Cecelia Ahern

HarperCollins Children's Books

ISBN 9780008125103

FLAWED is set in a powerfully-realised society where perfection is valued above humanity, with an intense love story at its centre. Good-girl Celestine has always agreed with the system but following an act of kindness towards one of the Flawed is herself excluded and soon she is fighting for her own survival and for love. Hugely accessible, emotionally resonant and with a character who will seize the hearts of anyone who meets her, this is the ideal book for anyone who has ever felt the pressure to be perfect.

Librarian's Book choice

I have always enjoyed Cecelia Ahern's novels and was intrigued about what her first teenage/young adult novel would be like. It turns out that it is a brilliant, absorbing, thought-provoking read, which I foresee becoming one of the next big teenage series.

There may be many other dystopian series are out there already but this one, I think, is a very welcome addition to the collection. It is very well written as you would expect from such a bestselling author and for me, it is much more intriguing and evocative for not being set far off into the future or after an apocalypse or involving vampires and the like (however, I have been known to enjoy all of those things as well).

Set in a world very recognisable to ours today, Celestine and her family live in a country which has two sets of rules to abide by, firstly, the ordinary criminal laws and secondly, the directives issued by The Guild. After having suffered a major economic crisis caused by those in power who, it is felt, got away with their poor decisions and the devastating consequences, The Guild was developed to weed out such Flawed individuals from powerful roles. However, over time its reach has extended into all areas of society, all demographics; nobody is untouchable.

The head of The Guild, Judge Bosco Crevan, boasts that they will soon have a 'morally, ethically flawless society'. But is this at all possible and how far is too far in the desire to get to this ideal? Crevan, for many, is a scary figure, someone to 'fear and revere', but to Celestine, he is a friend, the father of her perfect boyfriend, somebody who she respects and admires.

Celestine is logical, sees things in black and white, trusts the system, and never questions it. The Guild and Crevan are always right and those that they have deemed Flawed deserve all that the non-Flawed society can throw at them. This includes everything from wearing an identifying armband, having a curfew, allocated seating on public transport, limited prospects and following a strict basic diet right up to be branded, their skin seared with an F in one of five different places on their body depending on what misdemeanour they have perpetrated.

One day an event occurs which shocks Celestine to her core and her certainty in the system is shaken. She is soon knocked even further when she witnesses something, which to her, just does not make sense. Her logic and tenacity lead her to becoming involved and as events escalate she finds herself on the wrong side of The Guild. It is from here that she begins to question everything and sees society, The Guild, and the Judge, her once upon a time idol, as they really are.

Celestine is a perfect citizen of The Guild, she is naive, selfish, inward-looking, and is quite blind to other people's feelings and lives. Because of this, she is the perfect heroine of the novel. We follow her growing self-doubts and essentially her becoming a rounder, kinder, stronger person. She captivates the reader and we feel for her as her naivety leads her into several dangerous situations. She is bewildered by why so many different groups, including various underground anti-Guild movements, want her as their figurehead. As she becomes more aware and questions her society more she begins to realise that she holds all the power and it is up to her how she uses it.

There is so much to talk about in this novel; it is engaging and thought-provoking. It has intense moments, I so wanted somebody to barge into the room and rescue her in one particular scene. It has many parallels with our world (both historically and contemporary), including media manipulation and political deception as well as how the Other in society is treated.

It is possible to make parallels with so many other works, not just teenage dystopian series but novels such as The Scarlet Letter. I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

416 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Natalie Plimmer