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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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