My rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Flawed? Maybe a little, but it’s still a bloomin good read.
I’ve been a big fan of Cecelia Ahern for years and would count some of her previous books (PS I Love You & How to Fall in Love) among my all time favorites. Flawed however marks her first venture into the YA dystopian genre and I have to say that while I was so excited to read it I was also a little bit nervous. A lot of the time authors struggle when they venture into new territory but this is most definitely not the case here.
The YA dystopia market is pretty cluttered at the moment, with a new must read series out more or less every week (I have to say it’s one of my favorite genres) but in this case the author has managed to create a book that really stands out from the rest.
It has a fascinating and believable premise, is very well written (although I wouldn’t expect anything less) and had me gripped throughout. I’d meant to read it over the course of a week but ended up ditching all of my other commitments and plans to finish it within 2 days (would have been quicker but I do really need to go to work).
The story was actually somewhat different from what I was expecting from the blurb. I thought it was going to be about being externally flawless and genetic engineering but it goes a lot deeper than that. It’s set in a country where due to the corrupt and unethical activities of bankers and politicians (sound familiar) the world went into financial crisis resulting in civic unrest.
Fearful of a recurrence, the country where main character Celestine lives came up with the solution of introducing a new form of society and a new court system (the Guild). The purpose of the Guild is to identify those who are flawed, and by that they mean those who are morally or ethically flawed. There remains a separate legal system for criminal offences so this judges purely on ethics with punishment for things such as committing adultery, taking too many risks at work or making bad decisions.
If you’re found to be flawed, you’re branded with a letter F (reminiscent of the Scarlet Letter) which you must display at all times. Those with the brand are treated as second class citizens, shunned by the rest of society, subject to curfews, career limitations and innumerable other rules.
17 year old Celestine has lived her whole life by the rules. She’s the perfect daughter, perfect student, with the perfect boyfriend and wants nothing more than to fit in. However when a neighbor and family friend is suddenly apprehended and found to be flawed Celestine starts to wonder about the fairness of the system. This leads to a mistake on her journey to school which could lead to her being found flawed.
I thought the authors idea of the whole flawed justice system was very clever. There are a lot of references to current day events (the financial crisis, increased regulation and even reality TV) but there are also historical references such as the segregation that took place in the apartheid system. If I didn’t believe politicians were too corrupt and have too much power to prevent it I could actually see it happening. This whole idea was probably the most fascinating part of the book for me. The idea that certain people could judge what was morally acceptable and what was not was always going to be open to manipulation and corruption and that is what happens here.
It’s interesting to watch Celestine in particular going from the poster child and biggest supporter of the system to beginning to question it and inadvertently falling foul of it. For this reason she starts the book as an irritating goody two shoes but develops and grows over the course of the story into a much more likeable character. I did think she read a little bit young for her age (she seemed more 14 than 17) and was ridiculously naive and gullible at times but despite me regularly screaming at her not to be so stupid (in my head rather than out loud) I somehow ended up supporting her. Yes she over reacts and doesn’t always give people a chance to explain but she’s a teenager so what can you say 🙂
There’s quite a diverse mix of other characters in the book, the majority of which were also fascinating to read. Particular highlights were Pia Wang (a journalist), her mother (a supermodel) and her grandfather whose motives aren’t always too easy to judge. The weakest character in my opinion was actually her boyfriend Art. He’s the head Guild Judge’s son and the boy next door (actually across the street) but I found him a little bit on the dull side and couldn’t quite see the attraction. There is a little bit of the insta love thing going on but it doesn’t really get bogged down in the whole romance side when there are much bigger things going on.
The story itself is pretty fast paced and I found it completely addictive reading. I should add a warning that there are a few fairly graphic, violent and abusive scenes that some might find a bit much but I absolutely loved them (not sure what that says about me). I was on the edge of my seat thinking “no, that can’t possibly happen”. If I was someone who bites their nails I probably wouldn’t have any left.
Overall, while it does have it’s flaws, they are few and and pretty minor. I would definitely recommend giving it a try. Personally I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. Flawed is out now.