This book is a masterpiece. Written in a blunt and unembellished manner, “Flawed” by Cecelia Ahern is a book that exposes the underbelly of a society which idolizes and demands perfection from its people.
Celestine North is a 17 year old whose life is based solely upon logic. She gets excellent grades in school, has many friends and is the girlfriend of the son of one of the most respected authority figures in town. She’s someone who thinks through all situations and tries to find a reasonable solution to the problem. Unfortunately, Celestine lives in a society where one morally incorrect decision lands people the title “flawed.” These “flawed” people are members of society who have chosen to indulge in wrong (not necessarily illegal) actions such as poor business management, adultery, etc. They are treated like lepers and can receive the “flawed” branding in the form of an “F” seared on five parts of their body: their temple to signify bad decisions, their tongue to signify lying, their right palm to signify stealing from society, their chest (over their heart) to signify disloyalty to the Guild (a group of judges that oversees these punishments) and the sole of their right foot to signify stepping out of line with society. Celestine has always believed that the people who are branded “flawed” have all done things to deserve their brands. That is until she, herself, is branded “flawed.”
The physical and emotional pain that Celestine has to go through after she stands up for a “flawed” man on the bus and is sentenced to being “flawed” too sets her apart from the rest of society and is almost unbearable to read – almost. Honestly, I devoured the words on each page till I reached the end. I put off working on school projects and socializing with friends because I was intrigued as to which direction the story would take and I wasn’t disappointed. Every new painful experience that Celestine has to go through opens her eyes to the world she lives in. She realizes that she’s been sheltered from the truth her whole life and must now try to figure out what justice truly is.
I think that this story holds a mirror up to the society we live in. The story talks blatantly about how media and society respond to a scandal or fad. In the novel, Celestine is devastated by the fact that for the rest of her life she will have to walk around with burns on her body for standing up for what she believes is logically and morally correct but society is enamored by this fact. Mr. Berry (Celestine’s attorney) tells her that the media and businesses see her as a way of entering a new market. Since Celestine represents change in a system that is – ironically – flawed, people her age will be looking up to her as a role model. The media would want to exploit this by creating a reality show about Celestine. The fashion and beauty industry would want to use Celestine as a way of selling new products to a generation of people they believe are pliable and gullible. Similarly, businesses and media in the real world take advantage of the things that are popular so that they can make a profit. Do you remember Jeremy Meeks? The felon whose mugshot that circulated on social media landed him modeling gigs? Did you know that “Sweet Brown” (the lady who “ain’t got time for that”) starred in Tyler Perry’s “A Madea Christmas”?
While we won’t receive physical brands by a domineering board of judges, we are still judged by society for the kinds of decisions we make. If a man cheats on his wife, we think that he’s the lowest of the low or our views of him change the way we interact with him. People argue over whether or not abortion should be legal or if it is the decision of the woman to choose to do with her body as she pleases. “Flawed” by Cecelia Ahern exposes all the things in our society that we would prefer to ignore.
What I liked the most about Ahern’s writing style is the way she describes her characters. In the beginning of the story, Celestine is amused by the fact that her family is intimidated by Judge Crevan (who she affectionately calls “Bosco”). Judge Crevan is one of the most respected judges of the Guild. Since Celestine is dating Crevan’s son, Art, she has been able to see the side of Judge Crevan that no one else sees; she’s seen him when he’s drunk, she’s seen his face when he wakes up in the morning, she’s watched him be silly and all the other things that make him the person she once thought he was. However, when Celestine doesn’t comply with his demands and ends up on his wrong side, she sees the part of him that causes people to fear him. It’s only then that Celestine realizes that all the things that make Crevan who he is, is what she’s frightened of the most. In his ardent quest for power and money, Crevan stops at nothing to get his way and that greed is what causes his demise. What I think Cecelia Ahern realized is that the best way to create a villain in a story like this is to show that he’s capable of being more than a ruthless overlord. She shows us that creating a villainous character who characters in the novel and readers alike fear doesn’t only involve making all his actions selfish and ghastly. The book is a stark example of the fact that human beings are more than just good or evil.
Another part of the book that I think showed the vast sides of being human is the support Celestine received from her family after she was branded, especially from her mother. The story describes Celestine’s mother as being like a ‘50s housewife (her makeup is always perfect, she’s a great cook and homemaker) who doesn’t like anything to be out of place but after Celestine is marked “flawed,” her mother changes completely. She offers the most emotional support Celestine could get at a time like that. When Celestine’s diary gets read by her sort-of parole officer Mary May, she feels violated to the point where she begins to rip the pages of her diary out. Her mother comes across this scene and joins Celestine in ripping up the pages of the book into tiny pieces. Celestine’s mother (who is a model) also sheds her pristine appearance and dons a mismatched outfit to get the fashion industry to follow her and start dressing like clowns.
Perhaps the part of the book that resonated with me the most is when Ms. Dockery, Celestine’s Maths teacher, choosing to homeschool Celestine due to the uproar about her being at public school, gives Celestine words of advice. She tells Celestine that people are bound to make mistakes. She tells her that mistakes are how we learn more about ourselves and the things that we like and don’t like. Mistakes are how we grow and become better leaders, better versions of ourselves. The fact that the Guild prides itself on being an establishment that isn’t “flawed” and punishes people who are, means that they have and will never learn what it means to be wise leaders.
Overall, “Flawed” by Cecelia Ahern is a book that spoke about so many things that are flawed within our society. It’s a novel that urges readers to see more than what’s laid out before them, to stand up for the things that we believe in and to defend those beliefs. It really is a work of art and I hope that the rumors about it being made into a movie are true.
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (April 5, 2016)
Length: 336 pages
Genre: YA Fiction
Completed: March 2016