November 02, 2016

Cybils Speculative Reader: FLAWED by CECILIA AHERN

Welcome to the 2016 Cybils Speculative Reader!

As a first run reader for the Cybils, I'll be briefly introducing you to the books on the list, giving you a mostly unbiased look at some of the plot.


One of the strengths of speculative fiction is allowing a reader to look at a subject without the trappings of modern society. This is what makes dystopian novels such a useful blank slate on which to dissect an idea. Many readers felt last year's ALL AMERICAN BOYS was a good starting point for discussing police violence in society; I maintain that this novel will work better for those who feel that issues are too political in current events. This novel takes place... elsewhere, which maybe makes it easier to see how the labeling of imperfection in the flawed hands of a abusive State can hurt, especially in terms of a young person of color's (the family is biracial) imperfect performance of adulthood.

Readers should be advised that there are descriptions of violence in this book.

       “HARP!” I shout at the police officer, feeling the anger fully within me now. I learned this at school. I learned all this. Why doesn't he know these basic principles that I was taught, that he was surely taught too? Why doesn't anybody in the real world do what we're taught? H is for honesty,” I say, hearing the tremble in my voice, not from fear but from anger. ... A is for accountability. Accepting individual responsibility and ensuring public accountability... R is for respect. Having respect for people, their human rights and their needs.”
       The police officer lifts the baton from his hip belt.
       “Whoa, now,” the man to my right says. “What are you going to do with that?”        “You keep quiet,” he says, sweat on his upper lip now.
       “She's just a child,” a woman calls out. “For the love of God, would you all leave her alone.”
       Her desperate cry introduces a whole new wave of emotion.
       “And you” - he looks at me menacingly - “need to keep your mouth shut. Understand?”
       I take a deep breath. I'm not finished. It would be logical to at least finish what I was saying before the inevitable happens... Professionalism,” I say finally, gently, just to the police officer. “Providing a professional policing service to all communities.”

from FLAWED, p. 309-10

Synopsis: Celestine's mother is a model, so she knows how to walk the walk, to stand tall and straight and let the world look. If you're flawless, you shouldn't gloat, but you definitely should own it. Sure, Mom gets a little help with her flawless look, but that's okay - nobody's perfect. Celestine isn't perfect, either, but she's specific. Exact. Her skill in mathematics and her linguistic prowess are something her boyfriend, Art, laughs at her about a great deal, but she doesn't mind. She likes definitions, things that have boundaries, rules that clearly edge the path she must walk. Because she lives in the Guild, where the highest ideal is to be Flawless, Celestine is in good company. It's a horrific thing to be Flawed; to wear on your skin the brand which tells the world how you fell from grace. Whether it's on your temple, your hand, your foot, chest, or your tongue, the world will still know by the red band you're legally obliged to wear on your sleeve. Nobody wants to be Flawed, so nobody pushes the envelope.

Well, Celestine's sister, Juniper, does. Though they appear to be almost twins, Juniper is grumpy, sarcastic, and always seems pissed and on edge. She's linguistically vague, too, which bugs Celestine a great deal, but at least she's consistently inconsistent. She always pushes authority. Celestine never does. She's always late, always a disaster, always trying to stand out from the family - Celestine's total opposite... until one day, Celestine acts from the heart -- not from the predigested set of rules the Guild lives by. Juniper is frozen in fear, Art tries to hold her back, but it's all too late. And when they come for Celestine, she is shocked.

But, are they right? Is she Flawed to the bone? Or, are the Flawed - the imperfect ones, marked and ignored in society - not the ones violating the laws of human decency? Not the ones who are wrong?

Observations: Celestine is flawed.

She's human.

She's a human teen.

She makes mistakes - big ones. Dumb ones. She clearly doesn't believe people's true colors once they've shown them. She's naive. She was sheltered. She is swollen like a tick on her privilege, and it makes her blind to the pitfalls of the society in which she lives. When that life ends for her, when she is treated as others who have fewer privileges, it is a short, sharp, shock. She reels. She hates herself. She rejects the truth she knows. And then, she decides to own it.

Readers who has been quiet and good, hopeful that their "respectability' would save them from whatever, if they just kept your head down and were nice, will find that this book resonates strongly. Readers who have been pressured and have "gone along to get along," and found themselves doing so with a stomach ache will also find this book to resonate. Taking our choices in our hands and saying "NO" to what we perceive as injustice and wrong in this society, whatever the cost, has never been as serious an issue as it is now, and this book just blew me away with how seriously it presented these issues.

When you decide to own your power, that's when you make a difference in the world.

Conclusion: Though the novel doesn't quite end with a cliffhanger, Celestine begins her journey in her new understanding at its conclusion. Readers who've only read Ahern's adult work aren't sure what to make of this book, but I think many young adults will find this worth their while, and if you're looking for a valuable tool to open discussion on society, our place in it, and how we change it... have I got a book for you!

I received my copy of this book courtesy of my public library, but this is a BUY book for me. You can find FLAWED by Cecelia Ahern at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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