Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.
Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.
Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . . .
Flawed drowned me.
I knew this book would make me feel uneasy. What I didn’t expect was how much I was overwhelmed by the incessant waves of sadness that the story invoked.
Most characters in the story experience trauma and loss in various degrees. Some manage to make the best out of what they still have. Others choose to lash out and never learn to make peace with themselves.
In the story, Sarah appears to be a victim of abuse. She has gone through a lot of sufferings. Her coping mechanism is unhealthy but she doesn’t go to anyone outside of her family for help. She reasons that no one outside of her family would listen to her and so, she feels the only way for her to survive is to heavily depend on her elder brother, James.
At first glance, James seems to be the good brother. He is protective. He doesn’t want Sarah to get hurt. He wants to make sure that Sarah has all the things that she needs. But the way how he copes with all his stresses feels so wrong that I shudder and wonder if things would keep rolling downhill. I truly want the siblings to be okay but at the same time, I wonder why Sarah couldn’t see how emotionally unstable James has become. Maybe she never wants to believe James has a vulnerable side, but if things have been painful for her for over a decade living with a violent father, isn’t it logical to assume that James could be suffering from some similar level of pain? But no, Sarah chooses not to think in a direction that would scare her even more. She never lets herself see how all the abuses have been corrupting James until it is too late. So, you can imagine how sad I feel when things turn out really really badly for both James and Sarah.
Sam has been James’ best friend for years. He knows James well enough to discern when James is telling lies to people. What he doesn’t expect is how unstable James has become. I have to say, all the things that James does show me how broken and despondent he is and when the friendship between Sam and James goes south, I wonder if Sam has been feeling obnoxiously fed up with James for a very long time. Not that Sam doesn’t have his own issues to deal with, but his way of dealing with anger is at least not as aggressive. As James keeps all his troubles to himself, his state of despair overrides any trickling of self-control that he may still be able to hang onto. It’s hard, I mean really hard for me not to weep and cry when he is no longer the responsible brother that we once knew. His sense of desperation pushes him to risk every bit of himself in his final attempt to ‘make things right’ and I felt totally exhausted and drown in sadness as I finished the second last chapter of the book.
Because the story touches on topics like abuse, sex and violence, I wouldn’t recommend this book to young teens. Flawed is raw, haunting and dark, and I personally find the budding romance between Sam and Sarah moody, bittersweet and wistful. Before I wrap up, I want to share that I like the last chapter of the book. I think it is a nice touch to have something that feels a little more uplifting in the end. But seriously, if you hate stories that make you feel disturbed, torn and sad, then do yourself a favor and do not pick this up. Flawed would drown you and make you feel as though you were being hit by a Mack truck.