Thursday, September 14, 2017


    I'm new to podcasts. But when I listened to the Guardian's book review podcast a few weeks ago, popular Irish author Cecelia Ahern was interviewed about her new teen book, Flawed. I was inspired by what motivated her to write it: the experience of teens on social media who are mocked and bullied and criticized for how they look, what they wear, how they act, or anything else viewed as uncool. Ahern said she was really angry about the situation in which many young people even resort to suicide after being judged unworthy online in front of their peers. She decided to turn her anger into prose.
     Celestine is a together teen with her eyes on the future. She's a math whiz, the daughter of a media mogul and a model, dating the son of a local judge, but not just any judge. He's the leader of the Guild which passed judgement on others who are seen to be "Flawed" for a variety of reasons. It could be something they say, something they do, anything that is in conflict with the strict guidelines in this dystopic culture. Flawed people are branded with the letter "F" on the forehead, on the hand, on the foot, or in other places. Following their branding, they become second-class citizens, riding on special seats on buses facing the rest of the riders so they can be viewed with scorn, limited in their diets, only allowed  foods that support their bodies, with curfews that are enforced by a group of police-like staff reinforcing their Flawed status with home visits.
    Most citizens have come to accept this situation, but it still comes as a shock when the neighbor who gave Celestine piano lessons is arrested. Soon, Celestine faces a situation when an elder Flawed man, coughing and obviously ill, must stand on the bus, because two Unflawed people are taking his seat  Celestine speaks up and her whole life changes.
   This is a story that reminds me of teen books like Scot Westendorff's The Uglies, and a follow up novel called SpecialsUnder the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi and Lauren Oliver's trilogy about the "sickness" of being in love; Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem.
   It's hard enough being a teen. These books dramatize the way being different can lead to challenging life changes, especially at the hands of overly powerful adults. Cecelia Ahern released the next chapter in Celestine's adventure, Perfect, in April. Does the Guild and its punishing system survive? Check out both both books for the whole story.

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