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Hi, it’s Aashna! Today I am going to be reviewing Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi. I know the Shatter Me series is no masterpiece, but there is something about the seriousness of the drama that makes them addictive. This was one of the first series I read when I was first introduced YA, so Mafi could write the worst continuation to this series ever, and I would still hold onto my fondness. Ignite Me was hands down my favorite book in the original trilogy. It wrapped up the series nicely and left me thoroughly satisfied. That’s why I was so skeptical about continuing the series. Why bother continuing a series that was already left in a great place? I never wanted or needed this book. I’m of course happy that it’s here, I just continue to worry about my perception of the previous trilogy being ruined. This book overall was not the best use of Mafi’s writing ability. It lacked the balance that made the other books work. The only reason I will continue with this series is out of loyalty to the first three books and my hopes that Mafi will pull this together. If I had read this without reading the other three, I would not be impressed.
The plot was lacking. After flying through the 400 some pages of this book, I was left with this feeling that nothing happened. The premise started out very grand with promises of reforming society and crushing wars. I was never a fan of the whole revolution/government angle of these books, since I thought that selflessness didn’t mix\ well with the other storylines. It was always an accent to a more central story. However, with this book, I was all for focusing on government reform. That’s what we’ve been working towards. It doesn’t make sense to me why there was an abrupt plot shift to focusing on the romance. After three books of teen angst and unrequited love, I thought we’d finally reached a good place. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The latter part of the book focusing on the characters’ repetitive feelings for each other became boring real quick.
There was an overall lack of character development for Juliette. She was stagnating in this stupid mode where she was heavily reliant on everyone and crippled under pressure. She has always been weak, only redeemed in the last half of Ignite Me, so it sucks that all of her growth was taken away due to paperwork. She didn’t step into her new job the way I expected her to and rather than gradually growing, overnight she’s suddenly a ruthless leader? I don’t believe that after spending the whole book sulking about her boyfriend’s secrets that she could suddenly make such a vast change due to getting drunk once and cutting her hair. Nor do I believe she would have made it so low in the first place.
There’s so much I could say about Warner. He was essentially ruined in my eyes. What happened to the unapologetic, smart character I once knew? His love for Juliette has become his only quality that dominates his other feelings. His sudden insecurities and Mafi’s efforts to humanize hims are fruitless. We (or at least I) loved Warner because he was molded by such terrible past and came out of it with the realization that he should be better for the future. He knew there was no point pushing himself to change the past, even for Juliette’s sake. All of that complexity that came with him is gone. There’s no way you’re telling me Warner circa Ignite Me would be incompetent enough to avoid briefing Juliette on her duties or politics in general. I feel like Mafi made him into something different to create development in the next book, which is such a poor choice because now I’m rooting for him based on a past version of the character.
The romance lost most of its complexity. Things started off so sappy, which I never thought I would say is actually preferable to the craziness that happens later. Let me break this down. Juliette knew very well that Warner is evil. It’s one of the many sacrifices she made in choosing to be with him. We all know and love Warner for this. Yes, he has a dark past. No, he does not let that prevent him from growing now. The fact that Warner chose to tell Juliette the full truth as soon as he found out is admirable and a testament to his growth. As soon as Juliette hears this, what does she do? Behave irrationally like a complete child, of course! She knows that her past isn’t pretty, so I understand why she would be upset. I cannot understand in what world any of this would be Warner’s fault. His part in the drama was to either protect her or when he didn’t even know the truth. Juliette’s anger should be directed at once person, Anderson, and she already took care of him. I could rant on for so much longer, because this romance becomes the central conflict of the book. After shipping Warner and Juliette for so long and to finally have them happy only to have it be taken away by two unplanned books would be painful. I know their relationship was never perfect, yet that complexity and the psychologically messed-up parts of it was one of the hallmarks of the series.
There was something… off about Kenji in the first part of the book and I don’t think it was on purpose. His usual banter became forced and his jokes suddenly became insensitive. Kenji has always brought the brevity this series always needs after taking itself too seriously for too long. I was beyond happy when he returned to his full self during Warner’s panic attack. I didn’t even realize how much I relied on his pretense in the story until I saw the uplifting difference it made for the tone. As a minor complaint, I hated how he kept calling Juliette “kid.” It was strangely patronizing to Juliette and off-putting for me.
The opening scene was hilarious. It was out of tone compared with the rest of the book, but I had the most fun reading it. Out of all the ways Mafi could have started this book, this seems like an odd choice. On the surface, it’s great to see Warner care so much about his hair. From a more critical angle, it’s weird he thinks that will affect Juliette’s feelings for him and that Juliette does not deny these claims at all. Why bring in doubts that Juliette wouldn’t love Warner anymore because of a haircut. They’ve been through too much to see that as relevant. The only character I even recognized was Kenji, who managed to bring a lovely lightness I missed later on.
That scene where Juliette slices open the 600 people was epic! That kind of messed up darkness was what I had been craving the whole time since Ignite Me. There’s no one who does it quite as casually as Mafi.
Why was there so much buildup about Nazeera and the other heirs? NOTHING HAPPENED. I was made to be suspicious of every move these kids were making, yet they turn out to be pretty normal with the exception of ruthless killing abilities. Warner was all like, “Nazeera is super dangerous and manipulative,” and she was only ever portrayed as trustworthy. It’s a waste of time to build up a false threat. I don’t care what happens in the next book, there are ways to be more subtle if something is not going to take focus in this book.
In my intro, I mentioned my worries about Mafi changing my current perception of the original trilogy. This book didn’t change those perceptions per se, there were just challenges to the restrictions/ideals set by the last book. Since when has Juliette ever wanted a sister? If this desire ran that deep, then why hasn’t it been mentioned before? This seems like something fundamental that was shoehorned in just to foreshadow the sister reveal later. Also, since when has this series taken such a feminist angle? Again, I support the choice, it’s just disconcerting to have a story told from a subtly empowering angle to turn to something more blatant without more reason than to be timely.
The ending was great. There’s no way to sit easy with a cliffhanger that intense. I am now forced to read on whether I like it or not to gain some closure. While I’m usually opposed to Mafi’s more poetic symbolism, I think that scene with the polaroids was just the perfect way to wrap things up. It was the right amount of poetry and it managed to strike a chord with me. The twist about Juliette being from Oceania could be seen a mile away after Mafi’s heavy handed foreshadowing, which ruined the full potential impact of this beautiful scene. The last lines were a bit unrealistic. I don’t know why Juliette’s mother would be so casual about calling her Ella or chastising her about dinner when
it’s clear Juliette has no idea what’s happening.
I don’t want my criticism to mask how I really feel about this book. The bottom line is I love these characters too much to not be invested in this series. I was so into the book while I was reading it. I was laughing and literally gasping out loud, which all contributed to a fun reading experience. Certain things did bother me, which is why I need to give this 3 stars. However, my theory is that most of those things come from Mafi needing to reconnect with this story she ended a long time ago. There is hope and I will be anxiously waiting to see what happens (mainly if Juliette and Warner get back together).
Thank you for reading my review and I hope you will join me again as we go off to amazing places.