Author: Cecilia Ahern
In the wake of a disastrous depression, it’s no longer enough to just obey the law. In an attempt to keep people making poor decisions, however legal, that could lead to another downward spiral, moral failings are now punishable by society. A committee known as the Guild is charged with passing such verdicts, which nearly always result in the accused being branded as Flawed.
Celestine North has never worried about being deemed Flawed. She’s gorgeous, excels academically, and her father is a high-level executive at one of the government-run television companies. Oh, and she’s dating Art Crevan, son of Judge Crevan, who heads up the Guild itself. The Flawed are from a world apart, kept at arm’s length from her perfect life.
Unfortunately, perfection is a hard thing to maintain, and Celestine is confronted with a choice. She can help a wheezing elderly man on the verge of collapse, or she can let him suffer in silence – because the man is Flawed, and aiding a flawed is illegal. Suddenly, Celestine’s clear-cut view of the world is muddled with an ugly shade of gray.
I won’t reveal anything more about the plot for the sake of keeping things spoiler-free, but suffice it to say that Celestine finds it impossible to return to life as it was. There’s no going back from her series of pivotal choices, and the fallout is an ugly process that reveals a dark side of the Guild she didn’t know existed.
This book left me with a strange dichotomy of opinions: despite not particularly caring for any of the characters, I blazed through this book unexpectedly quickly. There are two very intense scenes that do a great job of driving the whole book, because to be perfectly honest, the rest is alarmingly very like Revenge of the Sith – lots of sitting and talking and standing and talking and talking talking talking.
Though Celestine’s familial relationships are dynamic, growing and changing through the upheaval, I didn’t feel connected to anyone in a meaningful way. Everyone is so concerned with not being branded as Flawed that they come across as one-dimension drabfests, barely giving us glimpses of the truth behind the mask. The romance between Celestine and Art is “meh” at best. Why are they supposedly so good together? Crap if I know. They’re basically Fiyero and Glinda from the musical Wicked, being “perfect together.” It doesn’t take a truckload of brains to figure out how unsustainable that is.
I think the one good thing going for this book is its world. The setup isn’t radically new, but it’s different enough to be intriguing. The notion that the legal judicial/prison system is separate from the morally focused Guild was a take I hadn’t seen. This book introduces a simmering checks-and-balances struggle between these forces, and I hope it blows up spectacularly in Perfect, which comes out April 4, 2017.
Also, the Flawed are kept as a fully visible part of society, which I found to be unique. They live in an intensely monitored system, with special dietary, transportation and curfew regulations for Flawed, but the rationale is that seeing them will serve as a deterrent. They’re technically not criminals, though the treatment they get begs otherwise. This is a marked departure from other similarly-regulated worlds in literature that largely seek to make offenders disappear entirely:
- The Giver: three major offenses and you’re “released”
- Divergent: Factionless live in the shadows
- Hunger Games: dissenters are shot by Enforcers
- There are definitely more, I’m just currently drawing a blank.
One aspect of Flawed that came across as cookie-cutter was the government-controlled media. It played out a tad too ridiculous for my taste and felt very similar to the royal media seen in the Selection series.* I.E. there is only one major television channel (for the whole country? Really??) and one main news anchor who is just such a peach that everyone hangs on their every word. Gag. And of course, there’s the unscrupulous, dastardly underground media outlets that would love to harness Celestine’s story to blow the top off the Guild. How dare they. That’s another thing I’d like to see more of in the sequel rather than watch Celestine and EVERYONE ELSE try to delicately tiptoe around her precarious situation. More stomping, please.
All in all, Flawed is what I’d call a B+ book. I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it, especially after I blitzed through it. It’s hard to put down because of the razor-thin wire Celestine has to walk and the two aforementioned intense scenes, but it’s not something that will inspire you to write 1000-page fanfic or stay up mooning over character ships. Are those enough mixed signals? I think so. Read it if you want to but I won’t shove it in your hands. Peace out.
*For a fully elaborated rant on the portrayal of media (and a host of other things) in The Crown (book 5 of the series) see my Sass and the Selection posts.