Marshmallow reviews Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

A couple weeks ago, while Marshmallow was writing her review of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, she and Sprinkles looked up some information on the author, Ransom Riggs, and learned that he is married to a fellow author, Tahereh Mafi, who has a significant following of her own. When the bunnies learned about her first novel, Shatter Me (2011), they were intrigued by its plot, and so they decided to check it out. What follows is Marshmallow’s review of this book.

Marshmallow reviews Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.
Marshmallow reviews Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, you read this book rather quickly.

Marshmallow: You know I am a quick reader.

S: That’s true. What did you think about this book?

M: Let me first tell you what the book is about. No?

S: Okay.

M: The book is about a girl named Juliette who is living in a special institution, in solitary confinement, because her touch is deadly to other people. And she is living in a strange world, kind of dystopian.

S: That really sounds intriguing! So how old is Juliette?

M: She’s seventeen I think.

S: Okay. Do we ever learn why her touch is deadly? That is a weird condition.

M: Sort of, towards the end, but I won’t tell. You do need to read it yourself.

S: I am going to, for sure. I’m very curious.

M: Well, you won’t learn everything. But you will have a better idea of things. This is the first of a series of several books.

S: I see. Does it stand alone on its own?

M: Well, some of the conflicts and problems in the book are resolved, but many others pop up, and when the book ends, you are kind of left hanging, and need to read the next book. And then probably the next. And so on.

S: Hmm. Well, let me read this first and then see if I want to continue. How about you? Do you want to read the next book? Are you curious about what will happen to Juliette and her world? Did you like her as a character?

M: She is a bit too much into romance for my taste. Maybe it makes sense because she cannot touch anyone, until she meets this one person that she can. So I can see how she might be very excited, but then things do get a bit very touchy, kissy, and so on.

S: Hmm, so probably the book would not be very appropriate for bunnies younger than 12.

M: Hmm, maybe even older than that.

S: I guess we are seeing one of the differences between middle grades and young adult literature.

M: I think that’s right.

Marshmallow is reading Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.
Marshmallow is reading Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

S: So let us get back to the plot. So she is in this confined space, but then she meets this one other person who can touch her and not be hurt. Does she ever get out?

M: Yes, there are some folks who want to use her as a weapon. One specific guy especially, and so they help her get out. And the rest of the book is about her learning about these people who want to use her, about the power structure around her, and so on. It is a dystopian world, reminds me a bit about Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.

S: Yes, you used that word, dystopian, before. But what did you mean?

M: There is an oppressive regime. People have messed up the planet, and a group took charge claiming they’d help, they call it the Reestablishment, but they have not really. And they have erased all other power structures, all other institutions, and so on. Pretty depressing actually.

S: That makes for an interesting setting, I can see that.

M: Yes, I did want to know more, and maybe in the later books, Juliette and her friends will fight the Reestablishment and maybe take them down.

S: Yes, something to look forward to, I’m sure. So tell me a bit about the style of the book.

M: Sure. The whole book is written from a first-person perspective, Juliette’s. And she has a very distinctive voice.

S: How so?

M: When she uses numbers, she does not spell them out even when they are small numbers. She always uses the numerals. Except the chapter numbers in the book; those are all spelled out. She always writes in present tense. And she crosses out things and corrects herself. Of course you can still read what she wrote originally, so that makes her voice different from many other narrators I read.

S: I skimmed through it and I did see some lines crossed out. Even on the title page, there is a part which I am assuming is Juliette saying: MY TOUCH IS LETHAL, crossed out, and followed by MY TOUCH IS POWER. That is really interesting. Then the book reads kind of like a diary, right?

M: Yes, though, apparently, she also has a diary, but this is not quite the diary, I think. I’m not sure actually.

S: Okay, I am now really curious to read the book. Let us wrap this up so I can take it from your paws and get started. How would you rate the book in the end?

M: I’d rate it 90%. I really like the plot, I like the author’s writing style, and I really really want to learn more about Juliette and her story, but the mushy stuff is not terribly exciting for me.

S: That makes sense to me Marshmallow, thanks. What do you want to say to our readers as we close this up?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 90%.
Marshmallow rates Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 90%.

Marshmallow reviews The English GI by Jonathan Sandler and Brian Bicknell

Marshmallow, just like Caramel, enjoys and appreciates graphic novels of various types. As such she has reviewed several of these books for the book bunnies blog. Today she reviews another recent graphic novel, The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy’s Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell. Sprinkles was curious about the book too, and so she is taking notes while asking questions.

The book bunnies received this book as a review copy.

Marshmallow reviews The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy's Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell.
Marshmallow reviews The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy’s Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell.

Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, let us start with a quick summary. What is this book about?

Marshmallow: This book is about Bernard Sandler, a seventeen-year-old boy from Yorkshire, England, who goes on a school trip to the US. Then the second world war starts and he cannot go back home. He has to find his own way through life in a new country. And he eventually joins the US army and fights in the war too.

S: That sounds like a really rough path for a young person.

M: I think so too. But he does survive and he lives a good life. And the author is his grandson who wanted to tell his story.

S: That is so neat! A lot of families have stories to tell, but not everyone ends up writing them up for others to learn about. So the book is not fiction, then?

M: No. In fact there is a long epilogue at the end of the book, which takes almost a fourth of it actually, and it gives a lot of details about Bernard’s life and his family.

S: I did see that. It looked really well documented. And in some ways it reminded me of two books you reviewed before.

M: Which ones?

S: Nothing But The Truth by Avi and They Called Us Enemy by George Takei.

M: I see how the second one is similar. That too was about real life, written by George Takei, whose childhood was during the second world war, and he went through a lot of difficult times. How do you connect this book to Avi’s?

S: That book also had a lot of documentation, no? Though of course that was fiction, and this is a real story.

M: Hmm, I see. Yes, you are right. This is not quite a typical graphic novel; first off it is true, and then it has a lot of historical documentation that connects it to history.

Marshmallow is reading The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy's Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell.
Marshmallow is reading The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy’s Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell.

S: So what else would you like to tell us about the book?

M: I really liked the illustrations.

S: They are black and white, no?

M: Well, they are more or less grayscale, but you can see a lot of details, and they are almost like photos, and since it is a history being told, I think it fits really well.

S: That totally makes sense.

M: Also I’d like to say that this would be appropriate for readers of all ages.

S: Especially if someone is a history buff, no? I think a lot of people like to read and learn about the second world war. This could be really perfect for such a reader.

M: Yes, but even if you are not particularly interested in that war, this is a good book. It has a really interesting story. And there is not much that would be difficult for young bunnies, except of course it is about war, which is a terrible thing, and Bernard has to separate from his original family and his original country, so those could be too sad for really young bunnies.

S: I agree with you Marshmallow. Some young bunnies might be really sad, so for them, this might not be a good choice. But if a bunny is willing to read a book about the war, and if they are keen on graphic novels, this would be a neat book for them.

M: Yes.

S: So did you learn some things from this book?

M: Yes. It was like looking through a window to see what life was like for a young person during the war. So I found it very interesting that way.

S: Did you know what a G.I. is?

M: I knew of the G.I. Joe action figures, but I did not know exactly what the initials meant, so I had to look it up! Wikipedia says: “G.I. are initials used to describe the soldiers of the United States Army and airmen of the United States Air Force and general items of their equipment. The term G.I. has been used as an initialism of “Government Issue”, “General Issue”, or “Ground Infantry”, but it originally referred to “galvanized iron”, as used by the logistics services of the United States Armed Forces.”

S: The evolution is interesting, isn’t it?

M: Yes.

S: So maybe it is about time to wrap up this review. How would you rate the book overall Marshmallow?

M: I’d rate it 97%. I like how it is a real story and I like the illustrations.

S: That’s great Marshmallow. So what do you want to tell our readers then?

M: Stay tuned for more amazing book reviews from the book bunnies!

Marshmallow rates The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy's Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell 97%.
Marshmallow rates The English GI: World War II Graphic Memoir of A Yorkshire Schoolboy’s Adventures in the United States and Europe, written by Jonathan Sandler and illustrated by Brian Bicknell 97%.

Marshmallow reviews Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

A while ago, Marshmallow and Caramel watched the 2016 movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and were quite disturbed by it. Only recently did Marshmallow come across the book which the film was based on: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, written by Ransom Riggs and published in 2011. To her surprise, she found it to be a quite satisfying read and decided to review it for the blog.

Marshmallow reviews Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
Marshmallow reviews Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about magic and friendship, then this might be the book for you.  

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): As Jacob was growing up, his grandfather Abraham always told him the most extraordinary stories about a house for peculiar children who each had special powers. This home was special, run by a bird who smoked a pipe. The children in the home were peculiar; some could fly, some were extremely strong, and the rest had other unnatural skills. But there were monsters after the children, and the monsters wanted to eat them. As Jacob grew older, he began to doubt the truth in these stories. That is, until he saw the monsters for himself.

Early in the book, Abraham is killed by the monsters that he used to talk about and suddenly everything changes. Abraham’s last words are “Find the bird. In the loop.” In an effort to make sense of these events and his grandfather’s final words, Jacob visits the children’s home. Unfortunately, the home he finds is not the bright paradise his grandfather described; rather it is a destroyed shell of a house because it was bombed on September 3, 1940. Jacob’s grandfather had uttered that exact date with his last breath. Upon further investigation and some excitement, Jacob is brought as a prisoner to the children’s home by some of the children. There he meets the “bird”, Miss Peregrine, who takes care of the peculiar children. Jacob’s grandfather’s stories were all true. And unfortunately, that means the monsters are real too. 

Marshmallow is reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.
Marshmallow is reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Marshmallow’s Review: As mentioned above in the preamble, I had watched the 2016 movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children before I read this book, so I had a sense of what to expect. Here is the trailer if you have not seen the movie yet (certain aspects in the movie differed from the original story and book):

I had enjoyed the movie but was a bit disturbed by it. In the end I think that the book is as good as the movie, if not better.

I really enjoyed reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because it has a fascinating premise, and the plot is quite intriguing and original. There is humor and action, all intertwined with a lot of strange, peculiar things going on.

I would say that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is for readers older than 12 or 13. There are a lot of (unnecessary) bad words, and some of the events may be a little scary for younger bunnies. (That may have been the reason why Caramel and I were so unsettled when we watched the movie version.) There was some amount of kissing too, which may be uninteresting for some people.

The book has a lot of photographs (in black and white) that are all mentioned and talked about in the book. And the photos are all displayed. I found it amazing that the photos fit so perfectly with the story. As far as I understand, the author wrote the story based off these photos he found. I found the photos added nuance as they’re not something you see in a novel everyday. However, a couple of the photos (specifically pg 263) might be disturbing for younger bunnies, yet another reason why this book may be better suited for 13 and above.

All in all, I found Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a fascinating book to read, and I look forward to reading the next book. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%

Marshmallow rates Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 95%.
Marshmallow rates Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 95%.

Marshmallow reviews The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

Marshmallow has already reviewed When You Reach Me (2009) and Goodbye Stranger (2015) by Rebecca Stead. Today she reviews Stead’s newest novel, published in 2020: The List of Things That Will Not Change.

Marshmallow reviews The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow reviews The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about family and you want to read about how different characters tackle change, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): When Bea’s parents tell her that they are getting divorced, they give her a green notebook. In it is a list of things that won’t change, even though almost everything else might:

  1. Mom loves you more than anything, always.
  2. Dad loves you more than anything, always.
  3. Mom and Dad love each other but in a different way.
  4. You will always have a home with each of us.
  5. Your homes will never be far apart.
  6. We are still a family but in a different way.

Her parents’ divorce is amicable; the reason for the divorce is that Bea’s father is gay.

After the divorce, Bea’s life splits in two different parts, sometimes living with her mother and sometimes with her father. Later, her father gets engaged with another man, Jesse. Bea really likes Jesse and looks forward to him becoming a part of the family. Not to mention that Jesse has a daughter Bea’s age named Sonia, and Bea has always wanted a sister.

But Bea has other issues to face. She has eczema which is annoying to her, and she goes to therapy to deal with her stress. Everything is now different, but Bea keeps herself up by talking with her friends and family, who are always there to support her. Bea and her family will struggle to reach their happy ending. 

Marshmallow is reading The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.
Marshmallow is reading The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead.

Marshmallow’s Review: I found this a touching book. Bea is very thoughtful, and this book really highlights and goes into her thoughts and feelings. It was sad to see how some of the folks in the book mistreated Bea’s father and his new partner because of their sexual orientation.

The List of Things That Will Not Change was extremely realistic and felt very down to earth when I was reading it. Every character was unique and well thought-out, and the narrative and tone of the book felt very genuine. That said, I don’t quite think the end was one hundred percent fulfilling, but it was definitely satisfactory. However, I did like how all the loose parts were tied up in the end. I also found it interesting how not everything was perfect in the end but it was realistic. (I’m not going to say much more!)

The List of Things That Will Not Change would be appropriate for all ages, presuming that the person would understand the plot, which I felt was easy enough to understand, though it had some extra nuances for an older reader who would see all the threads from beginning to end.

Bea’s relationship with Sonia might remind some readers of a book I reviewed a while ago: To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. There are indeed some similarities but also a lot of differences. Bea’s health issues reminded me a bit of Guts by Raina Telgemeier, another book I reviewed for the blog. And compared with the other books I have read of Rebecca Stead, the tone and voice of this book was very similar. The setting and tone were more reminiscent of When You Reach Me, but the realism was quite like that of Goodbye Stranger. But The List of Things That Will Not Change has definitely a unique and original story, and I really enjoyed reading it; I think most bunnies would, too. 

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%.

Marshmallow rates The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead 95%.
Marshmallow rates The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead 95%.