Two more words: compelling… captivating.
Whether I’m drawn to this kind of story because of who I am, or whether it is the story itself that pulls me in is, quite frankly, entirely beside the point.
I loved this book. Love seems so wrong a word, given the content of the novel, but there it is: I love it. I ate the words off the page like a rabid animal and I make no apologies for it.
This book, like Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden deals with neglect, abuse, and— #OMG —incest.
If the idea of reading about that touchy topic doesn’t make you run for the hills, and you begin the story like the brave reader-adventurer you are, you are already halfway to the point of awe that I’m at, because from the get-go, Sarah, the protagonist, demands to be heard.
Her voice is strong. Even though her situation renders her weak, her inner strength makes you care for her and connect with her.
James, her brother, becomes a hero the moment he sacrifices himself to his father’s violence to save her; and then he saves her again, and again, and again.
It didn’t matter that I already knew what he would morph into; I was so caught up in the tragic events under their unhappy roof, that their pact, their bond—of safety, protection, unity, and love—was seriously all that mattered.
Like Forbidden, when it reached the point of no return, even though you KNOW there is no such thing as a grey area in this, you (or rather, I) find the behaviour… reasonable.
Yes, I damn well said it. Reasonable!
Faced with paternal abuse, neglect, and violence, an abused and otherwise absent mother, a sheltered, fragile, terrifying existence… it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to believe that the lines of love between the two people who find solace and comfort in one another, would begin to blur.
What makes Flawed so much darker however, is that unlike Forbidden, the lines have blurred only on one side—James’.
**Possible Spoilers Ahead**
As her protector, James is fiercely possessive and increasingly controlling. He loves her to a heartbreaking degree, and he wants so badly to fix everything that is wrong in their lives. It comes from a place of love, but having solved everything with his fists from the age of eight has made him volatile, and often almost as dangerous as their father; yet, he never lays a forceful hand on Sarah. At least, not yet.
Sarah struggles with her own feelings for her brother—often confused by certain emotions that pass between them. He became her only source of love and companionship—her protector and her comrade. They have had only each other for a very long time and when she begins to look elsewhere and becomes aware of the oddness of their intimate (though not sexual) relationship, James’ entire sense of self seems to crumble.
Their initial pact as young siblings—never to leave one another—is under threat when Sarah eventually falls for James’ best friend Sam. Sam leads Sarah to doorways she never knew existed; in spending time together, Sarah’s confidence grows, and her eyes seem to open for the first time.
For the first time, she becomes afraid of her brother, who would (and does) do absolutely anything for her, except let her leave or love someone else.
As reasonable as the development of inappropriate emotions is, (in my warped head, at least) there is no excuse or explanation for manipulation, particularly manipulation of a mind as fractured as Sarah’s.
We all know how this will end—yet even then, the author manages to
I have nothing but praise for the entire book; and nothing but admiration for the writer brave enough to tell a story as dark as this one.
Five brilliant stars.