Celestine North has always played by the rules. Perhaps that was why she never really thought too hard about the consequences for people who broke them. I mean, just follow the rules and you don’t have to worry about facing any punishments, right? In her society, people who break the rules are branded Flawed. As in actually branded, with a branding iron! And once they are branded, they are literally second-class citizens who have a different set of rules to live by. While riding the bus one morning, Celestine finally comes face-to-face with a situation that makes her question everything she’s ever known. A woman with an injured leg takes one of the Flawed seats on the bus because it affords her more leg room, and then her friend takes the only other Flawed seat to make it easier to converse. Then an elderly Flawed man gets on the bus, and he is forced to stand. As he nears collapse from a coughing fit, Celestine tries to help him… and all hell breaks loose. She ends up on trial for aiding a Flawed person, which could lead to her own Flawed classification. But how could showing a little human decency ruin her whole life?
Though we don’t actually brand people Flawed in America, I think there are definitely plenty of situations in which Americans turn a blind eye to suffering and persecution under the mistaken impression that those people somehow deserve or earned their lot in life. I think this would be a fantastic book to read to start a discussion about empathy and the ways people can change their views of “other” people.