Sir Thomas More was defining a near perfect society when he coined the term ‘Utopia’. Utopia has been fodder for many fiction and derived fiction novels. Author Amish Tripathi’s ‘shiva trilogy’ is one such series. The book talks about a perfect society and the whole dynamics. A flaw can only be used to polish to perfection. A dystopian society can only lead to utopia. And these two terms are not mere two ends of the pole. They are the two chambers in the hourglass. Time passes and sand keeps slipping from one chamber to the other, thus reaching one end to the other. This is a cycle. Dystopia, just like utopia, has also been a frequently used theme for the work of fiction. ‘The Hunger Games’ series made the genre famous and now more and more authors are treading carefully into the cold waters.
Cecelia Ahren is a prolific writer, her arena being love stories. This is the first time she is writing a young adult book that too with dystopian theme. ‘The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent’ is how the publishers are describing the book. Having read neither, it would be improper to agree with it or invalidate the claim. But this novel is going to be surprise treat for the readers, it is safe to say!
“No, its not funny, comical, but its funny, peculiar,” I say, feeling slapped. “Thank you, Thesaurus,” Juniper says under her breath. Its what she always calls me when I get bogged down by definitions.
The cover page narrowly escapes the dungeon and keeps itself from being boring. Narrowly. The color white dominates the cover. The designers have used the character as branding on the book. The female lead of the book finds herself on the cover. There is also the much talked about ‘flawed branding’. For someone who has not yet read the book, the cover is going to be dull.
But this is different once the story is known. The cover-page describes the story inside perfectly well. The white color denotes the perfection of Celestine, our leading lady. And to shatter the crystal ball, there is a sear of ‘flawed’ on her. The cover page is thought provoking. Someone who reads the book is going to come back to the cover and ponder over it. Smart approach.
I am a girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white.
The part one consists of these two lines. The lines are to describe Celestine North, the female lead of the book. Celestine is articulate. She uses the right words at right places. She is good at mathematics and she has a boyfriend who thinks she is perfect.
With all the perfection that Celestine possess, nobody would have thought that she would become the most flawed person in the city. She is going to bear the mark for her life.
The lead character is, no surprises, bold. She is a girl who fall into the situations she would not have dreamt of and learns to triumph during the course. There is a course of change that is seen in her over the chapters. The transition keeps the book interesting.
There are other characters such as Corlineus-Celestine’s grandad, Art-her boyfriend, Juniper-her sister etc. all the characters are written in depth. A novel which could have been a ridiculous idea, considering the dystopian theme, is made believable through the characters.
“Never trust a man who sits uninvited, at the head of the table in another man’s home.”
The story begins when Judge Crevan or Bosco has come for lunch to Celestine’s house with his son who also happens to be her boyfriend. Everyone at the table is nervous. Celestine does not understand this. For her Judge Crevan is just Bosco. She loves him like family and does not need to fear him.
The glass shatters when the events start to unfold and Judge Crevan turned out to be a completely different person than he appeared to be. Celestine falls into an unimaginable situation and everyone around her is trying to set an example out of her. Slowly she becomes a face of a revolution. The sand of time exchanging chambers again.
The novel is fast paced. The content is steady throughout the book. No rush. The book focuses on Celestine throughout. The book finishes with a cliffhanger. Other important characters are going to be unmasked in the sequel. The story is interesting. The cliffhanger is going to keep the readers desperately waiting.
The entire book is written in the first person. With so many writers using first person narrative these days, the narration may not seem extraordinary but the use of symbolism and personification throughout breathes life into the story. There are some thought provoking lines (find them in quotable quotes) in the book. To someone who loves good writing, Cecelia Ahren is going to be the new favorite.
The characters in the book are as deep as the sea. The transition in them is a proof of good writing. The content is fast paced without rushing into situations. The writing is remarkable for an author who has not written a young-adult book before.
Even though the cover is derived from the story inside, it fails to attract any attention. Someone who reads the story and comes back to the cover is going to understand the point of it all, but it may be too much to expect out of a reader.
“And he is one half of what made you, and that makes him a genius.”
This book definitely meets the milestones that ‘The Hunger Games’ has set in the genre if not beyond. What lies ahead is a long wait to read the next book in the series.
Who do I recommend this to
This book is for the dystopian story lovers. Those who like strong female characters are going to find this interesting. Cecelia Ahren fans are going to enjoy this one too.
My striving for perfection also includes wanting to have the ideal relationship with my sister, like in the movies I see and the books I read, the stories that tell you that sisterhood is the one real true love and relationship that you will have in your life.
I’m the poster girl. One side wants to use me to prove the Guild is biased; the Guild wants to use me to prove that it isn’t. The perfect girl to prove its power. It wants me to feed the fear.
“You are a pretty seventeen year old girl from a good part of town, no serious problems, girlfriend of the son of Judge Crevan. Whats not to love about this case? Plus they are looking for a new reality show, and it looks like you are their new target. You represent a generation that will be obsessed with every detail of every aspect of this case, a generation that is pliable, moldable, and just so happens to have more disposable income than any other demographic. Whatever shoes you wear today, they’ll want tomorrow. Whatever earrings you are wearing, they will sell out by the end of this week. Whatever perfume you wear, there will be a waiting list for it tomorrow. It will be the Celestine North effect. The fashion and sales industry will love you.”
We are to be held up to the rest of the world as a mirror of their worst nightmares. Scapegoats for all that is wrong in their lives.
I can’t make out anything anyone is saying, but if you could trap anger in a jar, this is what you would hear each time you twisted the lid.
I have learned that to be courageous is to feel fear within, every step of the way. Courage does not take over, it fights and struggles through every word you say and every step you take. It’s a battle or a dance to whether to let it pervade. It takes courage to overcome, but it takes extreme fear to be courageous.
It is pandemonium in the viewing gallery. I can feel their energy, their erratic, angry movements. My eyes move from side to side. I try to focus, but I can’t. I know why I’m here. I understand and then I don’t. I wish I’d never done what I’d done, and then I’m glad I did. I want to scream, but I don’t.
“Sir, we have never seared a spine before,” Bark says nervously.
“Because we have never seen anyone so flawed to their very backbone like this lady. Brand. Her. Spine.”
And the hot iron touches my skin, the noise I made is the loudest, most excruciating, agonizing, animal sound I have ever heard in my life, and it echoes through the corridors of Highland Castle for all to hear, so anyone and everyone knows Crevan’s poster girl has been branded.
I wake up. And just as I have done every day in the past three days since I’ve come home, I force myself to go back to sleep. I realize it was not all a nightmare. It is true. Sleep is my only friend these days, so I roll onto my side, for my back is in too much pain, move my head on the pillow, so that my temple doesn’t brush the fabric, try not to crease the skin on my chest so that it doesn’t sting, and leave my right hand flat and open, the dressings prevent me from closing it anyway. This is the only way I can find respite, though for a girl of definitions, I use the term respite lightly.
It’s the first time I smile in almost a week. When the lows are so immense, the victories are small. But they are despite it. You just have to know them when you see them, little pockets of light and hope hidden away in darkness.
“How can they have learned what’s right and wrong, how could they have learned anything about themselves? About what they feel comfortable doing, about what they feel is beyond the scope of their character? The more mistakes you have made, the more you have learned.”
“Ignorance is bliss. Knowledge is often a responsibility nobody wants.”
* I recieved the book from the publisher. It has not influenced the review at all.