Review: “Article 5” by Kristen Simmons

Title: “Article 5”

Author: Kristen Simmons

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, YA

Publication Date: January 2012 (expected)

Summary: 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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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.

☆: 4/5 – a terrifying look at a future America!

Review: You know, with the near-passage and then shelving of SOPA/PIPA, followed by the possibility of the OPEN bill (which would also limit free speech on the ‘net in the name of smoking out ‘net pirates) and now ACTA (which would be worldwide), I’ve become terrified of an America that will tell me what I can and can’t say, what I can and can’t read, and so forth. So very naturally, I was drawn to “Article 5”, which predicts just that – a new “morally-motivated” America that’s closer to a military state than to a democracy after yet another war. While I can’t say that “Article 5” is a totally mind-blowing dystopian genre novel, it’s still got enough gravitas to give me some serious nightmares. With flavors of “The Handmaiden’s Tale”, “Article 5” is nonetheless a dystopian tale worth reading, if just to prevent a future that seems to be coming true right now.

When reading this, I had no idea that this was going to be the first novel in at least a duology of books. That being said, now that I do know that this is book one in a series, I feel a little more comfortable with some of the holes left in character development in terms of mini-arcs (the friendship/developing romance between Chase and Ember and how the war spurred that on), backstory (I wanted more information on the war, period), as well as just general lacking information on the now (the yellow/red-zones and abandoned major metropolises).

However, for a first book, aside from my gripes about the information gaps, the characters are very well-developed and feel very much like real people. I think that Ember is the most developed out of all the characters, which is fitting enough because she is the main protagonist, but Chase is more of a mystery — and he really shouldn’t have been when he became a co-protagonist with Ember in the middle-ending parts of the book. Now that there’s at least one more book coming, I can understand why they might keep Chase’s past a bit more in the dark so that they can develop his character more through his past over the course of more books, but all the same, I could have stood for a little bit more development for Chase within this first book.

Now, for general information gaps – I wanted to know way more about the way this America became the way it did. We weren’t given an actual date, so whether this might even be an alternate history story can’t be divined the way things stand now. Perhaps this will be revealed in future books, and I hope it will. I think that this was my largest problem with the book. I wanted to know more about where we were in time, whether this was a future America or a now that’s just an alternate-history. I wanted to know more about the war in general – was it another civil war? Or was it from another country/countries? How long has this particular president been in office? When did the Church of America come into the picture – pre or post-war? And so forth. I know we’ll (hopefully) get more information in the next books, but the lack of it in this first book was almost distracting.

All of that side, the story was well-developed, well-paced, and really absorbing. I read it in more or less one sitting, and my heart raced the entire time. I definitely got the sense that there were small tributes to Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaiden’s Tale” (one of my ultimate dystopian favorites), especially when Ember is shipped off to the reformatory, and the whole idea of “Article 5” itself, making single parenting outside of a parent dying tantamount to a sin. I was born and raised with a single parent (well, most of the time), so that really bit really hooked me. I think, though, the part I was glued to the most was the last half of the book – with Chase and Ember trying to find safe harbor while trying to outrun the government. I won’t spoil the part that (pleasantly) shocked me the most, but I’ll just say that part seriously saved the whole first book and makes it a must-read. It floored me so much that I had nightmares for days after finishing it.

Final verdict? All of my nitpicks about information gaps aside, this is a pretty strong first book in what’s looking to be like an awesome series. Read it. DEFINITELY read it, especially in these times when our free speech is threatened more than ever, and be reminded of what’s at stake. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series. So check out “Article 5” when it hits shelves on January 31, 2012 in North America, or get it at your local library.


3 thoughts on “Review: “Article 5” by Kristen Simmons

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! « birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

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