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Friday, November 4, 2016

Book Review: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed (Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern
Genre: Young Adult (Dystopian)
Date Published: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

You will be punished…

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found flawed.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Flawed is the first book in the Flawed series by Cecelia Ahern. This is one of those books that really shows the nature of people. They can be evil creatures, and though this particular situation between flawed and perfect may not ever happen, the behavior of the people involved is something very believable. We see it today in how people treat each other, making it very relevant to our society. This book puts it on a larger scale and involves the government in support of such behaviors.. which isn't really a far stretch these days either. It's a sad scary world that Celestine lives in. She is one strong girl, and she doesn't even know it. There were so many moments that made me uncomfortable to read. I'd literally cringe at how she was treated, even by those in power. It was painful. I love that this author was able to bring out so many emotions in me as the reader. Not all the people were bad of course, there were those who could think for themselves and want to fight the system or at least admit to disagreeing with it. There is a rebellion or war brewing, and Celestine has found herself right in the middle of it. This was a very hard book for me to put down, and I'm anxious for the next book to be released. I don't think I'll be able to wait until April!

At the next stop, an old man gets on the bus, and I almost call out to him. He looks so much like my granddad that I’m convinced it’s him, which doesn’t make sense because my granddad lives on a farm in the country, but then I see the large F symbol on his armband and I shudder, annoyed with myself for ever thinking someone like him could possibly be related to me.

My prejudice strikes me. I had been repulsed by the reaction of the woman with the crutches to the Flawed woman smiling at her, but I hold equal views of my own without ever realizing it.

The man is in his seventies or eighties. I’m not sure. He’s old, and he is dressed in a smart suit and polished shoes, as if he’s on his way to work. From this angle, I can’t see any signs of branding, though it could mean it is on his chest, tongue, or foot. He looks respectable, and again I study him, surprised by his appearance. I always thought of the Flawed as less than us, and I can’t believe I have admitted that to myself. He is unable to sit, because the two Flawed seats are taken- by two women who are not Flawed but are so busy chatting that they don’t notice him. He stands near them, holding on to the pole to stay upright.

I hope they notice soon. He doesn’t look like he will go very far standing.

A few dozen minutes pass. He is still standing. I look around. There are at least a dozen free seats where he could sit, but he is not allowed to. I’m a logical person, and this does not prove logical to me.

I look across at Juniper, who has taken off her headphones and is sitting up, poker straight, alert, and looking at the same situation that I am. Juniper has always been more emotional than I am, and I can see her on the edge of her seat, ready to pounce, instead of fearing that she will do something stupid. For once I am glad she and I feel the same.

The old man starts coughing. And then he won’t stop.

His breath is wheezy, barely still for a moment before he coughs again. He takes out a handkerchief and coughs into that, trying to block the germs and noise. His face goes from white to pink to purple, and I see Juniper move closer to the edge of her seat. She looks at the two women chatting, then back at the old man. Finally, he stops coughing.

Moments later he starts again, and all heads turn away from him and look out the window. The fat lady stops talking to look at him, and I’m relieved, knowing she will finally let him sit in the seat he is entitled to. Instead, she tuts as if he’s bothering her and continues her conversation.

Now I straighten up in my seat.

The cough is bothering her. It is bothering everyone on the bus. His loud gasps for breath can’t be ignored, and yet they are. Rules state that if anyone aids a Flawed, they will be imprisoned, but not in this case, surely? Are we to watch him struggling right before us?

The coughing stops.

My heart is pounding.

I let go of Art’s hand. It feels clammy.

“What’s up?”

“Can’t you hear that?”


“The coughing.”

He looks around. “There’s no one coughing.”

The coughing starts again, and Art doesn’t bat an eyelash when he looks at me intimately and says, “You know I can’t wait to be somewhere alone. Why don’t we miss the first class?”

I can barely hear him over the coughing, over my pounding heart. Does nobody hear the old man? Does nobody see him? I look around, flustered. All eyes are staring out the window or on him in disgust, as if he’s about to infect us all with his flaws.

Juniper’s eyes are filled with tears. My own flesh and blood agreeing with me is validation enough. I make a move to sand up and Art’s hand suddenly clamps around my arm.

“Don’t,” he says firmly.

“Ow!” I try to move, but instead his grip feels like a burn. “You’re hurting me.”

“And do you think when they sear your skin it won’t hurt more than this?” He squeezes tighter.

“Art, stop! Ouch!” I feel my skin burning.

He stops.

“How is this fair?” I hiss.

“He has done something wrong, Celestine.”

“Like what? Something that’s completely legal in another country but that people are prosecuted for here anyway?”

He looks as if I stung him.

“Don’t do anything stupid, Celestine,” he says, sensing he has lost the argument. “And don’t help him,” he adds quickly.

“I have no intention of helping him.”

How I walk by this coughing, wheezing, struggling-to-breathe old man is beyond me, but I do, seeing the faint F scar on his temple as though it has been there a very long time, like it’s as much a part of him as the freckles and hair alongside it. I walk straight to the two women in the Flawed seats. They are chatting about making jam as if nothing is wrong.

“Excuse me,” I say sweetly, offering them the most polite smile I can muster. They respond immediately with their own bright smiles. Two polite, friendly women from the suburbs, willing to help me with anything.  Almost anything.

“Yes, dear.”

“I was wondering if you could help me.”

“Of course, dear.”

“Could one of you sit in any of the available seats here? Or I could offer you two seats together where my boyfriend and I are sitting so that you can continue your conversation?”

As I look up at Art, all I can see is terror on his face. Funny, I no longer feel it. I like solutions. The problem was disturbing me, and fixing it just made sense. I’m not doing anything wrong; I’m not breaking any laws or rules. I’ve always been complimented on my timing, my perfection. I come from a good home. I have a pleasant manner. The anklet of geometric harmony proves it.

“May I ask why?” the woman with the broken leg asks.

“Well, this man here”- I point to the old man- “is clearly Flawed, and you are in the Flawed seats. He can’t sit down anywhere else. And he is struggling.”

I notice a few faces turn to stare at me when I say that. I expect them to understand when I say that. I expect there to be no further conversation. I even expect the few who have overheard to step in and agree, make sense of the situation. But they don’t. They look confused, some even scared. One man looks amused. This is illogical. This is Juniper’s territory, not mine. I look at her. She has the same face of terror as Art does. She is not moving. If I ever thought she was going to back me up, I know now that she won’t.

“But we’re talking,” the other woman says.

“And he’s choking,” I say with the same smile on my face, which I know looks a little psychotic, because we are no longer being polite.

“Are you trying to help him?” the woman with the crutches asks.

“N-n-no,” I stutter. “I’m not. I’m trying to help the situation…” I flash her a brilliant smile but she recoils from me.

“I want nothing to do with this,” she says loudly, attracting more attention.

“With what?” I laugh nervously. “Your leg is fine. Perhaps if you just move to another chair and your friend stays here….”

“I’m staying right where I am,” she hollers.

Now we have the attention of the entire bus.

The old man, who is beside me, can barely stand. He is bent over coughing. He turns to me, face purple, and tries to talk, but he can’t catch his breath.

I don’t know what he’s trying to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what medical help to give him. Even if I knew what medical help to provide, I wouldn’t be able to give it to him. Think, think, Celestine. I can’t help, but a doctor can.

“Is there a doctor here?” I call down the bus, and I see Art put his face in his hands.

There’s an audible gasp on the bus.

I look around at everyone, the judgmental faces of surprise. I feel dizzy and confused. This man is going to collapse, maybe die. My eyes start to fill.

“Are we just going to watch this?” I scream.

“Stop it, dear,” a woman says to me in a hushed voice. She is clearly upset about it, too. It’s not just me, but she’s warning me. I’m going too far.

This is completely illogical. Have we no compassion for this human being, Flawed or not, that we won’t help?

Heads look away. Eyes are averted.

“Okay, okay,” I say to the old man, who by now is panicking severely. He continues to cough and I can see the F on his tongue, which makes me recoil slightly. I can’t even imagine the pain of receiving it. “It’s okay.”

He punches his chest, starts to fall to his knees.

I pull him up under the arms, and I bring him to the nearest open seat.

“Stop the bus!” I yell.

The bus stops, and I assure the old man everything will be fine.

I look over at Juniper and see that she is crying.

“It’s okay,” I tell her and Art. “It’s going to be fine.” My heart is still pounding. “This has all been so very ridiculous.” My voice is high-pitched and shrill; it doesn’t sound like mine. And then I hear the siren, loud, close, intense, and threatening.

Everyone stays still in their seats, waiting, my heart beating loudly over the silence. Two Whistleblowers climb aboard blowing silver whistles so loudly most people block their ears. They make their way toward me and the old man.

“See? I told you it will be fine,” I tell the man over the noise. “They’re here. Help is here.”

He nods faintly, his eyes closed. I expect them to go to the old man, who has passed out on the seat, exhausted and taking short breaths, a fine layer of sweat covering his skin. But they don’t go to him. They come for me.

And then they take me away.

Check out my review on the next book in this series!

Cecelia Ahern was born and grew up in Dublin. She is now published in nearly fifty countries, and has sold over twenty-five million copies of her novels worldwide. Two of her books have been adapted as films and she has created several TV series.

To learn more about Cecelia Ahern and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

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