Shattered - Lee Winter
To say that you’re absolutely shattered in some countries means that you’re utterly exhausted. It certainly means that in Australia. It certainly means that for Shattergirl. She’s done being Earth’s first black lesbian guardian who can hurl and destroy large objects with a flick of her wrist. She exists as simply a name now, and has taken herself off the grid so she can truly be alone with all her pieces.
When Shattergirl is required back at the Facility—guardian headquarters—she can’t be found, so Lena Martin, the street-smart tracker with a silver tongue and a disdain for the rogue guardians she chases, is sent to find her. When she does, they discover how much needs to be shattered and rebuilt to find out who they really are.
The distrust they have for each other, and of themselves, is a major aspect of the novel. It is born of years of promotion of the guardians’ gifts, to the point that Lena believes that the alien superheroes are spoilt brats, and Shattergirl believes that humans—commons—are xenophobic, homophobic, racist, fearful and dangerous knuckle-draggers.
The guardians are refugees from another planet who arrived on Earth a hundred years ago. They are not immortal and therefore had to plead for their existence, eventually signing an agreement that ensured the continued use of their gifts to protect, rescue, save, and generally be available to sort out human beings’ shit every day of the year for eternity in exchange for their lives. The problem is that after a hundred years, some of the guardians are shattered beyond simple exhaustion.
The premise of the story is that we all hide behind glass pretending it to be transparent but in reality it is no such thing. Shattered is not a romance. It is more than a superhero saga. Shattered is a commentary on the fear of others. It is a commentary on the fear of ourselves. And when the glass shatters, and our true selves are revealed, it is an exquisite commentary on how well each of us can mend ourselves with the shards.
Another aspect is the rolling critique of how appalling humans can be to each other, and how we explain it away, justify it, dismiss it as “that’s how it was back then” despite the awfulness occurring right now. Winter develops the story to the point where Lena, as herself and as a symbolic representative of all humans, is forced to look in a mirror, while she discovers that the guardians have adopted the very behaviour of those who enslaved them to the spectacle of their powers in the first place.
The book is Lee Winter’s shortest (I think) at only 70,000 words. But it’s dense with amazing plot twists and fabulous character development and everything else you expect from an author like Winter. Shattered doesn’t solve the social dilemmas and trauma that she highlights in the story. It’s not a statement of belief on how humanity should be restructured. It is, however, a wonderful novel with complexity, where Lena and Shattergirl collect the slivers of their shattered worlds and create one that isn’t perfect but works for now.