Title: You Can't Shatter Me
Author: Tahlia Newland
Publisher: Catapult Press
Genre(s): Young Adult, Magical Realism
Length: 140 pages
With bullying on the forefront of everyone’s minds these days, it is no wonder that You Can’t Shatter Me, a young adult magical realism story, caught my eye. The story revolves around two young protagonists: Carly, the teenage girl-next-door with a huge imagination and Dylan, the nerdy-yet-lovable boy who catches her eye. The two embark on a sweet first romance that is often interrupted by the local bully, Justin. Like all bullies, he finds great joy in picking on those different than himself. When Dylan stands up for one of these poor souls, Carly knows he is the boy she’d like to get to know. The story is told through a series of events, punctuated by imaginative scenes where giant hooks dangle from the sky or words appear and zoom around the characters. The tone is whimsical and light, with some deep messages about standing up for yourself and not conforming to those that might want to bring you down.
The book was well-written and Newland’s voice is both interesting and unique. Both characters are likable, as is the supporting cast of friends and siblings. The bully and his cohorts were a little stereotypical, but the depth of Carly and Dylan helped me to overlook that detail. Newland shows she is a master at the English language and you get some fun tidbits of Australia lore and lingo here as well.
There are two issues I have with this book. One is I felt the magical realism scenes were a little off-putting. For example, Dylan and Carly are on their first date. In the middle of that scene, Dylan has an imaginary conversation with a director about sticking to the script and using more compliant actresses. It stopped the forward momentum of the story and seemed a little bizarre. I think I got what Newland was trying to do, but an inner-monologue could have sufficed. This went on throughout the story and sometimes I couldn’t tell if the events were actually taking place or all in their minds.
The second issue is the seemingly-adult nature with which the bullying situations were handled. In my day job as a school counselor, we often try to tell students to make good choices when it comes to dealing with peers. Half the time they do so, but the other half of the time their emotions and hormones get the better of them and they make the wrong choice. Such is life. We live and learn. Yet, somehow Carly and Dylan always seemed to make the right choice. And at the end, a bit of heavy-handed life lesson shows up to tie it all into a neat bow. I am not sure that teens would connect with this much perfect, Pollyanna sweetness. With most teen literature even the protagonists make bad choices. It is how they then deal with them and grow that makes the book interesting.
The book is definitely worth a look, especially for a teen who has struggled through bullying. This book may be therapeutic for someone who has suffered on the wrong end of a misguided peer. The even better news is that the Kindle book is free on Amazon from May 29th - the 31st. Grab it while you still can.
Three and a half out of Five Stars
Tahlia's links: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.