Series: Flawed #1
on March 24th 2016
Genres: young adult, dystopia
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The stunning YA debut from internationally bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.
Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan. But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED. In this stunning novel, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and mistakes are punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.
“I am girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white. Remember this.”
These opening lines introduce us to the society where perfection is expected and any misstep is strictly sanctioned. With Flawed, Cecelia Ahern, the international bestselling author of women’s fiction steps into the world of young-adult literature. Ahern’s Flawed, set in a dystopian and at the same time highly possible (and in many ways recognizable) future, is the first book of a young-adult duology (its sequel Perfect was published in April of 2017).
“If you break the rules, you will be punished.”
In Flawed, the justice system is comprised of two equally important parts – the first, the well-known legal system for criminal wrongdoings, while the second led by the Guild is in charge of persecution and punishment of those who committed moral and ethical mistakes. Those found guilty by the Guild are branded as ‘flawed’ and degraded to second-class citizens. The causes of the establishment of the Guild are to be found in the roots of the great economic crisis provoked by the country’s leader’s ethical and moral mistakes. An interesting parallel with the current situation in the world, and which definitely resonates with the reader.
This is the world of our heroine Celestine North. Celestine is a bi-racial teenage girl living a perfectly unflawed life – she is a model daughter and sister, a well-liked and excellent student, and the girlfriend of the incredibly handsome Art Crevan (whose father Judge Bosco Crevan is the head judge of the Guild). But above all, she is a girl of logic and numbers and for her every problem has a solution, everything is black or white. Celestine is a strong advocate and believer in the rightfulness of the actions taken by the Guild. However, everything changes one faithful day when her act of compassion betrays her as flawed. Celestine makes a mistake, she makes the only possible logical thing to do – she takes a stand, but breaks the rules. Her logical reasoning comes in conflict with the imposed rules, and as Celestine says:“I’m a logical person, and this does not prove logical to me.”
In Flawed Ahern incorporates almost all characteristics of young-adult dystopian genre – authoritarian government, appearance of perfection, media propaganda, pressure to conform, division of people, excessive laws, limited personal freedom, and of course – the love triangle.
The novel’s theme is well-known and it has received many literary treatments, both in adult and young-adult genres. The most prominent influence is that of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. Both Hester Prynne and Celestine North are condemned and ostracized by the society, and forced to wear a badge of shame.
Cecelia Ahern perfectly describes the society where perfection is a constant expectation and emphasizes the contemporary obsession with appearance and image, and privacy to a certain degree. The characters are constantly preoccupied with their image, and just like nowadays teenagers (and adults) on social media, are aware that everything must be perfect. The emphasis on the treatment of women in the media is present through the book. This is most evident during Celestine’s trial where she is constantly scrutinized by the media. The novel can also be seen as a critique of our society, a judgmental society that does not accept disadvantages, does not respect the differences, and does not admit imperfection.
Flawed thematically departs from Cecelia Ahern’s well-known modern fairy tale style, the dystopian genre in itself does not allow such a structure. However, fans of Ahern’s romantic novels will not be disappointed. The author’s dynamic and fluid narration takes the reader in the middle of the action. The meticulous world-building and the description of character’s complex emotions and relationship is present from the first page.
The character of Celestine is highly refreshing and maybe even more approachable for a young adult dystopian reader, which is greatly due to Ahern’s choice of surrounding. I really loved the setting of the novel, a dystopian unnamed European country, with a strong resemblance to Ahern’s native Ireland which also makes Flawed one of the rare dystopian YA novels set somewhere else than in North America. Celestine’s world is not so strange for us, it’s readers. In fact, of all the dystopian novels I have read, Flawed is one of the most approachable, relatable to a certain degree. Unlike Katniss Everdeen, Celestine is not a natural born rebel or fighter. As a matter of fact, she is an ordinary girl who follows the rules, as Celestine explains: “I know the difference between right and wrong. I understand the rules. But today I feel that the rules have been blurred, because today they were literally on my front doorstep. ” Celestine has to pass a great way to become fully aware of the flawdineess of her perfect society.
If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you’re never the wiser.