Written by: Kristen Simmons
Softcover: 362 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen
January 2012, $14.99
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian Fiction
New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned. The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes. There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back. Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren't always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it's hard for her to forget that people weren't always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It's hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different. Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.
There is something about the world going to shit that I find intriguing and highly entertaining in most instances. And there are so many different ways it can go though most often we get a ‘1984’ or ‘A Brave New World’ and sometimes more recently you get a gem like ‘The Hunger Games’. One of the best parts about these books though for me is the part I never get to read, the why it all happened in the first place. Sometimes I just need a brief exposition and I am good, but you have to give me something. I need to know why the world is the way it is and I need it be just a little plausible. Once that is out of the way, my world has been created in my head and we can get down to oppressive business.
The premise of Article 5 seemed pretty sweet. Moral Statutes and Rehabilitation Centers. Not a fun world to live in but I really wanted to know how things got that way. Was it the religious right that took power and decided that being born out of a wedlock was a crime? How long ago was this? How are there not more uprisings?
Things I didn’t love so much: I think one of my big problems with Article 5 was that it wasn’t plausible for me. Even after reading the entire book there are so many glaring plot holes that I can’t help but shake my head in disappointment and wish I had something a wee bit more. I couldn’t immerse myself into it the way I could other books and that is the important part.
I am bored with young adult authors who think that it requires less effort. Sorry folks most of your target audience wants to be treated like adult already and that means better prose, better plots and please don’t be patronizing. When I was growing up I like authors like Christopher Pike and Robin McKinley because the protagonists may have been my age but there was sex, violence and maybe some filthy mouths. My heroines had guts and as flawed as they may have been I related to them. There were plots and characterizations. And by the Powers that Be there was some world building.
Isn’t that kind of the point of Dystopian fiction in the first place. We want to see what this new society is, how it got there, and the discord that is ever present. We never really get that with Article 5. It just is the way it is, no explanation, no exploration. Just disappointment. And the characters...
Ember was a moron. Sorry but it has to be said. In fact she was the most self-centered, annoying and fickle creature I have read about in a long time. I could not sympathize with her at all and I really do love flawed characters (Mary from The Forest of Hands and Teeth is one of them). But Ember...Ember was just ridiculous. She lacked little or no common sense. For example she was the type of character that thinks that its Chase’s fault her mother is arrested or that blackmailing your friends is something that you should do no matter what the cost. Or I don’t know your boyfriend saves your life, but because he uses violence therefore he is the scary one and running away from him without any protection seems like a good idea to you. Seriously if this were the zombie apocalypse I would not feel guilty at all tripping her first, then again I don’t think I would have to. She would do something stupid I guarantee it. I felt sorry for Chase because he was a good character and I could not for the life of me see what he saw in that girl.
Things I loved: I did like Chase. Maybe it’s because I work with vets during my day job and PTSD can be a bitch. I see self-harmers, punishing themselves for many things that were beyond their control. They followed orders and sometimes those orders were shitty. You see a lot of things sometimes, some things you can’t erase and things that shape you from being a child into something much older, often before your time. And while I wanted to punch Chase for constantly being the white knight to Ember’s stupid damsel in distress, he was a good guy.
I did love some elements of the story and I saw a decent book in there but not one that ever really came into fruition. Ember’s escape was awesome. Seriously. And in the final act I did root for her, but I should have been rooting for her the entire time.
Buy or Borrow: Borrow, but only if you are bored
Part of: a Series.
Also Recommended: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Divergent Series by Veronica Roth, V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.
2 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks