• Ash Srinivas

Edgy YA Authors, Please Stop: Shatter Me



Hey, what’s up? My name’s Ash, and I’ll be going through some of my favorite (most hated) lines from popular (most hated) YA novels and complaining about how bad they are. Mostly I will because I have no qualifications, but I will continue to pretend as I do, and No One Will Stop Me.


You see, the problem with YA writers is that— how do I put this delicately— they’re writing just to create more self-insert fanfiction that stars them and some random dark-haired, super-hot guy in a magical dystopian society with governmental structures that show the closest they’ve ever come to any form of federal authority is “Designated Survivor” on Netflix. And it shows.


Moreover, all of these authors are just former “deep” Instagram poets who dove too far into BookTok and now think they’re capable of writing books (spoiler: they aren’t).


YA authors, I am tired— I’m tired of the terrible attempts to be “deep,” and I’m tired of the metaphors you pretend have so much meaning but really make no sense at all. I’m sick of your attempts to worm every cliche ever into a singular storyline to the point where the pacing is so off it’s more inconsistent than my mile times in middle school.


So this is my catharsis.


Today, I’ll be talking about Tahereh Mafi’s “Shatter Me.”


No, I did not finish this book. Yes, I would rather eat rocks than finish this book. But yes, I will share some misery with you. Let’s begin with this.

"Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into semblance of something too passive to punch."


I’m sorry, what? If the multiverse exists, there’s not a single version of me that understands this in any capacity. Listen, if this author herself can explain what the heck this is supposed to mean, I will literally eat my own fist and repent. But until then, I will not: this is appalling. This isn’t a dystopian romance, it’s just straight-up dystopian writing. You’re just putting words together, honey.


"My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps."


I miss my life before I read this sentence. What a visual you created for sure there, Author! Is it the one you probably wanted, though? No!


“His eyes scan the sil­hou­ette of my struc­ture and the slow motion makes my heart race. I catch the rose petals as they fall from my cheeks, as they float around the frame of my body, as they cover me in some­thing that feels like the absence of courage.”


What are you even talking about anymore? Is anything real? What roses? The silhouette of your “structure” is just a silhouette— stop acting like you’re trying to make the word count for a history paper. And cowardice is really the absence of courage. Since you clearly have a vocabulary, please start using it.


If I go through everything wrong with this story, I’ll be here all night. Instead, I’m just going to categorize some of my favorites.


Starting with Category One: What Does This Even Mean? Writing


“Summer is like a slow-cooker bringing everything in the world to a boil one degree at a time. It promises a million happy adjectives only to pour stench and sewage into your nose for dinner.”


"He says it with a small smile the size of Jupiter."


"The walls are wallpapered in cloth the color of a perfect summer sky."


Moving on to Category Two: Metaphors Gone Wrong Writing


"Every organ in my body falls to the ground." Oh, no.


"There are 400 cotton balls caught in my windpipe." But why.


"My mouth is sitting on my kneecaps." Lovely visual right here.


"My jaw is dangling from my shoelace." There’s no way to visualize this.


"My stomach drops onto my knees." Like a crouch? Or did the organ fall out again?


"I blush through my bones." This is sweet, but I still hate it.


"My spine is conducting enough electricity to power a city." Yeah, lend me some so that I can zap my brain into understanding this.


"I am an old creaky staircase when I wake up." So you’re…loud, cold, and smell like mold?


"My eyelashes trip into my eyebrows; my jaw drops into my lap." Okay, I’m done. I can’t.


I laughed; I’m sorry. How am I supposed to respond to this? “Yum, body horror and terribly developed teenage romance?” This book is the manifestation of what sleep paralysis feels like.


Category Three: I Heard You The First Time, Please Don’t Say It Again Writing


“His eyes are tight, his forehead pinched, his lips his lips his lips are two pieces of frustration forged together.” Sorry, I didn’t hear you. His what?


“I blush.” I know, that’s like the 11th time you’ve mentioned that on this page alone.


Finally, an Honorable Mention:


"Adam is in the shower. James is at school. I’m absolutely defenseless."


Oh my god.


What has happened to the dystopian genre? Why have the 21st century YA pioneers Marie Lu and Suzanne Collins forsaken us in this nightmare? Where is James Dashner when you need him? Someone call them and beg them to save us. George Orwell is turning in his grave right now.


Let me try to explain. Mafi’s narrative, metaphorical "style" fails because:


The language that's being used here makes no sense. The metaphors are used too often, and they just exist to describe the most mundane actions (the color of the walls, for god's sake. Are the colors of the walls so significant that we have to devote an entire nonsensical metaphor to describing them?).


The long-term consequence of the abuse of metaphors is that the reader no longer has any sense of scale or grip on the story’s setting/reality. The antagonist can punch our protagonist in the face and all we know is: "I bite into the pavement and the taste of stars explodes on my tongue."


The point: it doesn't do anything because to what sense does the statement go? Did he hit her or make her blush? Is the action supposed to be horrific or beautiful? Is it supposed to actually be happening or just an internal metaphorical monologue in her head? I can’t tell.


The whole setting wasn't even explained. People don't have food? Air? Seasons and animals are also gone? But they still have food. She’s locked up? But she’s not? Apparently, animals still exist, but the Reestablishment locked them away? What is the Reestablishment? How did we get here? Do I even care?


Everyone who compares this trainwreck to “The Hunger Games” deserves jail time. I never want to speak of this book again, and I will pray that my English teacher Ms. Melinda Salata will slap me across the face if I ever attempt to write something like this level of disaster. Goodbye.


[Image via AlphaGirl Reviews]

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