ARTICLE 5 (Article 5 #1)Kristen Simmons
THE STORY (from Goodreads)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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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.
MY THOUGHTSDark and bleak, Article 5 presents us with a vision of a future we would do anything to prevent from coming to pass, depicting in detail a world without freedom – one that likely isn’t all that different from what exists in other parts of today’s world, but still one unfamiliar and absolutely terrifying for most of us. The idea of mandatory compliance to government-regulated statutes creates an automatic sense of claustrophobia from the very first page, our breath coming in shorter pants despite the available air around us, and we can almost physically feel the walls of Ember’s life start to close in on her as she finds herself a target by association in an Article violation. As a result, we immediately throw ourselves mentally and emotionally into the story, thrusting our arms out vicariously as though we can stop the walls from moving another inch by sheer determination and will, standing resolutely behind Ember as pillars of strength supporting her as those around her try to tear her down.
Ember starts out a young woman who in the first few pages seems to take her life a bit for granted, a little naïve to the bigger picture of the world around her as she focuses only on what and who is closest to her. That quickly changes however when she’s brutally forced to face the realities of post-War life with no preparation or warning, and we can help but be proud of the way she bravely looks adversity in the eye and refuses to blink when others tuck chin and turn away. She adapts to new situations beautifully, never clinging desperately to the only things she knew from her previous life, but rather observing and studying what’s around her so she can formulate a plan to survive and reach her mother.
While Ember is remarkably strong of mind and extraordinarily level-headed in dangerous situations (most of the time), she is also extremely vulnerable when it comes to Chase, his presence often bringing her flaws into sharp relief as they both battle with shared history, lingering romantic feelings, and betrayal. Initially we fully support the fury she directs at him for the role he plays in her and her mother’s detainment, but as we get short flashbacks to their time together prior to his draft into the FBR, we begin to see how the sense of betrayal is not simply one-sided, and the web of conflicting emotions is far more tangled than we could have imagined. There are times when we begin to get frustrated with the way Ember and Chase treat one another–their communications often terse and tinged with palpable longing, pain, and misplaced anger–but before that irritation fully settles in, we’re able recall that in times of emotional distress we’ve all been guilty of spewing hurtful words in the mistaken hope that our own pain will be expelled with them as they tumble from our mouths, a desperate attempt at self-preservation by verbally siphoning the poison infecting our systems into someone else.
Overall, Article 5 is an outstanding beginning to this dystopian trilogy, a story that has us seeing red at what the world has become, our disappointment in the way humanity responds to the War a heavy burden to bear as we follow Ember and Chase. Luckily for us though, Ms. Simmons lightens our load periodically on our journey with little slivers of hope—a small gesture, kindness, or sign of resistance continually reminding us that amidst the ruins and rubble of a once great nation beauty still exists and compliance is only voluntary.