Friday, 4 March 2016

My Review of "Flawed" by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed (Flawed, #1)
Cecelia Ahern is very well known for her highly successful and popular adult fiction. I have only read "PS I Love You", "The Gift" and "One Hundred Names" and found them easy, romantic, gently humorous reads about contemporary relationships and women. Perfect for a holiday or when you need a bit of a break from the demands of life! I was interested to read her first novel for Young Adults and even more interested when I saw the genre was Dystopian Fiction - I'm a bit of a sucker for a bit of dystopia and spent my teenage years engrossed in it. But with the recent explosion in this genre, particularly for young people, how will she fair against the giant success of titles like "The Hunger Games", "Divergent" and "Delirium"?

"Flawed" opens with its definition: "Faulty, defective, imperfect, deficient......and of a person, having a weakness in character". Celestine, the protagonist, then follows with the statement that she is a "girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white." And she is. Life is straight forward and clear for Celestine. The right choices are obvious and she frequently repeats statements that remind the reader of her perfection. She is the perfect student, perfect daughter, perfect girlfriend and living a perfect life where she mixes within the privileged society of the  "Judge" and feels protected and immune from the threat of the "Whistleblowers" who seek out and punish the "Flawed". Then one day, after the "last perfect moment of my life" Celestine makes an impulsive decision - an emotional reaction to a situation - and everything changes. She is suddenly one of the "Flawed", a regular citizen who has made a moral or ethical mistake in a society that will not tolerate bad decisions. Its mantra is "think before you act"; there is no room for hindsight as the controlling Judges seek to breed a society of forward thinkers, their motive to ensure that the public are never again punished with the financial ruin brought about by bad decisions. The Flawed are branded with the letter "F" either on the temple, tongue, hand or chest depending on their crime and weakness. They wear a red armband also with the letter "F" on it and are shunned by society, their civil rights relinquished and treated as an underclass.

Initially Celestine fights the accusations. She is offered a way out and her mother, whose mask of perfection gradually begins to slip in a world where image is everything, convinces her to lie in order to save herself. But can Celestine do it? Can she let an innocent old man take her punishment? Yet on the other hand, can she lose everything she has, including her family, friends and future, in order to do the right thing? And to add further complication to the decision, it seems the Judge wants to use Celestine to feed the fire of fear for the Flawed; to manipulate her in order to secure his own power and position. Does she become a hero for trying to rid the world of the Flawed or a hero for standing up for them?

This novel is about standing out rather than fitting in. It is about giving a voice to the silenced. It is about a girl who only wanted to fit in making a change through her own self sacrifice and finding an inner strength she did not know she had. It is the start of an adventure; a life changing journey.

It is a novel that raises questions like what is a bad decision? Can you breed forword thinking and eradicate bad decision making? "If you never make a mistake, how do you learn what is right and wrong?"

Teenagers will love this book because it is about making decisions and choosing what sort of person you want to be. It is about the power to make a change. It has all the necessary ingredients for a successful dystopian novel including a reluctant heroine who finds herself under the limelight by accident and  circumstance- a perfect, law abiding girl, who suddenly finds herself cast out on the wrong side of everything. Celestine is a strong female role model.

The style of writing is deliberately very plain and full of statements which helps emphasise the debate about "black and white" and decisions only being "right or wrong." There is a lot of repetition which also re-emphasises the key messages of the book. The chapters are short and action packed. The opening pages establish the key characters and their relationships quickly, throwing the reader straight into the drama.

It's only natural that "Flawed" will be compared to other trilogies but it doesn't mean it's not worthy of a place amongst them. It is not as violent or as harrowing as some of the other dystopian representations but is capable of provoking just as much discussion from the issues it raises. With it's love triangle, sibling rivalry, injustice and drama it has everything that most readers will want from a story and it is a satisfying and appealing read. The ending is really only the beginning and Ahern has enticed the reader enough to make them desperate for the next instalment as soon as they finish the last page. I think Ahern's first foray into Young Adult Fiction is a successful one. This would also make a good film!

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in advance of publication in return for an honest review.

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