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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Article 5" by Kristen Simmons (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)



 Visit Kriten Simmons' Official Website HERE

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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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

FORMAT: Article 5 is the first book in a series of books. It is a mature YA novel that mixes adventure, romance, and dystopian elements into one. It stands at 362 pages and was published by Tor Teen on January 31, 2012.

ANALYSIS: There are literally dozens of dystopian novels hitting the shelves at a pace that makes it nearly impossible to keep up with. Article 5 is a YA dystopian novel, but it is not what one would automatically expect from this soon-to-be oversaturated genre. It is dark, gritty, and unique.

Article 5 is set in an America that has fallen at the hands of an extremely conservative militant government. A government organization known as the Federal Bureau of Reformation, or the FBR, has been created with the sole purpose to make sure citizens do not engage in 'dangerous' activities. Dangerous activates can range from reading old magazines and books to showing public displays of affection.

Article 5 starts off with Ember (our protagonist) and her mother being arrested for failure to comply with the FBR's article 5: outlawing children born out of wedlock. Ember is separated from her mother and taken to a reformatory to 'reform' her behavior. It is at the reformatory that Ember starts to see the FBR and the country for what it is, for not everything is as it appears.

Article 5 takes readers on a journey as Ember struggles to understand what is going on, runs for her life, and starts to uncover exactly what is going on with the government.

This novel is Kristen Simmons' debut novel and it really is a smashing debut. The writing is strong, gripping, and fast paced. Yet, it is not so fast paced that things are sacrificed for the sake of moving the story along.

The world building at first may seem a bit confusing, but it starts to fill itself out as you read along. There are also not as many answers to the hows and whys of things as I would have liked, but I think all that will be answered in upcoming books. For example, I was not sure why the FBR was really in place or how it got the power it did. This was almost addressed by the end of the book, but it should come to light in other books.

One of the elements of writing I felt Kristen Simmons captured was the dark side to dystopian novels. Many novels are glossing over elements and downplaying factors in an effort to make them age appropriate novels, but Article 5 does not do that. There are references to abuse, torture, graphic killings, and other elements that make it extremely dark. Some of the scenes are definitely intense, which makes this book definitely for the more 'mature' and older side of the YA spectrum.

While the novel was strong and surprisingly a lot better than I expected there was one weakness I just could not get past. I found the protagonist, Ember, extremely frustrating. There were multiple times throughout the novel that I just found her ignorance of what was going on frustrating. You know the type of frustration you feel where you just want to take a character and shake her? Yes. This was my interactions with Ember.

For example, she escapes the reformatory and is on the run. She decides she'd be better of 'on her own' so she slips out and just goes trustingly up to a random stranger's house. It frustrated me because she had already seen the depth of the world and how people acted, yet just blindly acted like nothing else was going on.

Overall, I feel Article 5 was a great debut novel. It by far is not a perfect debut and I believe the subject content in Article 5 makes it a book that is not for everyone, but it is worth a try. You will know within the first 250-50 pages if you like it or not. I see Kristen Simmons going far in the literary world. The style of writing, tone, and ability to bring details to a story is amazing.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you on Ember. I have seldom had to read a more frustrating character. Naive to the point of stupidity but stubborn about all the wrong things at the same time. That did not work on any level. But I actually don't think the worldbuilding in this novel is all that either. The ideas are great, the execution not so much. At a certain point the Author just did not go deeper into it and I don't think that "We'll show you more in the sequel" is a valid excuse for not thinking certain things through.

Cindy said...

I completely agree on the frustration level. The first time Ember ran away and didn't understand the whole situation she was facing, I chalked it up to 'well this girl just didn't get it or led a sheltered life.'. The second/third time, I was like 'did you not get it?'.

I didn't let it bother me too much.

I'm noticing a huge trend (not just in this novel) of 'well here's a teaser for more, read on'. I guess it didn't bother me so much, because I didn't expect all my questions to be answered in one whole entire book.

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