I LOVE the Young Adult genre. Yes, it’s been a guilty secret of mine for a while now. I enjoy and read them voraciously. Books are wayward things, and the good ones, the ones whose story comes alive the minute you open the cover, doesn’t discriminate between genres.
Besides, young adult writing today can contain everything. Nothing is off-topic and the best of it can thrill readers who are willing to put themselves in the hands of expert storytellers and great writers. Bestselling author Cecelia Ahern is one such great writer. She has come up with a dystopian series which kept me on the edge of my seat and demanded that the pages continue to be turned until the very end. The highly readable Flawed comes as no surprise. After all, Ahern’s an established author with two of her novels adapted into films — who hasn’t watched P.S. I Love You with a couple of tissues on hand?
Still, her first-time foray into the Young Adults genre had me intially wondering how she would cope with a different audience and with a pretty ambitious concept at that. Flawed is set in a dystopian future where perfection is valued over humanity — something Ahern hasn’t written about in the past.
Protagonist Celestine lives in a world where making a moral or ethical mistake would be your ultimate downfall. The world before Celestine was born fell into a great economic recession where banks folded, governments collapsed, unemployment and emigration soared. People were blindsided and the leaders were blamed. It marked the beginning of a system that branded anyone who made the smallest error as flawed.
Those who lie, cheat or steal must wear an armband emblazoned with the letter F in red and their skin is branded with the same letter. Celestine, who is governed by logic, encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive humane decision. She inadvertently breaks a rule and faces life-changing repercussions that see her going on trial and ultimately, being branded as “Flawed”.
In an interview with Irish Examiner, Ahern describes herself writing this book “...in a fit of rage, anger and a lot of passion”. She says: “It’s very much inspired by the fact that we live in a very judgmental society, one that is quick to point the finger at people that make mistakes or decisions that are deemed to be mistakes.”
It’s gripping, real and in today’s world where perfection is celebrated and anything less is ridiculed, Ahern’s Flawed strikes a chord. The emphasis on Celestine’s emotional journey, dealing with the horrible consequence of being publicly shunned, makes it a powerful read.
What’s Hot: This is one of those rare books that get you thinking while being entertaining at the same time. And it’s one of those rare times when I read a book in one sitting, and channelled an ornery zombie the following day. (Okay — maybe looking like a cast of The Walking Dead may not be a rare occurrence after all)
What’s Not: Books that teenagers enjoy do often inevitably have certain congruences of perspective or themes. It’s not a new concept in the Young Adult genre but Ahern writes so well, so who cares? And of course, the love bit. Yawn. Enough said.
I’M just glad I got the entire new YA series by Cecelia Ahern before I even attempted to start. Okay, entire series sounds like a misrepresentation — there are just two books. I’m glad there’s just two.
The story is not drawn and stretched into a series of many books and it gets concluded in Book 2 — just the way I like it. Have more than one book if you must, but please don’t prolong my agony of trying to chase after the flipping conclusion five books later!
So Perfect follows protagonist Celestine’s journey after being branded as “Flawed” for her single humanitarian deed that shattered her world as she saw it, in the past. After she was deemed imperfect, she finds her freedom stripped away, one by one.
Unwittingly, Celestine becomes a pawn in a political struggle within the Guild and outside. And soon, she finds herself declared as the No.1 threat to the public by Judge Crevan, head judge of the Guild.
The Guild, originally set up as a temporary solution by the Government as a public inquiry into wrongdoing, had evolved to be a permanent fixture that oversees the inquisition of individuals accused of being Flawed.
Celestine becomes a fugitive and allies herself with a group of people who believes that the current system must be dismantled. She also has a secret — one that could bring the Flawed system crumbling to the ground.
As Judge Crevan and his cohorts are closing in on her, it’s a race against time for Celestine to rally a society that’s been divided by politics and intolerance. She must make a choice — to save herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.
In a world where society is getting increasingly judgemental and moralistic, it’s easy to relate to a story where people are suffering under the weight of idealism. The pace is quick, and you end feeling a little breathless towards the climax of the book. No spoilers here, but my only grouse is in its conclusion — it’s a little too sappy and “kumbaya” for me to swallow.
What’s Hot: Perfect has all the heartstopping, racy moments that makes you want to turn the page quickly. It makes for a brilliant sequel to the first book. From sympathising with her in the first book, you get to cheer her courage and bravado in this sequel. You go girl! Women’s Lib ain’t got nothing on you!
What’s Not: Why do all Young Adults story have to have a love triangle? Why? Girl loves boy, girl disagrees with boy. Girl finds another boy. Girl loves boy. Girl can’t choose. And so forth. Good story yes, but boo to tired romance plot. Yawn. Again.