Kristen Simmons’ thrilling debut novel Article 5 is the first in an eagerly anticipated dystopian trilogy. In a world where soldiers have replaced police, arrests are made for minor infractions, and the Bill of Rights has been replaced with the Moral Statutes, 17-year-old Ember Miller longs for the days when things were different. But when her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 by the only boy Ember has ever loved, her peaceful, low-profile life is thrown into chaos.
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Holds Its Own Against the many YA Dystopian Novels
I’ve read a lot of young adult dystopian novels and Article 5 ranks in the middle of that stack. It’s not in my top favorite but it wasn’t in the bottom either. I enjoyed Article 5 but there some parts of the book that felt familiar. The story was similar to Delirium and Pandemonium, and the romance was reminiscent of the love stories found in countless other YA novels. However, Article 5 has many original traits and can hold it’s own against the YA dystopian masses.
In the world of Article 5, the United States is a country rebuilding its society after a devastating war. Citizens who do not follow the government designated religion, have children out of wedlock, are the children of unmarried parents, rebel against the government, etc are thrown into a reformatory or are killed. The new government of the United States wants to eliminate those who would disagree with or taint their vision of new moral society. In other words, the government is basically putting people in internment camps and committing genocide.
It was hard for me to believe in this world as I can’t picture our country ever turning into this. I wished the author had expanding on more on what happened, besides a war, to make the country turn out like this. Scenes where the war was described were consistently vague. I’m hopping the next book might explain more but I have a feeling it won’t. The first book is usually where the author provides a history for their story.
So what did I like?
Article 5 is fast paced and the action starts right at the beginning and continues all the way to the last chapeter. The story moves along so quickly that any of the things mentioned above become non-issues. I also liked how the main characters, Ember and Chase, grew up together and had a strong bond. Many YA dystopian novels the two main characters meet for the first time and I appreciated this change. It was intriguing to have their history revealed bit by bit as the story moved along. Their relationship had a little bit of mystery behind it and it pulled me in.
The characters have an equal amount of pros and cons. Chase’s character is easy to like and I’m sure teenage girls every where are drooling over him. He’s tall, muscular, handsome, and protective. He’s also self-sacrificing which can be viewed as good and bad. After awhile got tired of him always throwing himself under the bus. While I understand why he is this way and I wished he would stick up for himself just a little bit more.
Ember is also easy to relate to and is smart, most of the time. She has moments of genius when she gets herself (and Chase sometimes) out of trouble. Then she has dumb moments where she walks right into trouble. She also seems to be pretty dense when it comes to recognizing that Chase clearly is in love her. She pushes him away for most of the book and this is as frustrating for the reader as it is for Chase. Ember redeems herself in the end.
I also enjoyed the narration of Jenny Ikeda. I’ve listened to one of her audiobooks before and enjoyed her voice. She has young voice but not too young. Many young adult audiobooks these days have very nasal sounding narrators. Ikeda’s narration is just right.
Overall, I had fun listening to Article 5. It’s fast tempo and resilient characters keep the reader hooked. It’s not my top pick for dystopian novels, but I think other readers who don’t read as many dystopian novels as I do would really enjoy it. I plan on reading or listening to the next book in the series.
I feel as if I have a love/hate relationship with this story. Not surprising, when you read all the reviews. People generally are on the "I love it!" side or the "This was a total waste of my time" side.
On the positive side, the story was pretty good. Some true lovers of the genre were disappointed that everything wasn't explained. For example, the war wasn't explained. Was it a civil war? Were our borders breached? I'm not sure it mattered in the long run. There was a war, it was terrible (as are all wars), it's over now, and the FBR is in control as we start the story. The Articles, as well as martial law, were made clear.
The pacing was good. There was a lot of action and suspense. It was predictable if you read this sort of thing all the time; there were no real surprises. There were some really creepy scenes, which added to the appeal of the book. It was nothing if not entertaining. This speaks to the writing, which was good. It wasn't overly flowery or poetic, which would have been inappropriate for this sort of plot. There was really nothing profound, either. And I didn't find it witty or funny or smart. These are things which would have made it better, but the book was still good without them. I think it just reflects that this author is young in her writing.
I had some serious problems with the characters. First off - great name, Ember Miller. Love that name! And for someone with such a great name, you'd think she'd have a functioning brain cell! There were so many times I found myself yelling at her idiocy that I almost gave up. It was hard to like a main character who wasn't just badass stubborn, but just flat stupid. She did impulsive things, didn't really learn anything from her mistakes, and most of all, didn't change until the very end. She never apologized for her behavior, blaming Chase for everything. And the thing that bugged me the most was the way she held this idealistic expectation of the world even when time after time it proved to be a bad place. I wanted to smack her and yell "Duh! What did you THINK was going to happen?" What may have been planned as naivete came across as willful, spiteful, childish behavior. She was anything but sympathetic.
I did like Chase. He was as likable as Ember was irritating. His PTSD was believable. He was honest. The only fault I think he had was his dogged determination to "just keep her safe." I think one of my favorite parts of the book was when [ they have the conversation on the road after getting away from the crazy lady in the trailer. He finally tells Ember that she's an idiot. (hide spoiler)] Emotionally, Chase did all the work. It might have been ok if she had at least appreciated it.
The angst and tension between the characters really got on my nerves. Just when I thought they'd finally be honest and get somewhere in terms of trusting each other, they would retreat or make asses of themselves. And here's the thing: I had to keep reminding myself that these two were 17 and 19 years old. Ember's maturity level should have risen far before it did based on her circumstances. If she was supposed to have street smarts from growing up poor and avoiding the soldiers, then she should have had more common sense than to think she could trust people.
In the end, Ember did redeem herself, so I suppose that also redeemed the story for me. It's ok to dislike a character in a story as long as the story is still good. I don't think Simmons wrote a bad story, or wrote a good story badly. She just wrote a really irritating character with no common sense. For me to have gotten as mad at her as I did tells me that Simmons did a good job. If I hadn't cared about Ember, then it would have been a badly written book.
Jenny Ikeda does a great job with the narration. And all things considered, it's a good read. I'm looking forward to the sequel, since Ember has (hopefully) finally gotten a clue. It's about time.