreme Leader? Did you really think you could do this without any hardships? And who falls in love with THE ONE at your age? You guys are bound to have issues. Do you even really know him? Ugh, you are so immature! And what about the rest of the world? Why didn’t anyone explain The Reestablishment?
And it feels like the author came at the story with all of that in her mind and proceeded to (sorry) RUIN everything I loved about the series. Like when you pick up an old favorite with new adult eyes and realize maybe the main character was immature. Like when you watch The Little Mermaid as an adult and think maybe Ariel’s father was right and Ariel is being a brat and she’s only 16, so she’s still a kid in the grand scheme of things.
OR.. the author, having been a YA author and in the YA community, has read much more YA than she did previously, discovered where other series were having success, and proceeded to pepper the story with tons of YA tropes, issues, and worldbuilding in order to provide conflict because thats what other successful YA stories have.
OR both of those things happened. I’m not really sure.
Either way, Restore Me is just not what I expected.
I found it to be an unncessary continuation of the story that proceeded to destroy most of what I love about the series.
To explain: In the book, it’s been 16 days since the end of Ignite Me and our cast of characters have changed dramatically.
Juliette, who FINALLY discovered herself and her potential, proceeded to turn into an unsure, somewhat whiny, and clueless girl (not even the same unsure girl she used to be) after just 16 days of success in overthrowing the Supreme Leader. Also, the one person she had a mutual connection with and strategized with and trusted is no longer her go to person for help because of … reasons? Suddenly, she’s just a completely different person for no reason and everything she respected about Warner is suddenly forgotten or something?
Warner, who loves Juliette with all his heart and has COMPLETE confidence in himself and Juliette, suddenly turned into this weird person who doesn’t communicate at all and second guesses himself and also offers Juliette no assistance despite being the type of person who 16 days ago would have drawn up a complete spreadsheet on who everyone leading each sector was and how to win them over or beat them. He knows his job and wouldn’t just leave Juliette hanging.. or wouldn’t have 16 days ago.
His new “personality” legit angered me. Like… IDK who the F this Warner is, but even if I give him credit for grieving and also wanting to give Juliette space to lead, there’s literally no possible way he’d ever let things spiral out of control the way he did. Their entire relationship was BUILT on TRULY understanding one another and I just don’t believe they would have the crazy communication issues after just 16 days, EVEN knowing that Warner keeps a lot to himself. It’s like the author spent the entire original series building this whole mutual understanding and amazing relationship only to decide that Juliette shouldn’t need a man, even a man that makes her a better person. It feels like the whole point of Restore Me was watching the author try to make Juliette independent by destroying her relationship with Warner. Or maybe just create discord for plot suspense. Either way, the Warner I knew wouldn’t watch Juliette flounder in a society she knows nothing about while he holds the key to helping her understand the other sectors. He wouldn’t have done that in a million years.
Kenji, who became an amazing friend, is suddenly back to being the Jokester, except blander than usual.
Castle, who was always a naive and optimistic leader of the rebellion suddenly became super organized and knows everything about the sectors and decides to share all the news in passive aggressive sneaky ways in order to cause chaos and discord between Juliette, Kenji, and Warner. What happened to the Professor X type of character? Suddenly, it feels like he exists only to make everyone second guess themselves by being passive aggressive.
And to top it off, the author also decided to pull a Sarah J Maas (I love you, Mafi and Maas, but for real).. and decided to whip up some secondary characters with mysterious backgrounds and throw them into the story for fun. If I didn’t know and love the original series, maybe I’d be up for this, but I was already frustrated by the old characters who were suddenly different people and I SO didn’t have time for actual different people.
Also, there’s no more amazing poetic writing.
Basically, it’s your typical YA dystopian novel complete with over the top plots, unnecessary miscommunication drama, relationship drama, and mysterious characters along with the twist of WHO IS JULIETTE REALLY. (Which, again, would be fine if this wasn’t a contination of a series that was completely different 16 days ago!) If it wasn’t for the fact that the series already existed and was completely fine by itself, Restore Me was a kind of exciting first book in a dystopian series. The ending was cool, the drama, though over the top, was fun, and there was definitely more of a focus on things aside from Juliette and her head, but this was just so unnecessary.
I LIKED being stuck in unreliable Juliette’s head and watching her grow. I liked Warner and the way he believed in her and inspired her to be amazing. I liked the ambiguous not really explained dystopian setting. I liked the crossed out sentences and purple prose. I liked it all.
I read that Mafi wanted to give her fans what they asked for – more plot, less poetry.. and she did, but I can’t help but think that she wasn’t writing this for fans who loved the first book. It feels like this book is for people who only sort of kind of liked the series and wanted it to be more Divergent-esque.
To be as fair as possible, I’m giving Restore Me 3 stars. It’s more of a 1-2 for me, but it’s really not a bad book, so I can’t be quite that harsh. For me, I’ll just pretend Restore Me didn’t happen after Ignite Me and maybe continue this weird spin off series by pretending it has no relation to the Juliette and Warner from the first “trilogy” and call it a day.