TJ Burns — March 10, 2016
I loved this book! Flawed grabbed my attention, pulled me in, and got me thinking right from the start.
A Flawless World
From the very first pages, I found Flawed intriguing and simultaneously disturbing, as is intended I’m sure.
We are presented with a system for regulating moral conduct – a Theocracy – with Judge Crevan (Bosco) as the infallible Executive Theocrat, the moral judge, the decider of right from wrong.
We get introduced to this system by Celestine, a 17-year-old who was raised in this system and genuinely finds it to be a good way to keep people on the moral path.
“Celestine” means “heavenly,” and she is a good example of someone who has been clearly indoctrinated into the religion’s set of values. She is the girlfriend of the theocrat’s son and knows Bosco in his function as father and family member, not just as moral judge.
Celestine’s Granddad, Cornelius, and her sister, Juniper, are presented as critics of the system – the free-thinkers.
It’s essential for the story that we receive a description of this moral system from the perspective of an indoctrinated, like Celestine, rather than from someone who sets himself/herself critically towards the system, such as Juniper or Cornelius.
The way in which Celestine first describes “the Guild” led me to believe it to be harmless. I even recalled a reality show that I viewed live in Los Angeles, entitled “Moral Court.” People voluntarily took their moral and ethical dilemmas to this court and aired their dirty laundry in front of a world-wide audience. I brought a German family to the show and they were interviewed afterward. We all found the show entertaining, but a rather ridiculous way of attempting to solve interpersonal conflicts.
A (perhaps) Not So Flawless World?
Soon into the story, however, we get shown that this system is anything but harmless. It is a system set in place to use fear-tactics, terror, and ostracization as a way to force everyone in society to adopt the moral dictates of a few self-appointed moral (“religious”) leaders.
It’s important that we learn about this system from someone who has accepted it all (or most of) her life. We learn about the system as if it is a good one, but we also get to follow Celestine’s thought process, which questions small pieces of the system as she is personally confronted with them and her inner-conflict and doubts in regards to them.
We are not given access Juniper’s thoughts, which from her outward actions and tone, as well as Celestine’s observations, are directly critical of the system. For many readers – especially readers who have been raised in a post-Enlightenment secular society – it is probably not so difficult to understand and relate to Juniper’s discontent with the current system.
Interesting note about the symbolism of the name “Juniper”: The juniper tree is said to have had angelic presence in both Old and New Testament — it protected the prophet Elijah and hid the infant Jesus — and Juniper was used in Renaissance artwork to represent “chastity.”
A Flawed Totalitarian Regime
I knew that Celestine’s perfect, flawless world would come crashing down on her sooner or later — I just didn’t think it would be that soon.
While looking at the system through Celestine’s eyes, I immediately recognized it as a Theocracy, even if Celestine didn’t. I still thought this system’s tools were mainly the “shaming” and ostracization of people who step off the so-called “moral” path.
The more I learned about this system, the more I came to recognize it as a brutally oppressive theocratic dictatorship, which uses fear tactics, censorship, torture, imprisonment, ostracization, and stigmatization to force the majority to follow the moral edicts of a small minority. Not cool.
I didn’t realize the extent of the oppression in the beginning — and that was Ahern’s intention, I’m sure. Learning about the system through the eyes of an indoctrinated — a believer — filtered the oppressive nature of this regime a bit at first… but soon my eyes were opened. And Celestine’s eyes become wide open as well.
Fixing the Flaws?
I am so curious to discover what will happen next to Celestine in her attempt to fix the flaws (in herself? in society?).
Flawed was intriguing, provocative, and exciting! It contained some expected, but many more unexpected developments.
At about three-quarters through, I was inclined to give this book a 5-star rating. But there are too many unanswered questions, too many threads untied… it really is not finished. I don’t like cliff-hanger endings — even in first installments of a series. I think every installment needs to have a mini-climax and a mini-resolution, which this didn’t have. It left me feeling: “huh,” rather than blowing me out of the water and sending me into space (which, of course, is what I hope for in every book I read… 😀 ).
Flawed has left me with so much to think about – and that gives it a high rating in my mind. I really, really liked this book and I will definitely be reading the next installment as soon as it is finished! And if the final installment blows me out of the water, then… who knows… I may go back and give this one a 5-star instead of a 4-star rating.
Published April 5th 2016 by Feiwel and Friends
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TJ’s Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1470230550
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