Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

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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?

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★★★★.5✩

I loved this book and I’m so happy that I decided to give the second part of this series a chance.

Right from the beginning, the worldbuilding is finally tackled, which I think is was one of the problems that people had with the first three books. I personally didn’t find it a big problem in the books because Juliette was the only POV character and what she didn’t know wasn’t for the reader to know. This is made very clear right from the start of Restore Me, and her ignorance about the world and everything she got herself into is a big catalyst to the story.

However, the fact that there’s a lot more worldbuilding doesn’t take away from the very romance-y feel of the first three books. This book is literally packed with romance and it’s the kind of romance (with its ups and downs) that you can expect from an established relationship. It’s about two people who love each other but have gotten together under extreme circumstances and don’t actually know that much about each other, and they need to work towards this.

Despite me not really having reread the first three books recently, I think both Juliette and Warner felt like the same characters, especially Warner. This was great to see because it would have been too easy (and crappy) to have them both be different people just because they’re in a relationship. Also, the book starts only two weeks after the events of Ignite Me, so it’s not like they could have changed that much in that time anyway.

One of things I was most looking forward to in the book was Warner’s POV. After falling in love with him after like, two pages of the novella Destroy Me, his POV was literally what made me want to continue reading the series despite not being sure whether I would still like it. And I’m so happy to say that his POV was probably the best part of this book. His pain and grief as an abuse survivor was something I deeply related to. I can’t comment on the anxiety rep but it felt much-needed and real.

I also liked that Warnette’s relationship wasn’t the only one addressed here. Some of the other old characters aren’t completely forgotten, even though most of them are in the background, with the exception of Kenji, Adam, James and Castle.

I don’t remember much about Castle in the original trilogy to be completely honest but here he was kind of a central character and he acted as sort of an advisor to both Warner and Juliette. He felt like the archetypical mentor figure of YA that I feel has kind of been lost in the past years’ new releases. I liked that he also tried to not completely overstep his boundaries, even though I found he could have tried to help more.

Adam wasn’t very central to the plot at all but I actually loved the few scenes he had (me, loving Adam scenes? Doesn’t seem possible, yet here I am). Some of the shitty things he did in the original trilogy were addressed and I liked how he and Warner finally started to tentatively form a relationship. Also, James keeps being adorable and precious.

I left Kenji for last because he’s just the best supporting character ever. All I remembered from him is that I loved him, and now my love for him has only grown stronger. I love how supportive of Juliette he was, and he finally got some much needed bonding time with Warner. I had to laugh so much at their interactions, even when things were overall dramatic, but he’s just too fun not to love.

There are obviously also a few new side characters, and one of them I loved most of all: Nazeera is my Wife™ and I’m so happy that Juliette finally has a much needed female friendship. Nazeera is just too iconic and I can’t wait to see more of her in the next book.

This is a very character-driven book but it doesn’t lack amazing plot twists. I have to admit I had guessed the ending’s reveal at around the halfway point of the book, but I was still super invested and there was obviously more to the ending than the *reveal*, and I had to jump up and down while reading the last few chapters because y’alL WHAT WAS THAT.

There’s also the fact that I finished this in just a handful of hours on release date despite this being almost 500 pages long and that hasn’t happened in ages. So it’s safe to say that this totally kept me glued to the page and it felt so nice to have that experience again.

I wish I could end my review here but I can’t in good conscience not mention the one problem I had with this book. The next part will be more of a discussion and it got a bit long so you’re free to consider this review finished. Full list of trigger warnings at the end.

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*discussion part* 

Trigger warning for mention of transphobia in the next paragraphs:

Towards the 90% mark of the ebook (idk what page that is) a trans character is introduced. That’s great, but I found the way the character was introduced super problematic.

I will say I am a cis person and I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, but this book is just too new at the point in which I’m reviewing it and I haven’t been able to find an ownvoices trans reviewer talk about this. If you find one please send it my way.

Anyway, the trans character literally only gets one or two lines of dialogue, and we wouldn’t know that she’s trans unless another side character pointed it out in a transphobic way, saying the trans character, whose name is Valentina, is “playing pretend”. The chapter where this happens is from Warner’s POV, who already knew about the character being a trans woman, but he doesn’t really do anything to defend her. Instead, Valentina has to defend herself, and then the matter is simply pushed aside to continue with the plot.

I personally found this scene very bad for a few reasons:

• the trans character is essentially outed while her twin brother is introducing her to Juliette, who hasn’t met her before
• she’s not only outed, but also all the comments that are made about her are transphobic ones
• Kenji, who has grown up in the world before the Reestablishment took control, acts confused as if he doesn’t understand what’s going on, AKA even after the character is outed he doesn’t seem to understand that she’s a trans woman. I don’t understand the purpose of his line at all.
• I think this is a weird case of “queer people used for furthering a non-queer person’s narrative”, in the sense that the transphobic comments are used in order to convince the reader that the character who’s speaking, who has previously in the book already been coded as being a generally bad person, is, in fact, a bad person. Even in the best case scenario, this is just poor writing, because there were certainly other and better ways to indicate without a doubt that this character is an asshole.

The thing is, this scene isn’t necessarily unrealistic, but I think when writing any kind of queer representation you have to ask yourself, who are you writing this for? The answer should always be that you are writing this for queer people to see themselves represented. This scene didn’t feel at all like it was written for trans people. Especially since the comments weren’t challenged at all, and it was all so sudden and unexpected that there is no way a trans reader would have time to prepare themselves to see the transphobia coming.

As I said, everything I mentioned above are things I think of as bad because if something similar (outing etc) had happened for a rep I’m ownvoices for I would be livid. Since there are no trigger warnings in the book, in this case I’m choosing not to stay in my lane in the hope to spare a trans person some hurt. I will be happy to link to trans reviewers once more people have read the book, but so far I haven’t really seen anything about this.

End of TW for transphobia

Something else I saw on twitter from an Argentinean reader is that the Spanish that Valentina and her brother speak is not actually the kind of Spanish they speak in Argentina.

Both of these issues make it clear that nobody bothered hiring sensitivity readers for both trans and Argentinean representation, and that’s something that especially big publishers keep doing. I think that’s something that more readers should demand because there’s nothing that hurts more than seeing bad rep.

TWs: mention of paste abuse, mention of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, meds abuse, anxiety, panic attack on page, unchallenged transphobic comments

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2 thoughts on “Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

  1. […] • Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi: I honestly hadn’t thought about the original trilogy much in the one and a half year since I’d read it, but I really wanted to continue it and I’m glad I did. This book was so entertaining and I was never bored, plus I loved seeing my favorites again. Read my review here. […]

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