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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Flawed: Flawed Book One" by Cecelia Ahern (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit Cecelia Ahern's Website Here

OVERVIEW: 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 where 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 her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything

FORMAT: Flawed is the first book in a YA dystopian novel. The novel has some romance in it, but mostly portrays the political scene within this dystopian setting. The novel does contain some brief scenes that involve branding and self-harm.

Flawed is the first novel in a proposed series. It is written from the point of view of Celestine North. It stands at 336 pages and was published April 5, 2016 by Feiwel and Friends.

ANALYSIS: Dystopian YA novels are a dime a dozen. Everyone wants to get in on the latest literary trend, which means multiple authors are stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying their hand at writing a YA dystopian novel that will be the 'next big thing'. Some succeed, some do not.

Flawed, the first book in a new YA dystopian series titled Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (a well-established chick-lit/romance novelist), is proof that while authors do indeed seem to follow a template of sorts when writing this type of fiction, if you have the ability to make it your own, it can create a decent, captivating novel. Just as its name suggests, Flawed does have some flaws – it is by far not perfect – but there is something about it that kept me reading and wanting to know more.

Cecelia Ahern does an amazing job of writing in a way that draws the reader in. Many times while reading Flawed, I felt antsy and a bit uncomfortable with the novel. Not a bad uncomfortable, but uncomfortable because the things that were going wrong and stuff that was happening was so.... wrong. It made me sad that society could have gotten to a point where fear causes people to become so blind to injustices and blatant hatred.

It was the writing style and its ability to connect with me that ultimately made this novel. I think it was the whole thought that one simple mistake could destroy your entire life. And society allowed it. The mistake could be as simple as handing someone a quarter who happened to be 'flawed'.

I will note that I am sure my fascination with the US political situation played a role in my like of the novel. Given the state of things, it is easy to see how a system like this could develop. Yes, its extreme, but it isn't as if this type of 'flawed' system was completely unrealistic. Seeing how it could relate to some current events, it could be enough to make some people uneasy.

There isn't a whole lot of world-building that goes on within the novel. Readers are kind of thrust into the midst of a chaotic situation and they learn as the novel goes along how things came about. Readers learn a very brief history of how the Guild – a group of individuals charged with judging and punishing those who commit moral/ethical misdeeds – came about. Readers learn what happens when an individual is branded 'flawed' and what consequences are for that happening.

Unfortunately, while readers do learn a very basic overview of these things, a lot of it isn't really explained in depth. A vague 'higher political power/bad guy' in YA dystopian isn't unheard of and certainly not a rarity, but I think a lot of questions could come up while reading Flawed. I believe – and hope – those questions will be answered as the series goes on and we dive deeper into the Flawed system and Guild's authority.

Even though there are parts that aren't well-developed or described, the novel does an amazing job of setting up this bleak, brutal dystopian world. There are a few 'grit your teeth' moments that don't graphically depict violence/torture, but that infer it or fade to black when it happens. I think there are just enough moments to reinforce how bad the world is in the novel without going over the top.

The characters in the novel appear one-sided, but over time they start to show different sides. The mother in the novel is a super model who appears to like cosmetic surgery and shopping, but in time she shows a deeper softer side to her. The grandfather appears to be a crazy old man with government conspiracies and wild tales, but he eventually turns out to be a deeper more understanding individual willing to help.

The main character – Celestine North – could be a bit frustrating at times. She is run by logic in a world that operates based on fear. She sees things as black and white, but there are deeper issues involved. It is her logical, straight-forward side that leads her into trouble.

What was frustrating – to me – was she seemed to want everyone to think things through when it came to her and her situation and try to be more understanding, but she was one of the most judgmental individuals. Every person she came across after her court date, she seemed to believe should show her compassion and understanding, but she judged them harshly for how they acted or didn't act or for the things they were still doing. For someone so logical, it didn't really fit that she was so judgmental of everyone especially others in similar situations to herself.

Celestine was also very naive. Multiple times throughout the book she was put in situations where she should have seen stuff coming up or what would happen, but didn't. Even after people told her it might happen, she fought them and still continued to believe in her naive ways. Eventually at some point, you'd think she would wake up and realize what was happening around her, but she didn't seem to do that until the very end.

There is one refreshing thing about Celestine – she isn't being portrayed as 'the one'. You know what I'm talking about. The "One" individual in the novel who has all those special skills and who just happens to have lady luck on their side at every moment. Celestine for the most part is being used by multiple individuals – the Guild, the media, other Flawed individuals, other politicians. She is being used because she was in the right place at the right time, not because she is some special snowflake who has it all.

It was refreshing to see Celestine put into situations that were real life scenarios and watch her try to get out of it. Sometimes she succeeded, sometimes she didn't. If she was able to solve a problem, she did it mostly on her own and didn't really have that magic 'get out of jail free' card flying around. There were a lot of times where she had to think and make decisions on her own and then live with those consequences.

Flawed is unique enough to put itself above the pack, but it doesn't have everything it needs to make it a genre changing novel. It is perfect for those who love dystopian novels and want something a little different, or those looking to venture into the genre, but if you feel burned out from the genre it won't have the 'oomph' needed to spark your interest again.

I – personally – loved the novel. Sure it has some flaws to it, but not enough to ruin the experience. I fully expect the entire series to be a complete package and can't wait until the next novel.  


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