Review: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

11 October, 2012 Reviews 15 comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Article 5 by Kristen SimmonsArticle 5 by Kristen Simmons
Series: Article 5 #1
Published by Tor Teen on January 31st 2012
Pages: 362
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository
Goodreads
two-stars

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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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

It really says something about a Dystopian novel where when you finish it, you still have no idea how their society even got that way in the first place. And that kinda confuses me because I thought building a world of discord was the point of the genre. Throwing two characters in a screwed up world without any further explanation besides, “Hey, there was a war!” doesn’t work for me. Because it makes it incredibly hard to the reader to picture it in their mind. I’m no expert, but my favorite dystopians are the ones that tie it in some way to our possible future. When I can sit back and say, “Wow. I can actually see this happening to us. This unnerves me,” that is a winner. Article 5 was not a winner.

*mild spoilers ahead. Don’t worry, I don’t think it ruins anything since it was obvious from the beginning anyway.

The Plot:

I’m not sure I could ever consider Article 5 a dystopian novel. I think it is more accurate to call it a Dystopian Romance novel since most of the plot and major twists largely depends on Ember and Chase’s relationship. It’s like, yeah, STUFF is happening, but none of that matters because Ember is going to make an idiotic decision based on a spat with Chase. And the biggest plot reveal is very obvious to the reader from the very beginning. But the whole point, from what I gather, is the not the actual reveal, but the way Ember reacts to it and therefore how Chase reacts to Ember’s reaction. Does that sounds like a subtle mind fuck? Yeah, well, that’s pretty much the gist of Article 5. Have something messed up happen to the characters, watch Ember do something stupid, and watch Chase be forced to save her. And I felt like Simmons was trying to prove to me how bad her society was throughout the whole novel that way. It’s like trying to make up for the lack of world building by saying, “Look! My heroine was almost raped! See how evil their world is?!” And I’m like, no, that shortcut just doesn’t work for me. What about you GaGa?

The Characters:

I had a feeling Article 5 and I were in for a tough relationship with the introduction of the main character, Ember. She is one of the most infuriating heroines I’ve had the misfortune of reading, throwing any and everyone under the bus in order to get what she wants. And to top it all off, she possess little to no common sense. Just think of Bella in a dystopian world and you have Ember. -_- Yeah, I’m not even sorry I burned that image in your mind.

When Ember is taken away to the reform school, she blackmails someone who tried looking out for her in an earlier scenario, knowing that it would put that person’s ass on the line. I can see what Simmons was trying to accomplish with showing how their society had put people in impossible situations that cause them it to be a “It’s nothing personal. I don’t have a choice,” kinda thing. But, of course, since I didn’t have a good grasp on the society in the first place, I couldn’t readily associate it that way. In fact, neither could Ember. It was like she didn’t even know this was a dystopian novel. She blames the love interest, Chase, for all her misfortune and I’m sitting here, scratching my head wondering, “WTF, dude! You have a corrupt government. Why are you blaming the one person trying to help you??” I’m really struggling to understand her line of thinking. Did she think the Moral Statutes were fair or normal? Did she think the government controlling all forms of travel and media was A-OK? Did not the disappearance of her classmates indicate an oppressive government? And even after she discovered her classmates had been killed by the government, why did she think her mother, a direct violator of the Moral Statutes, would be let go? Her decision-making scared me and I hope when the zombie apocalypse hits, someone like her is nowhere near me, because I swear I’m tripping her.

And then you have the love interest, Chase, who puts himself at great personal risk over and over again just to keep Ember (the little ingrate) safe. I felt sorry for this kid because Ember blames him for her mother being taken away just because he was there when she was arrested. As if he personally told the army, “Hey I know of an Article 5 violator who we can go arrest. Let’s go get ’em!” The fact that it was painfully obvious that he was just following orders made me dislike Ember even more.

The Romance:

I think a person’s overall enjoyment of Article 5 hinges on the romance. Personally, it did nothing for me. Most of the romance takes place over a series of flashbacks over the course of the novel, so I never felt connected to it, especially after the way Ember treats Chase. Ember struggles against her feelings for Chase, saying she can never forgive him for taking her mom or monologuing several times over about how much he has changed since being drafted into the FBR (I can’t remember what that stands for nor do I care anymore, but it’s their militia). Her inability to accept him can be summed up at worst, to exist solely to further the plot and at best, frustrating. I just wanted to scream at her! “HE SAVED YOUR LIFE!! HE MUST CARE ABOUT YOU!!! SHAKE HER! SOMEONE SHAKE HER!!” GaGa, get in here!

The Ending:

Article 5‘s saving grace was the last 15%. It’s the only reason that while I want to give it only 1 star, I’ll bump it to two. Ember does grow, but does that erase the frustration and anger I went through for her to get there? Absolutely not. Why? Because I almost didn’t finish the novel. I had to push myself to see what happened at the end long after I had lost interest in Ember and Chase’s well-beings. The ending finally has Ember thinking, “Hey, I live in a really wrong society, maybe I should start using my brain?” By that time, even though I’m happy she’s finally come to this revelation, I’m like,

Article 5 had the perfect premise, especially with the way things are going in the US. But instead, reading it was like watching someone devour the last honey bun at the vending machine – the one you were there for – and they end up throwing half of it away before finishing. Wasted potential.

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker and fangirl, YA Books Central editor and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.
Steph Sinclair
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15 Responses to “Review: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons”

  1. MyEclecticBooks

    Eh, A world with no background, an annoying MC, and a romance that doesn’t work…sounds like a pass to me.  Thanks for the review.

  2. cynicalsapphire

    Your points, they make sense to me. I wish I had a better memory. It’s really hard for me to say whether I just happened to like Ember better, thus felt better disposed to the book as a whole or if I was simply in the right frame of mine or temporarily insane or what. I do know I read it toward the end of Dystopian August, so dystopia had pretty much lost all meaning at that point.
     
    Here’s the thing, though. I feel like a lot of dystopias don’t tell you how the world got that way. Sometimes that’s a bad thing, but sometimes not. Both The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale, from what I recall, only have fairly vague references to wars and such. The world in this one didn’t seem that big of a leap, so I guess I just inferred what happened. One could argue, I think, that a regular person wouldn’t necessarily know what had happened, certainly if a long time had passed, though, in this case, I don’t think it had been long at all, though Ember would have been pretty young. *shrug* How much do kids care about politics?
     
    Anyway, I do remember Ember doing some stupid things out of anger at Chase, like the whole getting out of the car and running to that crazy lady’s house. CREEPER. Chase was awesome though. A bit bossy, but it made sense since Ember didn’t always make good decisions. I’ll be curious to see what I think of Breaking Point.

    • Stephanie Sinclair
      Twitter:

      @cynicalsapphire True, THG didn’t have much world building outside of the war between the capital and districts. That’s one of the things some people complain about, but IMO I feel the story had stronger characters. With THG, their world didn’t appear to be connected to ours the way Article 5’s society is. The primary basis for the story is our version of the US. I didn’t feel it was connected well.  
       
      >One could argue, I think, that a regular person wouldn’t necessarily know what had happened, certainly if a long time had passed, though, in this case, I don’t think it had been long at all, though Ember would have been pretty young. <
       
      I thought of that too, thinking maybe it happened so long ago no one really remembers (like in THG), but yeah, it made it seem like it was really recent. I didn’t really expect her to know every thing. Just maybe the basics, like why there was even a war within the country in the first place. Ember didn’t strike me as someone who wouldn’t pay attention since she seemed to be the adult in the home, the provider, etc. I don’t know. Maybe it will be explained in Breaking Point?
       
      I had no qualms with Chase. He was a good character.

      • cynicalsapphire

        @Stephanie Sinclair I can see that. Have you read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow? They have a lot in common, but, from what I recall, he put a lot more backstory into it. When I say they have a lot in common, I mean in how close it is to being the current US.
         
        Also, I just realized that the heading for this post says Kristren Simmons, instead of Kristen. Just fyi.

        • cynicalsapphire

          @Stephanie Sinclair I did! But, then again, I liked Article 5 too, so I’m not certain how much my opinion is worth to you at this point. :-p
           
          Although, according to GR, we apparently agree 77% of the time, so maybe one of us just was in a weird mood while reading that one. *shrug*

  3. rocapri
    Twitter:

    tnx 4 the review . i’ll be reading book two because of chase . pls don’t hurt him more ember pls . *sorry if the sentence is not grammatically correct . dutch speaking south american lol

  4. Amy Turn the Page

    ‘The little ingrate’ made me laugh so much 😀
     
    Spot on review. I can’t even remember anything about this book which I read a couple of weeks ago to write my own review. A big disappointment.

  5. Realm of Fiction
    Twitter:

    Lovely review, Steph. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this more! I was actually a big fan of it, but I do agree that there’s a big focus on the romance. Do you think you’ll consider giving the sequel a try?

  6. AnimeJune

    I’ve noticed a saddening trend in YA lately where authors take sci-fi or fantasy or dystopian or historical genre tropes and instead of DEVELOPING them, they merely use them as glitzy, flimsy wrapping paper around what is essentially a standard teenage romance. To me, that’s disrespectful towards those genres. Nothing wrong with romance (I read that too!) but don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s science fiction. If you give us Romeo and Juliet in Space – some of us are going to be more interested in the “In Space” part than the Romeo and Juliet part, so you’re going to have to develop both.
     
    And even romance will suck if the heroine’s a moron who needs to be rescued all the damn time. I just finished reading a *587* page romance where the heroine is essentially an overstuffed throwpillow with tear ducts who continually puts the ever-patient hero in danger. NO THANKS.

  7. Annathea

    There is only that may ways You can pack up romance so it doesn’t get stuck in “romance” section. Right now, dystopian is the more popular packaging. None of this book are really dystopian, they don’t make me feel like 1984 had for exemple.
    Bella in dystopian society… aw, that hurt ^^

    • Stephanie Sinclair
      Twitter:

      @Annathea I haven’t read 1984, but I’ve seen the glowing reviews. I agree. It’s a new trend, which I have no problem with romance. But like AnimeJune mentioned, I’d like to see sub-genre’s elements developed more as well.

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