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Flawed: A Novel by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed: A Novel

by Cecelia Ahern

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I'll start with the TL;DR: unless you are committed to reading the gamut of dystopian YA published this year, don't waste your time on this one; there are much better options out there. At the same time, it's not entirely devoid of charm, and there are much worse ways to spend a few hours.

This was one of 3 recent YA fantasy or speculative fiction series debuts that I had in my TBR, so I decided to devote this weekend to them. This was the first I read, because I have a lot of respect for Cecelia Ahern's prodigious chick lit output and was eager to see what she'd do with YA.

A brief aside: the speculative/dystopian YA genre has gotten pretty crowded. In my opinion, to succeed in this field, you need a really strong, inspiring main character, a tight, well-thought-out and creative premise, and -- because it's YA -- a little bit of a commitment to melodrama. Teenagers' emotions and hormones run high, and I think talented YA writers can be faithful to that without seeming forced or ridiculous.

Unfortunately, Ahern fails in the first two categories, though she nails the third one.

Her protagonist, Celestine, is confusing -- and not in a good, complex way, but in a frustratingly inconsistent way. She tells us over and over that she's a by-the-book girl who has always followed all of the rules, but then with virtually no hesitation, she throws out all the rules in a moment to offer some fairly minimal assistance to a total stranger. The conversion from good girl to rebel was, for me, wildly unconvincing.

Wait, you might be saying. Why is it rebellious to offer assistance to a stranger (in this case, helping a sick man find a seat on a bus)? (And if it is, isn't the obvious comparison to Rosa Parks just a little bit uncomfortable?)

Glad you asked. I tried so very hard to buy into the premise of this book, because it's creative and has some interesting possibilities, and I really wanted to be swept up into the world of the book. In this world, anyone who tells a tiny lie, or makes a bad business decision, gets hauled before a tribunal and declared "Flawed," whereupon they are branded and forced to live by a strict set of rules, of which plain food and curfews seem to be the most salient. The obvious question is, how does society continue to function? If you tell a lie or are seen helping someone who's Flawed, teams of Whistleblowers literally swoop down and carry you away, and there's an enormous expenditure of time and manpower to put you through a trial and then essentially remove you from the consumer structure, which has to be terrible for the economy.

Then the inconsistencies start. The Flawless can be imprisoned for helping the Flawed, and the Flawed are so shunned that they have to be buried in separate graveyards and people shrink from (or spit at) them in public... And yet Flawed and Flawless people apparently marry and procreate and live together all the time.

More troublingly, in what seems like an obsessively rule-conscious society, Celestine's judge goes absolutely off the deep end when she admits what she did, and not only hands down a sentence that is dramatically more serious than apparently the most serious sentence in the history of the commission, but starts demanding that the punishment administrators give her additional, unsanctioned punishments. Maybe he thinks he's beyond the law, but it seems strangely easy for him to break rules without consequences, and that just doesn't seem to fit in the world of the book.

Ahern does nail the melodramatic teen inner monologue, though, and I liked Celestine much better when I was in her head than when I was watching her more inexplicable actions unfold.

However, I hated the "love triangle." Yes, it's a staple of the YA genre, but that doesn't mean it needs to be in every story. Here, Celestine has a boyfriend she's madly in love with, and who's madly in love with her. Plenty of romance. But for reasons that I assume will become apparent in the sequel, Ahern forces Celestine to develop an odd puppy love for a fellow prisoner -- whom she sees for maybe three days total, and speaks to maybe once. But there's heavy foreshadowing that he will rescue her! And together, they will fight the forces of darkness! Poor boyfriend doesn't stand a chance.

At the end of the day, though, I do want to see Celestine triumph over the unrealistically evil judge and change her unrealistically draconian society. There's a fair to middling chance I'll pick up the next book if it catches me at the right time.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Aug 8, 2017 |
Review based on an ARC provided by Netgalley.

Celestine always gone for perfection. She's not popular because she enjoys the security of being average and belonging. Unlike her older sister who always speaks her mind and acts on impulse, Celestine has always been perfect, with the perfect boyfriend, son of the powerful but friendly to Celestine Judge Crevan—she always calls him Bosco, though—, with the perfect family—aside from Juniper who doesn't even seem to want to belong there. But her world is not perfect, the Flawed are everywhere, their skins marked with the sign in correspondence with their moral lapses. One day, Celestine's judgment fails her and gets her straight to the Flawed Court, where she'll depend on Bosco—or should she call him Judge Crevan from now on?

Being Ahern's YA debut, I had no idea what to expect. I had picked this book for the author, I confess. I failed to notice two negatives for me: this is distopic as well as the first of a series, two types of books I tend to stay clear from. Maybe because of the hat the beginning wasn't doing it for me. Celestine was purposefully an annoying character, completely blind to anything to the point I could barely accept her as real. Wasn't Ahern forcing this too much? However, the book picks up at the point of the trial and I got sucked into that world.

At the same time, I had to cancel my judgment of the world-building. The Flawed concept is very real, very touchable, coming from a much credible reason, something like the big crisis in 2008/2009. Starting with the moral punishment premise, Ahern took elements from the antisemitism during the Second War and also a lot from the apartheid stories. I found it a great a theme, just wow! And the marks, her description of how they are made just had me crying for many, many pages—I did ask myself what was wrong with me I was so emotional but those are the facts.

However, the arguments for the maintenance of that world don't withstand a critical view. Unless she told me Second War never happened, that the UN doesn't exist... I think that the citizens in the book are simply too blind. She does include rebellious groups but I wasn't convinced the state of things would be like that. The more I read, the more I frowned. As an YA, from which you don't expect as much, this was enough but Ahern is one who could have been less naive. And so much more scary. Had she filled her characters with more logic, this would be a story that wouldn't let me sleep before I got to the end and knew people would be alright again.

So expect shallow from the story. Still, know that this is a nice story. The Flawed plot was really something that got to my skin and even now here I am thinking of how people would behave were it for real. And well, isn't it a little already? I said the way she described the reactions to the system wasn't credible (and even the system itself seems to centered to something which is supposedly spread all over a country, are there only those three judges? And no one to review their verdicts? And how can their sentences be so out of proportion, and very few voice against it?), still the implementation of something similar isn't far from reality at all, even if in lesser proportions (at first?).

And again, Ahern let me down on the romance area, though. Art... is a sad name for such a dreamy guy she wants to paint him as. And I never understood why Celestine was so promptly connect to Carrick. This is a series so I'm mostly hoping for her to find a third option. Then again we never saw much of Carrick but classic YA hero episodes. I find it interesting how Ahern is an author known for romances, an author I enjoy very much and yet I've never appreciated the romance in her books. At least, this is far from the center of the story. The problem is exactly on how alone Celestine becomes after everything.

My actual grade is 3.5. It's definitely above 3 so I've rounded it to 4 but it's not a stellar true 4-star book. Perhaps from now on? I have no idea what she plans with the series, and I'm eager to find out what will be of this world in the sequel. Even though this is just above average, it is an easy read and was a page-turner for me, despite the length. I recommend it even for those who are not that into YA's—as long as you take it as an YA, always with a grain of salt. ( )
  AnnaBastos | Jun 13, 2017 |
Right off the bat I was disappointed in the fact that this book is a blatant rip off of the Hunger Games. The main character is supposed to be a Katniss-like character, bringing the "flawed" citizens a heroine to rally behind and start a revolution, but because of the way Celestine's character is written, it's hard to believe she is the type of person that could rally a football team more or less a whole citizenship.
And Celestine's lawyer, Mr. Berry, is described to look exactly like Stanley Tucci's character Caeser Flickerman in the HG movies.

Granted this isn't the first dystopian YA book to cash in on the popularity of the HG series, but I expected a bit more from one of my favorite authors.
That being said I will probably read the next books in this series, because I'm just a glutton for punishment! ( )
  Iambookish | Dec 14, 2016 |
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This is a book that is geared towards young adult readers. I found the story interesting and made me think. The main character had her issues, but well....she is young. lol Recommended read if you like young adult fiction. ( )
  booksgaloreca | Sep 18, 2016 |
This book was so good. I just couldn't put it down.

I didn't expect to like Flawed as much as I did. I am impatient to see where this story picks up....I absolutely loathe the ending. ( )
  lenamaybooks | Aug 2, 2016 |
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