Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Review of "You Can't Shatter Me" by Tahlia Newland

This week’s post is dedicated to the review of a YA novel I've just finished reading about the problem of bullying--a particularly timely story in today's crazy world. So sit back and have a read.
You Can’t Shatter Me by Tahlia Newland is a moving young adult novel that grapples with the universal problem of bullying. A blend of magical realism and philosophy, it is at heart a very spiritual story without being heavy-handed about it.

Sixteen-year-old Carly Simmons, a girl with “insipid grey eyes, mousy hair and thunder thighs,” daydreams about being a courageous, avenging superhero. Both she and the nerdy Dylan have both suffered at the hands of Justin, the school bully, and watched helplessly while he abused others.

Carly and Dylan share a love of art and a hatred of injustice—commonalities that nudge their friendship toward first love as they grapple with the problem of Justin. When Carly takes the initiative and stands up to him (a parallel to Dylan’s standing up to a father who bullies him about his choice of art over engineering as a future career), she becomes the focus of his abuse.

But Newland reaches well beyond the act of bullying itself and the often devastating effect on its victims, examining not merely the complex reasons many kids don’t report such incidents, but the reasons bullies choose to abuse others in this way.

With the help of her hippie grandparents, Carly learns how to rid herself of the fear that feeds the bully’s need for attention, instead using the spiritual light inside her to disarm him—offering friendship to one who has himself always been abused and afraid, in hopes of helping him relate to others in a more healthy way.

Newland’s characters are well drawn and realistic and the story emotionally satisfying, but for this reader the real joy of the novel is the author’s structural vision and creative use of metaphor. Throughout the book, which alternates between Carly’s and Dylan’s perspectives, the problems they face take on actual physicality, becoming outsized physical objects that have to be vanquished superhero-style with the right attitude or action. In addition, the storyline is peppered with metaphors to writing, to the scripting and crafting of one’s life being much like the creation of a story (which, of course, it is!)—sometimes even backing from the actual narrative so the characters can discuss the decisions involved in the scene they are trying to create.

With You Can’t Shatter Me, Newland has given the teen reader an accessible and engaging primer on ways to handle what, for many, is a devastating situation–one they often feel powerless to change. Parents should be advised that the story contains sexual innuendo and occasional rough language, so is perhaps not best suited to younger readers.

You Can’t Shatter Me is available at Amazon ( and Smashwords (

You can reach Tahlia at; her facebook page is, and her Twitter handle is 

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