Saturday, April 16, 2016

Book review: Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

Torture, branding and extreme bullying set in a society that places its value on perfection, is the focus of Cecelia Ahern’s (bestselling author of P.S. I Love You) new book.

Disclaimer: Review originally appeared on Women24.

A copy of the book can be purchased via Raru.co.za.

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (published in 2016 by HarperCollins UK)

Trigger warning: Torture

Imagine living in a world where everything you do is under scrutiny and one bad decision, lie, action or choice could result in you being branded as an outcast. And imagine if this society places the ultimate standard of living in the upholding of morals, ethics and general conduct of its citizens.

This is the world that our protagonist, Celestine, a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, inhabits.

Here, you’re either model-perfect or you’re flawed, and the price and punishment for being the latter is living a life enforced with rules and regulations.  It’s one where public shaming is a blood-sport and one that means living on the fringes of society if you’re ever found guilty of so much as a lie.

Mostly, it’s a life where you wear imperfections as physical brands on your body.

Celestine prides herself on following The Guild’s rules and regulations. In fact, she’s the poster girl for those brainwashed into believing a system that judges others for being imperfect (how the irony escapes all of these people is rather questionable, but the fact that Cecelia Ahern somehow makes this work is a testament to just how good her writing is).

It’s rather hard not to be when you’re dating the guy whose father who heads up The Guild – the system established as judge, jury and executioner of those deemed to be Flawed.

And yet, when Celestine finds herself on the wrong side of the law, for an act borne out of compassion, everything she knows about the structure she believes comes crumbling down.

Because not only will she make history as the person to receive the most brands for being flawed, she’ll also become the one outcast who sparks a new movement and uprising.

When I finished this novel, the first question I asked myself was this: Was Cecelia Ahern kicking puppies when she wrote this book?

Because a) this book is dark – brilliant, brutal, but dark and b) I’m not even sure if it’s her writing the book because this is the author of those lovable rom-coms that we’re talking about here.

Yes, you heard me.

The bestselling author of P.S. I Love You has written a dystopian fiction – one that, much to my surprise, I managed to read in one sitting.

This book pulls no punches when it comes to social commentary. Cecilia manages to make sly digs at our obsession with celeb and pop culture, highlighting the ridiculous pedestals we place them on, and the need to chase perfection because of that obsession.

In Cecilia she’s created a character that completely buys into a gimmick of a system that’s so patently absurd, it’s at once frustrating and revolting. She’s hard to like, but eventually, does gain the reader’s sympathy as the book progresses.

When the blinkers come off for Celestine, she has to learn to live with both her physical imperfections and “flaws” (gosh guys, the branding scene in this book is definitely not for the faint-hearted) as well as her prejudiced views against the people who’ve been branded for their “infractions.”

This book is not an easy read, but it’s one that makes you question the emphasis that society places on what it means to be perfect.  It’s a clear parallel in the sense that so many of us are fooled into believing that we have to look a certain way or adapt a lifestyle in order to be accepted, and one that teaches us to not take everything or everyone we see or know, at face value.

Read it. It’s definitely worth it.

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