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Scarlet Letter

Flawed, Cecelia Ahern’s first foray into the YA genre, mixes dystopian themes with classic literary ideas.

Scarlet Letter

BOOK REPORT for Flawed (Flawed #1) by Cecelia Ahern

Cover Story: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
BFF Charm: Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 3
Talky Talk: Surface Level
Trigger Warning: Abuse
Bonus Factors: Mysterious Loner Dude, Damn the Man
Anti-Bonus Factors: Looming Love Triangle, Series Starter
Relationship Status: Call Me, Maybe?

Cover Story: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I’m super pleased to see a POC on the cover of this book, particularly because she looks an awful lot like the main character of the book. However, the book’s title and the giant F over the young woman makes me a bit uncomfortable—I can’t help but be reminded of those super questionable Allegiant posters.

The Deal:

Celestine North has a perfect life: In a world in which anything other than perfection gets people branded—literally, with branding irons—as Flawed, she’s a shining example of what’s good. She excels in school, respects her parents and other elders, and follows all rules to the letter. Her boyfriend is the son of one of the most powerful people in the country, Judge Bosco Crevan, who’s part of the Guild, the governing body that determines if a citizen is Flawed. She calls Bosco by his first name, and trusts him and his judgement implicitly. Celestine has never had a reason to doubt the role she’s been asked to play, or the way the world in which she lives is run.

Until she makes a decision that she believes is the right thing to do, one that society views as the actions of a Flawed.

BFF Charm: Eventually

Celestine’s a sweet girl, and extremely intelligent. But she’s wholly bought into the “rightness” of the world in which she lives, and I feel like someone who follows what they’re told that blindly without ever questioning the status quo has a bit of a character flaw. After her life-changing decision, however, I began to see a woman I’d like to call a friend. It’s just going to take a bit for us to make a real, meaningful connection.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

On paper, Celestine’s boyfriend, Art, is the ideal. He’s funny, sweet and loyal. He both tells and shows Celestine how he feels about her. He stands up for her when people knock her down, and makes her laugh when she’s struggling. Art makes Celestine feel loved and cherished. Unfortunately, Art shows his true colors all too quickly when times get tough, and that Prince Charming exterior becomes nothing but a cheap costume.

Talky Talk: Surface Level

Flawed is a well-written book. It’s not the most original of ideas, but I never found myself wanting to put the book down out of annoyance at the familiarity of the plot or the clunkiness of the language. I enjoyed that the story was a modern/dystopian update on The Scarlet Letter, and I do enjoy a good David v. Goliath tale. But nothing about the story really stood out to me as outstanding. The characters were interesting, but not super engaging. The world-building was good, but not fully realized. The action was slow to build, and even then, never really packed a punch. (Even the moment of Celestine’s judgement, which should have elicited a much more visceral reaction.)

I’ve not read any of Cecelia Ahern’s adult books, but I’ve heard that P.S. I Love You packs an emotional punch. It wouldn’t have made sense to add such heartbreak to Flawed, but much of what happened in the book never dipped far enough below the surface.

Trigger Warning: Abuse

Although I just said that much of the action lacks emotional resonance, in addition to physical branding of Flawed individuals, there a scene in the second half of the book in which Celestine is humiliated at the hands of some of her peers that needs to be called out. I typically try to avoid spoilers in my reviews, but in this case, the situation—one in which Celestine is kidnapped, her hands bound, and stripped down to her underwear to be gawked at—comes out of no where, and likely could be triggering, so I wanted to make sure people were aware.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

While waiting to see what comes of her breaking the rules, Celestine “meets” a mysterious guy who checks all the boxes of a classic MLD: mysterious, broody, angsty, intriguing, someone who you can’t stop thinking about even though you only said a total of ten worlds to each other as your paths crossed. He’s also super hot, natch, and the total opposite of Art.

Bonus Factor: Damn the Man

When Celestine finally realizes how messed up her world is, it was a bit of a fist pump moment, even if it took her WAY too long to reach that conclusion.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Looming Love Triangle

Although only hints of love triangle-ness appear in Flawed, the foreshadowing of what’s to come in future books in this series practically screamed off the page.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Series Starter

Flawed is the first book in the Flawed series, which I’m assuming will be a trilogy (because YA). There’s no shocking cliffhanger at the end of the book, but there’s a lot of plot left to unravel.

Casting Call:

Nathalie Emmanuel as Celestine

Relationship Status: Call Me, Maybe?

I’m interested to see where the rest of the series takes us, Book, in part because I wonder if future books will pack more of a punch, or if the series will continue to be just “good, but nothing remarkable.” I’ll reserve judgement until we meet again.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Feiwel and Friends, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Flawed is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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