Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: Flawed

Last week I read Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. This is Ahern's YA debut. She is an extremely successful adult contemporary novelist, and with the premise of this book I had really high hopes for liking this story. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I had a lot of feelings about this book while reading it. I had to stop reading every few pages to jot down my thoughts! I knew I had to review this book when I was about 10 chapters in, which can sometimes be a good thing, but in this situation was not. So, without further adieu, here's what I thought about Flawed.

***THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! Proceed at your own risk.***

Flawed is a young adult dystopian novel that is actually the start of a duology. It takes place in a world where there is an organization (referred to as "the Guild") that monitors the behavior of the people and if they act in any sort of "immoral" way, they are brought to a trial and usually found to be "Flawed". Once someone is found to be Flawed, they are branded and now have to live life by a different set of rules. The Flawed are seen as second-class citizens and are basically the scum of the earth. Our main character, Celestine North, is seen as the "perfect" young woman. She gets amazing grades, is a mathematician, and is even dating the leader of the Guild's son. We follow the story from her perspective.

****SPOILERS AHEAD!!! It's pretty impossible for me to give you my full thoughts without spoiling major plot points, so if you do not want to be spoiled, stop reading here!***

What kicks off the plot is that our "perfect" main character sees her next door neighbor and piano teacher get carted off for doing something (I don't think it was ever specified) that causes her to become Flawed. Celestine can't get over the fact that her neighbor would ever do something that she would be branded as Flawed for, and is ~so shocked~ that she can't get over it even the next day. (Am I conveying my eye roll through my typing? I hope so.) The next day she is on the bus going to school, when a old Flawed man gets on the bus, begins having a coughing fit so severe that his face is turning purple, but no one helps him because helping a Flawed person is seen as a Flawed act, and you will be branded as Flawed for doing so.

Celestine, who is "perfect" and sees the world as black and white (this is one of the first lines in the book and comes up a few different times throughout the story) and thinks Flawed people are essentially "bad", all of the sudden has a burst of "courage" and helps the Flawed man to a seat on the bus with everyone staring. This, of course, means she goes to court, is found Flawed, and if forced to get 5 Flawed brands (which later becomes 6) - the first person in history to get 5 brands! - on her body. And then she lives her life as a Flawed, there's some sort of revolution brewing, she somehow ends up the poster child for it, etc. etc. etc. If you've read any YA dystopian, you can probably guess where the story goes from there.


Celestine is SO NAIVE. You'd think, that after living in this society her whole life, that she'd be used to the way that the Flawed are treated. She might not agree with it, but she should probably be fairly familiar with the fact that society treats the Flawed like garbage. And yet, at every interaction with a Flawed she witness or experiences herself as a Flawed, she seems so shocked and it was SO FRUSTRATING! Like, girl, this has been happening around you for your whole life. People have been talking about the Flawed around you like they're sub-human your whole life. This should be somewhat normalized and familiar in your world, yet you're acting like you've never seen anything like this happen ever? What? This happens literally through the ENTIRE BOOK and every time it came up, it made me want to throw the book across the room.

Celestine is constantly referring to herself as "average" yet we spend the whole book being taught that she is leaps and bounds above average. She is called "perfect" and "smart" and "promising" and is referred to having a "bright future" on multiple occasions, but she spends the majority of the book saying how average she is and is surprised that people are noticing her. This is completely contradictory and it annoyed me every time.

I really hate the trope of "everything important that has ever happened in the world happens to the main character", and this whole story is that trope. Celestine gets 5 (really 6), the most in history, for being found Flawed. At the end of the book, being named the "leader" of the revolution for the Flawed. I also have a really hard time that our "perfect" Celestine would get her ass out of the bus seat to help the Flawed man. I don't think she would ~all of the sudden~ find this bravery and stand up for what's right when she's lived her whole life believing that Flawed people deserve what they've gotten. There's really no reason for any of that, or at least Ahern does not present a good reason why all of these things happen to HER and not to anyone else. They just happen because she's the main character, which drives me up the wall.

The branding scene was so ridiculous. This was actually the scene where I had to stop the most often to write down my thoughts. Celestine, the girl who is so naive and sees the world in black and white, is all of the sudden so brave that she doesn't react AT ALL while getting BRANDED FIVE TIMES?! She gets anesthetic to numb the parts of her body that are being branded, but you can't tell me that a 16 year old isn't going to be scared to death and freaked TF out about getting BRANDED. I do not buy it one bit. And then the part where the head of the Guild comes into the branding chamber and starts screaming "REPENT" (lolwhut) at her and then gives her a 6th brand because he was so pissed at her for being Flawed? WHAT. That is just so over the top ridiculous. I could not take it seriously at all. This is supposed to be one of the most intense scenes of the novel and I found it absurd and in a lot of ways fairly comical. That's not what a dystopian is supposed to do, Cecelia. #yikes.

There is one particular thing that didn't sit well with me throughout the whole story. Celestine is a biracial woman, and while I love to see biracial representation in my novels (I really don't see it that often!), I really don't think Ahern did her identity any justice and really just used the fact that she was born to an interracial couple as a way to drive the plot and the overall feel of the story. That really did not sit well with me. The "I'm black and white" line (referring to her morals and the way she sees the world) she repeated over and over.... seemed a little icky. Of course, I'm white so I'm not sure if that would be something someone who identifies as biracial would feel is okay or not, but it just seemed a little like she was only using someone's biracial identity to advance the plot or make a bigger statement instead of just letting her be biracial. I really think Ahern fell short here. I would love to know more thoughts and to be educated on this, so let me know what you think in the comments.

One of the biggest things that bothered me throughout the book was that Ahern had an extremely tough time sticking to the rules of the world that she built. In order for a dystopian to be successful, there needs to be world building and the author needs to write their story in a way that adheres to the rules of that world. On multiple occasions, there were plot points that would break already established rules of the world, and there was also SO MANY situations when something would get explained after the fact. You know those situations when an author runs into an obstacle in the storyline and they just take the easy way out but making up a new rule? "Oh this was able to happen because of this one thing we forgot to mention earlier in the story..." This happens so many times throughout the book. I find it extremely lazy and it is not good writing. If you're going to tackle a story that takes place in a world that's different than your own, you need to establish solid rules or you're going to confuse your reader. I really didn't appreciate that, and Ahern, being an established writer, should have known better.

It shouldn't be a surprise, but overall, I gave this book...
1/5 Stars.

I do not recommend picking up this book and I wouldn't really trust the reviews that you see on Goodreads (it's received - in my opinion - shockingly good reviews over there). I don't doubt that Cecelia Ahern can improve on her writing skills within the Young Adult age group, but this wasn't a super great debut.

Have you read Flawed? What did you think of it?
Let me know in the comments!

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