Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

Not being a fan of chick lit, I hadn’t read Cecilia Ahern until her publisher sent me a review copy of Flawed.

It arrived just days after I had watched Love, Rosie — the movie based on Ahern’s Where Rainbows End.  I’d also heard about Ahern on an Irish radio programme that suggested her books were worth reading. So, I was sufficiently interested to give Flawed a go. Then, I discovered that my mother and my niece (85 and 25) are Ahern fans!

Young Adult

Flawed is a Young Adult novel. It’s about a teenager growing up in a judgmental society where people are expected to be perfect. Breaking the rules incurs punishments like branding and being shunned by society.

Celestine North, the teenager and heroine of this novel, is perfect until she breaks the rules and takes a stand against the judgemental wing of society.

The idea behind Flawed is interesting in light of the various public interest investigations that have taken place in Ireland. However, the characters lack depth — particularly in the earlier part of the novel — making it a somewhat frustrating read. Later, the pace picks up and there are hints of a love triangle that may add interest to the story.

Flawed comes to a somewhat  abrupt end with the story to be continued in a sequel called Perfect, due to be published in 2017.

Flawed by Cecilia Ahern is published by Harper Collins. [Disclosure: An advance review copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review].

We Were Liars — a young adult title with wide appeal

Usually young adult fiction wouldn’t cross my radar. However, I stumbled upon E Lockhart’s haunting mystery We Were Liars in Time magazine’s Best Books of 2014. So, because I love books set off the coast of Massachusetts, I decided to give it a go.

We Were Liars is a coming of age story. It’s about a group of wealthy children who holiday each year on their grandfather’s private island. They enjoy idyllic long summer days in beautiful houses close to the water.

Troubled heroine

The story is narrated by a troubled teenage heroine. Cadence Sinclair’s memory was damaged during a trauma on a previous summer holiday. It’s  an incident that no one is willing to talk about.

Like all families, however, the Sinclairs have their secrets and jealousies. While they hide them behind an apparently perfect facade, the reader senses tension. The children’s mothers are manipulated by their powerful and wealthy father. Lockhart underlines the age-old universality of these tensions in a series of references to similar themes in folklore.

Place and atmosphere — mystery and myth — lies and truth — are more important than character in this short novel which runs to just 240 pages. The Kindle edition of We Were Liars was a steal at $1.68 when I purchased it a couple of days ago. I loved E Lockhart’s writing and while the story may fade over time, hers is a name that will remain on my radar from now on.

 

Fact and folklore join forces in Blood Brother, Swan Sister

Fact and Irish folklore join forces in Eithne Massey’s sixth novel, Blood Brother, Swan Sister.

This is an exciting and magical novel for young adults.  Set in Dublin in 1014, the story follows four children caught up in events surrounding the Battle of Clontarf. This famous battle was a major event in Irish history.  King Brian Boru’s army defeated the combined forces of the Viking leaders Sitric and Brodir of Mann.

Dara is a young boy determined to support King Brian Boru, He is allowed to accompany his father to battle. It’s his first time in Dublin. The city is a  thrilling and busy place and it feeds his excitement about the coming battle. As Dara explores the city in the days before battle, he meets Elva. She is a young girl worried about her ethereal elder half-sister who has fallen under the influence of the evil queen, Kormlada.

Meanwhile, a young Viking boy, Skari,  is also wandering in Dublin. Skari arrived in the city by longship. He travelled with a large Viking fleet assembling to support King Sitric in the battle against Brian Boru.

As the story unfolds, the links between Skari and the other three children gradually unfold.

Excitement and fear

The days leading up to the battle are both exciting and dangerous. Drawing on fact, folklore and mythology, Massey conjures up excitement and fear as Viking Dublin comes alive in the pages of Blood Brother, Swan Sister. Published by O’Brien Press, Blood Brother, Swan Sister is a novel for children that will have particular appeal in 2014, the 1000-year anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf.

If you like this kind of fiction, you might also like Where the Stones Sing by Eithne Massey.