As a teenager, I was a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern’s romance novels, they made me fall in love with that genre in the same way her characters so blissfully fell in love with each other. I adored her writing style, her books felt like home to me: they were my go to escape during exam season every year without fail. In my late teens however, me and the romance genre had a rather sad break up, and, as a result, it’s been a long while since I’ve read one of her books.
I was, therefore, incredibly excited when I heard she was stepping into the realms of YA, undoubtedly my current favourite genre, and it’s fair to say, I was not disappointed.
Flawed is a dystopian tale which follows a girl named Celestine North, living in a society that treats those who are considered to have acted immorally or unethically as second-class citizens. Dubbed, the Flawed, these people are branded and have to live a basic life with a clear set of rules, as dictated by The Guild, an organisation almost as powerful as the government itself. In comparison, Celestine is a girl of logic and definitions: she aims for perfection, and has a very set idea of how her life is going to pan out. That is until her eyes are opened and she goes from being the perfect girl to a girl accused of being Flawed.
First off, I have to say how addictive this book was. I could barely put it down, and only forced myself to do so when my clock had reached 3am and my eyelids were struggling to stay open. It is a real page-turner, with a plot that races along; there’s no sense that you’re waiting around for things to happen, it simply goes and you have to keep up with it. I loved this; there’s nothing that annoys me more in YA than books that have to go into every angsty thought and feeling the protagonist is having, before getting to the good stuff. There’s certainly no sign of that here.
Dystopias are obviously all the rage these days, especially in the YA genre, but they very often represent a society entirely different to our own, with the odd reference here and there to places and people from “the real world”. I loved that, in Flawed, Cecelia presents us with a dystopia that is very close to the society we know. Obviously, due to the events surrounding her own father (former Taioseach of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, who was forced to resign after accusations of corruption), there are references to the treatment of politicians post-office, but also, she delves into the topic of how men and women are treated during accusations of extra-marital affairs, which reminded me a lot of the way Nigella Lawson was dragged through the mud after her divorce with Charles Saatchi, and the following fraud trial they were both involved in. All this gave the book a feeling of a 1984 for the 21st Century: by presenting these events as shocking results of a dystopia, she holds up a telling mirror to our own society, in a very disturbing way.
As mentioned above, she obviously had very personal reasons for writing this book, seemingly very critical of her father’s treatment after he resigned, but I think this both helped and hindered the book. It definitely gave the book a more personal touch, and I found all the characters very believable. Those you are meant to love, you love, those you are meant to fear, you definitely fear; the silent threat of Mary May and the not-so-silent threat of Judge Crevan is ominously present throughout.
Despite this though, I did feel that the lead protagonist of Celestine was perhaps not the right choice to tell the story of this society. She felt very privileged at times, it was too easy for her to get out of bad situations, because her family is well-off and well-respected. There were other characters who we met along the way who had more trouble overcoming these things, because they didn’t have that family support or the wealth that Celestine’s family has, and I often felt like I’d rather hear their story than hers.
For me this was the only real downside; all the other characters, even members from her own family were really interesting, well-developed characters, but Celestine felt too much like a non-descript Mary Sue style character, with very little interesting about her. Even her own mother was better developed than she was, and we only really got an outward perspective of her.
I gave the book four stars, because I do think it’s a really great premise, with some great world building, and a lot of interesting characters. It’s just let down by the fact that the lead protagonist herself isn’t one of those interesting characters. That said, I cannot wait to see how this series progresses, and will be waiting with bated breath for the sequel.
Flawed is published 24th March in the UK, and 5th April in the USA.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.