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Literature / Flawed

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They are Flawed. Do not speak to them. Do not help them. Or you will be punished.

Flawed, by Cecelia Ahern, is an American young-adult Dystopian novel published in 2016.

In a society where everyone is expected to be perfect, being flawed is quite literally a punishable act, complete with brandings and being treated as second-class citizens. Celestine North has always seen herself as the perfect model citizen, up to and including dating the son of Bosco Crevan, high-ranking judge of The Guild that persecutes and enforces rules against the Flawed.

Everything changes when she helps a Flawed old man on the bus, which is against Guild guidelines. Suddenly finding herself on trial for being flawed, Celestine has to deal with her life being turned upside down, suddenly considered imperfect. As she struggles with her new status in life, there is also an ongoing struggle with morality, with people questioning the very foundation of their "perfect" society.

The sequel, Perfect, was released in 2017.

This work contains examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Reporter Lisa Life, who writes articles showing support for Celestine. The alliteration is a hint to the fact that this is an alias taken up by Pia, to avoid Crevan's efforts to shut her down.
  • Batman Gambit: Carrick pulled one at the supermarket where Celestine got assaulted. He intentionally had his other Flawed friends stand near her in line, expecting her to do something that'd prove she was a good leader. Celestine is furious when she realizes he set the entire thing up, but he insists he didn't know how any of it would actually go down.
  • Big Bad: Judge Crevan is the cause of all of Celestine's problems, from her multiple undeserved brandings, to getting rid of anyone that might support her in her plight.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Logan acts super nice to Celestine while everyone else is alienating or bullying her. He turns out to be a huge asshole who goes so far as to strip her with his friends.
    • Bahee is introduced as a kind, peace-loving member of the Flawed evader-gang. However, he turns out to be not-so-nice when he calls the whistleblowers to get Celestine, and is revealed to have tricked Lizzie into thinking her boyfriend is disgusted by her. The others promptly abandon him for this.
  • Book Dumb: No matter how hard Juniper studies, she is only an average student at best, despite being a generally intelligent person in other walks of life.
  • The Bully: After becoming Flawed, Celestine is harassed by kids at school, especially Logan and Natasha. Logan even goes so far as to pretend to be her friend, inviting her to his "18th birthday party", only to kidnap her along with Natasha, as well as their friend Gavin and her ex-friend Colleen. They spend the night abusing her and taunting her, and even strip her, before locking her in a shed overnight.
  • Cassandra Truth: When Celestine is invited to Logan's party, Juniper warns her against going, stating that Logan isn't even turning 18. Despite this, Celestine just ignores her, goes to the party, and, of course, it turns out poorly.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Art and Celestine were close friends all throughout their childhood, and started dating in highschool.
  • Clothing-Concealed Injury: Played With. The brands of flawed individuals are not allowed to be concealed via clothing or makeup, the only exception being on the foot hidden by shoes. Celestine gets into a lot of trouble when people mistake her sister for her and think she was trying to hide her brand with her hair. Despite this, she does still hide one brand with clothing- her illegal 6th brand on her spine, which she refuses to show off, and so she refuses to change for swim class and remove her clothing.
  • Cool Old Guy: Celestine's grandfather is supportive, brave, honest and intelligent, doing everything he can to support Celestine without concern for his own personal safety. He even steals a car for the two of them to use when going to Alpha's "counseling session" to create support for the Flawed, joking about it without care. The second book reveals he hires Flawed workers, and is able to keep his composure when imprisoned by the guild.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Attempted. Celestine has to hide in a firepit when the whistleblowers visit her grandfather's farm. Mary May, suspecting she's there, orders him to set the pit on fire. She escapes before she can be killed, but nobody else knows she survived, and the fire was burning for several hours.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Someone can be branded as "flawed" for doing something as minor as helping a Flawed individual, even if that individual is at risk of dying. A single misstep can leave someone treated as a social pariah for life, even if others do worse.
  • Dystopia: The Guild was created to make society better, after everyone blamed flawed politicians for society's failings. The effort to prevent Flawed people from getting into office snowballed into treating flawed people like second-class citizens, and everyone else living in fear of being caught doing anything out-of-line.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Crevan may be a power-hungry jackass, but at least he genuinely cares about Art, to the point of breaking down in tears when he gets shot.
    • Mary May is cruel and relentless in finding Celestine, and she branded most of her family, but she has a soft spot for her mother and is distraught when she dies.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Crevan's actions may be cruel, but he'd never go so far as to murder people. When Mary May attacks Celestine with a gun and accidentally shoots Art, he's genuinely disgusted.
  • Family Theme Naming: All of Raphael's kids are named after trees.
  • Fantastic Underclass: The "Flawed" are given their lowly status when stepping out of line with their "perfect" society, often for rather minor mistakes, like lying, being "corrupt", or even just helping a Flawed person. Along with their new status comes near-universal societal rejection and mistreatment, from the minor inconveniences (a special, completely bland diet), to the major inequalities (not being allowed to travel, stand in a group with other Flawed, or have kids with another Flawed). It's mentioned that literal criminals actually face better treatment, as at least their punishment is over once they're out of jail, whilst being Flawed is a life-sentence, and turns one into a social pariah who can be outright abused with few-to-no punishments for the abusers.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: The curfew is only for the Flawed, as they must be home by eleven every night. They and their family are horribly punished if they aren't, even if it was for reasons beyond their control.
  • Flashback: Two chapters in Perfect are flashbacks to what Celestine did hours ago, explaining events the audience hadn't yet seen.
  • Forced from Their Home: In one of their first conversations, Mona casually admits to Celestine that she got kicked out of her house for being Flawed. Though she acts like it's fine, it's obvious to Celestine that she's still upset about it, and it makes Celestine reflect on how lucky she was to have Good Parents who supported her.
  • Fugitive Arc: A majority of the second book revolves around Celestine having to hide out from the whistleblowers, living as an "evader".
  • The Fundamentalist: Logan and his family are highly religious, and part of his hatred of Celestine stems from her being a "sinner". He forces her to repent before leaving her alone, and his alibi is that he was at Bible Study.
  • Genre Savvy: Raphael has spent a lot of his retirement watching crime movies, which means he's aware of how these plots go: the lawyer who has "never lost a case" will lose the case. He's still happy to work with Celestine despite expecting the "plot twist".
  • Good Parents:
    • Despite having been in a position of comfort and wealth before Celestine got branded, her parents remain completely supportive of her, and go out of their way to keep her safe and happy. Her mother goes so far as to quit her modeling job if it meant supporting the people who hurt her daughter, and makes sure she won't be abused by her homeschool teacher, after getting expelled from her highschool.
    • Kelly and Adam, Carrick's parents, are loving and tight-knit, caring much about their children. Carrick, however, finds their affection to be too much for him, especially after just leaving the "Flawed At Birth" academy.
  • Hate Crimes Are a Special Kind of Evil: During the first book, Celestine becomes a member of the Flawed, a Fantastic Underclass marked by red arm bands and brandings due to committing specific acts deemed as making a person too flawed to exist in normal society. It's technically still illegal to commit crimes against them, but the hatred for them is so pervasive that people do it regardless. Celestine, who believed in the good of the system based on her dedication to logic and reason at all times, is given a shocking wakeup call about the world when four kids from school kidnap and torture for their own amusement. Those kids immediately go from being portrayed as sympathetic characters to some of the most unpleasant in the story. Celestine is even reluctant to feel bad for them when she finds them drugged out of their minds in the hospital along with everyone else who knows about her illegal sixth brand.
  • He Knows Too Much: After Crevan gives Celestine a sixth brand, he does whatever he can to cover it up. Any staff that saw it mysteriously cannot be reached, while Carrick is forced into hiding. In the second book, Pia, Natasha, Gavin, Logan, and Colleen, as well as the others, all go missing as a result of knowing of the sixth brand.
  • Hypocrite: Most people who actively attack the Flawed are hypocrites, showing their own deep personality flaws while persecuting others. While tormenting Celestine, Logan proves himself a liar, and only avoids punishment due to more lying. Judge Crevan, meanwhile, abusively gave her an extra, unlawful, brand and then went out of his way to cover it up, proving himself to also be a liar and a poor decision maker.
  • Identical Twin Mistake: Downplayed with two sisters who look identical, but aren't twins. After Celestine gets marked, she's also supposed to wear a red armband at all times. At school, her sister Juniper is photographed from behind, and people think she's Celestine, breaking the law and not wearing an armband.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Carrick's motivation in Perfect is to get rid of the Flawed system entirely and be free. Even though he has a decent life at the compound, he sees it as a place where he's trapped, frozen in time, when he wants to have a life. Celestine ends up agreeing with him.
  • Immoral Journalist: Pia is introduced as the reporter who interviews every Flawed person after their trial and branding, and Celestine dislikes her, thinking she's using her situation just to cook up drama and get readers while feigning any sort of sympathy for her. Ultimately subverted; Pia uses the alias Lisa Life to report more honest and sympathetic articles about Celestine, proving herself to be a good person and journalist trapped in a bad job.
  • Inevitably Broken Rule:
    • Right from the start, we're told that a group called the Guild enforce and create rules for people to follow. These aren't laws, but the punishment for breaking them is still catastrophic, as doing so brands one as being Flawed. One of these rules is to not help a Flawed person- a rule Celestine ends up violating, as she decides to stand up for a sick Flawed man on the bus to get him some medical attention. This act is what drives the rest of the plot.
    • There are several rules that the Flawed are forced to comply with, lest they be subject to disciplinary action and even worse restrictions. They are, specifically: "Never hide your brands, unless on the foot or tongue", "Always wear your red arm band in public", "Be home by 11:00", "Don't stand next to two other Flawed, and don't gather without at least one non-Flawed present", and "Don't have kids with another Flawed person". Celestine struggles with most of these rules, and several of them are, or are almost, broken- she gets kidnapped one night and almost doesn't make it home for curfew, her sister is mistaken for her, and lacks the red armband, and her standing next to two other Flawed people at a store is met with police violence and Celestine being attacked.
  • Internal Reformist: While Judge Sanchez doesn't entirely disagree with what The Guild does, she does disagree with what Crevan does, and is openly trying to get him out of power with Celestine's help, aware that things have gone too far under him.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lisa Life is an underground reporter who writes articles meant to garner support for Celestine, dedicated to reporting the truth and unafraid of Crevan's influence over the media. Lisa Life is actually Pia, the reporter assigned to interview the Flawed, deciding to help Celestine while not getting caught by Crevan.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Carrick is rough around the edges and first treats Celestine coldly, but quickly warms up to her and proves to be a loyal, caring, and brave friend.
  • Mark of Shame: Anyone considered Flawed gets at least one brand, in a spot that symbolizes their specific flaw. With the exception of brands on the feet or tongue, all brands must be publicly visible at all times.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: After escaping Logan's shed and being tormented all night, Celestine runs into Art and Juniper. As this came after she had a fight with Art, her immediate reaction was to assume they were both going out behind her back. Juniper, however, later insisted that they were just friends who bonded over how worried they were for her.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Art Crevan, though a bit cowardly at times, proves himself to be a truly good person who cares about Celestine, even after they have an argument or when he becomes a whistleblower.
    • Leonard, a nerdy scientist at the compound, not only loves his Flawed girlfriend unconditionally, but he also comes to Celestine's rescue in a time of desperate need, even if it means he could get caught.
  • Only Friend: According to Celestine, Juniper only has one close friend, who she is always attached to.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Though Flawed couples can get married, any children are taken away from them and raised by the government to be as perfect as possible. Making any attempt to find their birth parents gets them deemed as Flawed. Carrick, who was taken from his parents when he was five, didn't take well to his teachings, and sought out his parents as soon as he graduated, making him Flawed.
  • Peer-Pressured Bully: Colleen used to be Celestine's friend, but turned on her after her Celestine didn't offer any sympathy or help when her mother was deemed Flawed. Thus, when Celestine herself became a Flawed, Colleen ended up siding with Logan, Natasha and Gavin in bullying her. However, the others were pressuring her into it the entire time by reminding her what Celestine did, and she still seemed less comfortable than the others when Celestine was being abused.
  • Round Hippie Shades: Bahee is introduced with rounded tea shades as part of his overall look. They help to underscore his personality as the peaceful-yet-eccentric scientist who spent time with an African tribe and encourages the group to praise each other. It's ultimately subverted as he is far more of a Jerkass than he's initially thought to be. Also, he lied to Lizzie, kicked her out of the compound, and then attempted to get Celestine taken away by the whistleblowers. This shows his true colors as a manipulative creep.
  • Rules Lawyer: Celestine is familiar with both the laws and The Guild's guidelines, and is aware that the Flawed guidelines have nothing to do with the actual law. So, when a cop tries to arrest her and two other Flawed for standing together in line, she boldly argues that not only is the cop enforcing something that isn't actually a law, but he's also not doing his job of protecting her as he should. It doesn't go well.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Eldest sister Juniper is awkward, cynical, Book Dumb and rebellious; Celestine is popular, intelligent, law-abiding, and logical. It was said that they were very close and very much alike as children, but drifted apart as they got older.
  • Signature Scent: Crevan ends up being associated with the smell of mint, though Celestine isn't sure why. It comes in handy when she realizes her food smells minty, and deduces it's been drugged.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Judge Sanchez drugs the food at Highland Castle, hoping that Celestine will be too drugged to come meet with her.
  • The Spock: Celestine prides herself on how she can live based on flawless logic, which dictates that The Guild is good, the Flawed deserve what they get, and everything is perfect. When she herself becomes Flawed, this trait of hers gets thrown on it's head, as she no longer knows what is logical, and starts to think emotionally instead.
  • Take Me Instead: When Mary May and the whistleblowers show up to take Evelyn away from Cordelia for being "Flawed at Birth", Rogan begs them to leave her and take him, a sixteen year old who is also "Flawed at Birth". The whistleblowers utterly ignore him, and continue taking the girl even as he shouts at them.
  • Taking the Bullet: Art gets shot defending Celestine from Mary May.
  • Taunting the Unconscious: When Celestine winds up at the Guild's hospital, she discovers Pia, Colleen, Natasha, Gavin, Logan, and Mr. Berry drugged and in a frozen, unreacting state to keep them from sharing information they have. She has to pretend to be frozen, too, when two Whistleblowers come by and start to mock the incapacitated characters. They even take a picture with Celestine, thinking her too drugged to understand. She manages to scare one of them by moving during the picture.
  • True Companions: The Flawed gang that Celestine meets. Not only do they continue to show up and give her aid in return for her leadership, they all end up becoming so close that they willingly discuss their flaws with each-other, something they weren't comfortable doing at first. The one exception is Bahee, who got kicked out of the group for betraying the others.
  • Unexpected Kindness:
    • During the first book, Celestine starts getting bullied in school by both students and staff after receiving her brandings. At one point, she's outside when the door locks, and she collapses on the floor in defeated tears, knowing that it's against the law to help a Flawed person in any way... only for a janitor to let her inside, revealing himself to be Flawed as well.
    • In the second book, Celestine meets a gang of other Flawed characters living and working in a special compound. She's told about the failed romance of Lizzie and her non-Flawed boyfriend Leonard, who supposedly broke up with her after he learned the truth, preceding her sudden disappearance. Halfway through, she's stuck out in the open when a Whistleblower raid happens, about to be caught when Leonard appears out of nowhere to rescue her. He turns out to be a Nice Guy who doesn't hold any prejudice against the Flawed, and who genuinely did love Lizzie.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In Perfect, the audience doesn't get to know the full details of Celestine's plan until the plan is already in motion, meaning it goes off without a hitch despite it looking like she's in trouble at first.
  • Vehicular Kidnapping: Celestine is invited to what she thinks is a party, only to get ambushed and tossed in a car, complete with a Bag of Kidnapping.
  • Verbed Title: Naming the concept that is the central point of the world of the novel.
  • Villainous Lineage: In-Universe, this is what The Guild believes. Children born to two Flawed parents are taken away and raised by the state, for fear that they'd be inherently Flawed otherwise.