Seeing as this blog is supposed to be about reading, writing and reviewing, I thought I had better review an actual book!
The last book I finished that wasn’t in the middle of a series was Flawed by Cecelia Ahern, so I thought I’d start there.
Having read several of Ahern’s adult contemporary books, and really enjoyed most of them, I knew I wanted to check this out as soon as I heard she had written a YA novel.
I loved PS. I Love You and Where Rainbows End (Love, Rosie), and enjoyed The Time of My Life and If You Could See Me Now. Some of Ahern’s books are pretty straight contemporary, and others have fantasy/supernatural elements.
I would describe Flawed as YA dystopian. It’s not quite fantasy, there were no magical or fantastical elements to speak of, but it’s set in a not-too-distant future where a devastating mistake by high-powered officials has caused a separate court system to be set up in addition to the legal/judicial system, whereby non-criminals who commit legal but ill-advised mistakes and errors of judgement are tried and punished accordingly.
Our MC is Celestine North, a self-confessed perfectionist who completely agrees with and abides by the system for punishing the Flawed.
“I am a girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white.”
Coincidentally, her boyfriend’s dad is the head judge. He joins them for Earth day dinner every year. And sits at the head of the table.
As Celestine’s granddad says,
“Never trust a man who sits, uninvited, at the head of the table in another man’s home.”
Her granddad was one of my favourite characters, partly due to this comment at the beginning of the book. It foreshadows the action later perfectly. Everyone else is terrified of Judge Crevan. Not Granddad.
As you are probably already imagining, Celestine soon falls foul of this system and faces the ultimate punishment: being branded (physically branded, with a hot iron) Flawed, and having to live the rest of her life under a different set of rules to the rest of society.
A set curfew, specific seats on public transport, no alcohol, bland food only, and even their own section of the supermarket.
Worst of all, the rest of society is at risk of being punished if they so much as help a Flawed person, even if they’re injured or sick (except doctors), causing a pervading sense of fear that further alienates the Flawed from their peers.
Overall, I enjoyed Flawed and found the premise fascinating.
At times I felt tense and frustrated, because I could imagine it really happening, and the way that most characters treated the Flawed made me angry. It felt like a comment on other, real-world prejudices, such as race and sexual orientation, and that comparison made it all the more difficult to read some of the scenes where the fear, contempt and hatred of the Flawed was exposed.
I liked Celestine as a character, she wasn’t perfect, but that’s what made her feel real and relatable. She starts off convinced that the system is right and just, and gradually she starts to question it, and eventually sees the injustice and corruption at its heart.
“Everyone who goes through the Flawed court is found guilty; otherwise they wouldn’t be taken in the first place.”
It takes for her to be accused herself before she truly questions the fairness of making someone who made an error of judgement live an almost completely separate life to the rest of their family. But, wouldn’t most of us be the same?
At seventeen years old, would I have thought twice about the justice of a system I had been raised with and (up to a point) worked in my favour? Almost definitely not.
That’s the great thing about Flawed, it really makes you question your own principles, and think about how far you would be willing to go to defend them.
I give Flawed 3.5 stars – for a first foray into YA it’s definitely enjoyable and thought-provoking, but there were times when Celestine bothered me, she seemed to be swept along by the action rather than effecting it. I would have liked to have seen some of the other characters fleshed out a little further. For example, Art, her boyfriend, and Juniper, her sister. Both were a bit like cardboard cut outs.
One of my favourite parts was when Celestine became a reader, after always preferring fact to fiction:
“Sometimes I’ll read a sentence and it will make me sit up, jolt me, because it is something that I have recently felt but never said out loud.I want to reach into the page and tell the characters that I understand them, that they’re not alone, that I’m not alone, that it’s OK to feel like this. And then the lunch bell rings, the book closes and I’m plunged back into reality.”
I would liken Flawed to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and 1984 by George Orwell. It’s almost set in Scotland, at least that’s the impression I got from Highland Castle – it was very similar to Edinburgh castle, and the summit Celestine and Art meet on reminded me of Arthur’s Seat.
See you next time!
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Current word count: 66,680
Paperback – The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury
*spoilers for The Sin Eater’s Daughter*
I’m finding this slightly harder to get into than The Sin Eater’s Daughter, but I’ve read that it’s even better than the first so I’m hoping the action ramps up soon. Silas is definitely intriguing, and the infliction that Errin’s mother suffers from is an interesting new factor.
The things I liked about the first book were the relationships between Twylla, Lief and Merrick, and the ruthless cunning of the queen. She was a captivating antagonist.
My favourite thing about the book was that Twylla and the reader are lead to believe that the Gods are real and the magic that allows her to survive the poison in her skin but kill others really exists, and then it is revealed to be a ruse.
My least favourite thing was when the Sleeping Prince turned out to be real and magical elements were reintroduced. Am I alone here?
Audiobook – Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
This is my first of J.K. Rowling’s crime novels, I downloaded it in the Audible sale for 99p and didn’t realise it was the third in a series. Luckily, you don’t need to have read the others in order to enjoy it, it gives you enough back story and context to really get into the story and understand the characters.
Robin and Cormoran, private investigators, receive a woman’s severed leg in the post with a song lyric from the band that Cormoran’s mother was a huge fan of (she is literally described as a “super groupie).
This sends them on a manhunt for the person who has possibly murdered a young girl and chopped her leg off. They cover almost every inch of the country, and Scotland, tracking down three men Cormoran put away when he was a military policeman, and the step-father he always suspected of killing his mother with a drug overdose.
The book is written in multiple POVs, we even get to see into the mind of the killer as he stalks Robin, hoping to make her his next victim in a bid to get back at Cormoran.
Career of Evil is so well written, with multiple layers and subplots running concurrently. I haven’t finished it yet, so I’m still waiting to see how they all converge, but the twists and turns along the way have been excellent.
I expected nothing less than the best from Queen Rowling, and I have not been disappointed so far. I do love a good crime novel!