Perfect by Cecelia Ahern (first published in 2017 by HarperCollins - UK edition)
Read the review of the first book here:
Warning: May contain spoilers for the first book
I think if there's a YA duology that I feel is really underrated, then it's probably Cecelia Ahern's Flawed series. The bestselling author, who is best known for her adult fiction, has written a stunning conclusion to a duology that explores a despotic society governed by a morality system that demands nothing but perfection.
If you're guilty of anything that does not fall within the rules of the system, a branded F appears on different areas of your body, depending on the nature of your so-called crime. This is essentially the concept that forms the foundation behind both books. It seems relatively simplistic, but in the hands of Cecelia Ahern - it's transformed into a duology that speaks of brutality, humanity, fragility and resilience.
It's a dystopian novel that delves into the heart of human nature and asks why we focus on chasing and upholding archaic notions of perfection, when perfection is a) unattainable and b) paradoxically enough, rooted in imperfection.
The novel picks up where Celestine - branded as a traitor, liar and flawed to the bone by Judge Craven - is on the run for her life. With the society divided, resistance brewing and a deadly secret that could bring the whole guild down, Celestine has to rely on herself and the select few people she trusts to remain one step ahead of the Judge.
“The irony of justice is that the feelings that precede it and those which fruit from it are never fair and balanced.”
Craven's not making it easy for her - and with every step she takes, she's pushed into a corner and has to fight through being ostracised, betrayed and separated from her family. Not to mention enduring more of Craven’s special brand of handling “flawed” outcasts.
What makes this book such a compelling read is that even though it's really hard to read about the kind of things Celestine has to endure (in my review of the first book, I mention that it's quite dark - well it's no different here), being witness to how she fights to stand up for herself, how she rises up against a government that has been prejudiced against her and her fellow flawed citizens for reasons that at best are flimsy, and at worst, ridiculous and unwarranted.
Celestine’s development and transformation from a shallow character brainwashed by the ideals and doctrine of the cultish guild she never used to question, into a rebellious force of nature whose compassion and desire for justice and freedom won out in the end, is a huge reason why I love this book so much.
Her desire to protect her family at all costs showed she wasn’t scared to put herself in harm’s way, and it was great to see that her family, in return, would do anything for her. The turning point in her relationship with her sister is a developmental arc that I particularly enjoyed, because I never thought that they’d be able to bridge the gap that was so apparent between them.
Of course, my review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the romantic aspect of the book, which I thought was really well done. Carrick and Celestine’s relationship is one that formed based on learning to trust and rely on each other, given what they’ve both been through.
In the first book, Carrick thought Celestine was a perfectly spoilt brat (which was a fair assumption to make given that Celestine was pretty much indoctrinated by the guild’s relentless and toxic ideas of perfection), while Celestine wasn’t sure if she could trust Carrick to not use her “fallen image” against her.
The two of them have certainly come a long way and it definitely shows in the further development in the conclusion to the series.
While the book isn’t completely without its flaws (ha, see what I did there?), Cecelia Ahern has written a novel that at heart is filled with insightful commentary about society’s ridiculous standards and expectations in terms of what it really means to be human.