It sometimes seems as if every other new book I see is either YA, dystopian, or both. Which is great for me because I really, really enjoy a good dystopia (apocalypse optional) and I am not yet old enough to have forgotten what is was like to be a young adult myself. The YA dystopian format does tend to result in an element of romance creeping in but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all no matter what has gone on to create the dystopia if what is left is human beings they are liable to have emotional connections with each other – it is the real humanity of characters thrown into situations far beyond our own which helps us to begin to understand how they cope.
Cecelia Ahern is an Irish author who has previously tended to write romantic and contemporary women’s fiction. So, at first, I wondered where the urge to write Flawed, a YA dystopia, came from: was this just a bandwagon to be jumped on or a genuine attempt at the genre? However, thinking of the more magical elements of some of her novels (If You Could See Me Now or The Gift perhaps) and the fact that Ahern was one of the contributors to a recent collection of Doctor Who stories I was reminded that she is no stranger to what could be described as ‘fairly speculative’ fiction.
I’ve glanced at quite a few reviews of Flawed on Goodreads and they are, to say the least, mixed. Personally I enjoyed the book – the basic premise that in the near future a society would turn on those who showed the kind of errors of judgement which can damage that society’s fabric seems plausible. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who think that branding is the least that should be happening to some bankers and politicians. But of course, because even those who judge who is flawed are fallible beings, this leads to a dystopia rather than a utopia. The heroine, Celestine, finds out first hand what happens to those who are judged to be less than perfect but also seems to get a crash course in politics.
There are some parts of the book which are, themselves, imperfect. Celestine is very young, not quite 18, and she seems to focus rather too much on physical perfection, beauty and correctness. She can seem very shallow even as she becomes aware of the real injustices which exist in her society. I think, possibly, this is something which will improve in further books in the series. Cecelia Ahern is still a young author compared to most of the big names in YA dystopia (who are largely in their 50s and 60s). Once experience (and maybe a bigger dose of political cynicism?) kicks in a bit more this series could develop in interesting ways.