By Cecelia Ahern I had only read The Book of Tomorrow, a magical book that combined a great deal of mystery with the beauties of Irish nature. Lovely! I never dived into her literature though, romance is not really my jam but dystopia is and when I saw that she wrote one I got curious. Authors stepping out from their comfort zone are very brave and I wanted to see how she managed that.
The story in this book is quite simple but its implications are rather important. The summary of it says that it has got a Scarlet Letter vibe to it and that's true. We find ourselves in this society that has faced some serious bad judgement at the hands of previous politicians and to avoid such things to happen in the future a new organization rises, the Guild. The Guild is like the police but not really, they punish those who commit acts not punishible with prison (such as lying, cheating or *coughs* speaking up agains the Guild itself) by marking with fire the skin of the convict with the letter F, F for "Flawed". Flawed people are deemed inferior parts of the society, they are snarled at, crimes against them are usually swept under the carpet, they've got strict rules to abide to (such as a curfew, a very poor diet, having to wear a bandage that points out they're flawed at any time of the day etc) and have very poor prospects for their future. All of this because the Guild has brainwashed the citizenship into believing that dealing with flawed people will make you flawed and we no, no, don't want that, do we?
Our main character is Celestine, the Perfectest girl that has ever Perfect in Perfectland, she doesn't miss a chance to remind us of that. She wears pastel colors, she's got an awesome boyfriend, she respects the rules, agrees with what the Guild does, is a very logical person, black and white, that's how you take decisions in life (another thing she needs to remind us every 3 pages). One day she commits a tiny little mistake, a situation she faces creates a little crease in the way she sees the society that she has respected for so long. She starts to think, critically think, and, because of a series of events and situations she didn't have the power to avoid, becomes the poster-girl for this seemingly underground movement that is trying to dethrone the Guild and its main responsable, Judge Crevan. Judge Crevan is a male Umbridge. I said it all.
Celestine is a relatable character, she's an average teenager (although Perfect, do not forget that!) that is pushed into a game of political deceit and media manipulation. How would you handle that? She's so average that sometimes you just hate her, we're so used to our heroines that always know what to do and that always manage to save the day that we're not used to normal people who struggle through a match that is not theirs.
"I often think you're cleverer than you let on, and other times I think you're a child who has found herself in a situation that is so much bigger than she and has no idea what to do."
But is it? Celestine finds herself going "against the grain", she didn't intend to but she did. Her behaviour in the beginning is driven by guilt not bravery but later on she understands she's got more power than she can possibly imagine, a power that feeds a movement that cannot freely speak up and that doesn't really have much representation.
"We see being Flawed as a strenght, Celestine. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. If you never make a mistake, you're never the wiser."
I really enjoyed this book. Was it flawed? Yes it was, but what book isn't? I read people pointing out that the pattern of it mirrors the pattern of every YA that's coming out lately, the Chosen One that will save the world, but I disagree. Celestine is not the Chosen One, she's just someone who did something out of humanity in a society that has been "dehumanized" long ago.
"I want everybody's pity because then I will know that everyone is human, instead of whatever it is everybody is now."
She becomes a pawn in the hands of other people and later on decides to embrace it. I found her very inspiring, although many of her decisions were rather questionable and stupid.
I also read that people couldn't suspend their belief when it came to people willingly accepting a form of governament that punishes and shames you over trifles and I can agree with that. Still, I'm a simple girl, I can live with some kind of absurdity if I find its outcome interesting.
I would have preferred a more thrilling finale but nonetheless I enjoyed this book.
I'd recommend it to those of you who love dystopias that deal with media manipulation, who love dystopias dealing with what 1984 deals with. No, I'm not comparing it to Orwell's masterpiece, I'm referring to the fear of speaking up, to the fear of being seen or heard doing something that would be deemed "flawed" by the Big Br... hem, the Guild. Say what you will but I stupidly love that!
Cannot wait for the second instalment in the series!