Cecelia Ahern makes her YA debut with Flawed. I am a big fan of Ahern as she wrote one of my favourite books of all time 'P.S I Love You.' I have been looking forward to reading this, although it did fall a little short.
Celestine, the main character, is a model citizen in a community rich in rules, whereby those that break the rules are forever branded as Flawed to prevent them breaking anymore rules or establishing worth within the community - for example, no Flawed person could have a job in politics which might impact upon the way of the world. Their mindset behind this system is simple - brand the 'bad' people with ugly tattoos and a bland lifestyle to go with it so that other people follow the rules. I liked this idea, especially the part in which people receive their Flawed tattoo in different places depending on their crime; very original and clever.
Celestine never breaks any rules though. She even dates a high profile Judge's son! Until she inevitably does break a rule. I liked how this book shows how people going up against 'the man' are badly treated and I think Ahern handles this really well. Flawed people are essentially bullied, not only by the rules effectively in place to prevent bad behaviour which restrict their luxuries, but also by the "normal" people. I think how the author has shown rules turning the "good" people until bad people because of their hatred for the Flawed was a really interesting concept and I loved Aherns take on it.
What I didn't like so much was the character building in some parts. I'll start with the bits that I did like - the portrayal of the systematic bullying of a young girl from her peers was sad, totally emotive and incredibly well handled - Ahern writes so beautifully. Bullying is a challenging topic to get just right, and I think Ahern did this well. The public shaming of an apparently flawed person who yesterday was perfect was incredibly sad and the paradox wasn't lost within the dialogue. I really really felt for Celestine.
But, Ahern didn't make me like Celestine at all. Or any of the characters actually. I desperately wanted Celestine to fight back against the bullies - and I didn't even realise how heavily this book would be about bullying. Most of the time she hangs her head in shame and takes the verbal, sometimes physical, bashing whilst her family look on reluctantly. I'm not saying she never fights her corner, she absolutely does, but I prefer a more feisty character who becomes someone new and strong after facing difficult times - or at least has secondary characters to kick some butt for her! That being said, Ahern did show how other characters who had become Flawed reacted and I liked how she handled their mental health issues following this.
Equally I struggled with the pacing of this book. Initially the world building is fast and the rules are quickly established, but it's so obvious what's going to happen for the entirety of this book which made the reading of it sluggish and tiresome. This book seriously needed some suspense or mysterious twists injected into it; it was a real struggle to finish - especially because the ending was so very predictable. I also felt that the ending was very obviously left open and most issues have been unanswered therefore allowing this to possibly become a series. I did feel let down by the way the end seemed to stop mid-scene.
Overall, this book falls flat in a heavily saturated market. I was so excited to read this, and some aspects really delivered, but this book isn't what it says on the tin and is largely a sluggish plot with flat characters and a predictable story. The heavy focus on the moral dilemmas of "normal" versus "flawed" and the ill treatment of those that don't fit the norms of society are well handled, but there is nothing new here that those of us who love YA haven't seen already.