There may be a multitude of dystopian fiction out there at the moment, but Kristen Simmons’ Article 5 is a game changer, and provokes a whole host of thoughts about what could happen in the world in the wake of a war and a change of government.
We begin with an introduction to seventeen-year-old Ember Miller and her mother, a family struggling to cope in the aftermath of ‘the war’, although we are never told what this war was about or who was fighting in it. America has since become a nation dominated by the FBR, or the Federal Bureau of Reformation, and their moral statutes, nicknamed the Moral Militia (MM) by Ember and her friends. They are a force which arose from the ashes of war, ruling the nation with an iron fist and persecuting civilians who fail to conform to their laws.
Ember and her mother have been trying to keep a low profile, although they are still in possession of several banned artefacts, such as Ember’s favourite fiction novel Frankenstein or her mother’s racy paperbacks. When FBR soldiers come knocking on their door little do they expect that they are about to be punished for breaking one of the moral statutes, or Article 5 to be precise. This code prohibits the birth of children outside of wedlock, branding both Ember and her mother as immoral citizens who need to be reformed.
Both women try to put up as best a fight as they can, but Ember is shocked to the core when one of the soldiers turns out to be Chase Jennings, her first and only love and her previous next-door neighbour. She has loved him for most of her life, but he was summoned to become a soldier and there was nothing she could do about it. There is nothing about his presence now that reminds her of the person he used to be, with him apparently brainwashed by the uniform and refusing to prevent the family’s arrest.
Needless to say Ember is heartbroken, angry and confused as the FBR whisk her away to a reformation school for girls where she is meant to stay until her eighteenth birthday. However, she is desperate to be reunited with her mother and to know her fate, but soon learns the price for rebellion at the hands of vicious headmistress Ms. Brock. When a twist of fate brings her back to a reunion with Chase, she is determined to escape the harsh domination of the FBR and find her mother, but is Chase friend or foe? Could he really have forgotten their past together or is he still the same, deep down?
This book really does take you on a never-ending rollercoaster of emotion, as there are so many twists and turns, ups and downs and shocks and screams that leave you breathless but gasping for more. The writing style hooked me immediately, as it flows easily and lets you in to Ember’s first person perspective. Although we are only given her point of view, it is still easy to build up an image of the other characters and to gauge what they must be going through. The author uses flashbacks of the past to let us in to Chase and Ember’s previous relationship and how deep a connection they once shared. It made me as anxious as Ember to know what the FBR must have done to Chase to change him to such an extent, and to know if the old Chase could ever be regained.
I could not fall back in love with Chase Jennings. Doing so was like falling in love with a thunderstorm. Exciting and powerful, yes. Even beautiful. But violently tempered, unpredictable, and ultimately, short-lived.
For a heroine, Ember is strong but not without her flaws. She is feisty and rebellious; refusing to go down without a fight, but at the same time is so naïve of everything around her. Despite the harsh and unrelenting regime inflicted upon her, she still believes that they keep statute violators alive and is slow to realise that in reality they are shot or tortured to death. At times she was unaware of the true dangers around her, even with Chase’s warnings, and even though she has a strong-willed mind she was weak when it came to physically fighting back. However, throughout the novel she grows as a character and learns to become more resourceful, which I really admired about her and found her easy to like.
Similarly, it was easy to like Chase, as even though he is surly, quiet and generally unresponsive in the beginning, by the end he opens up to Ember again and we learn the full extent of his FBR training. He is strong and capable in a crisis, exactly the sort of character you need in their situation, although is also somewhat sinister. I liked how as a reader you are never one hundred percent certain of Chase’s motivations, and undergo the same analysis of him as Ember, although less clouded by her emotions. It was possible to see him from both angles, as some semblances of goodness prevail only to be dashed by cruelty and harsh words. I wanted to believe the best in him, like Ember, but I was still kept guessing until the end as the book makes you question everyone’s intentions.
The plot was fast-paced, and had me on the edge of my seat as I never quite knew what to anticipate next. There were several instances where I thought I knew what would happen only to have those ideas proven wrong again and again. For me, this unexpectedness kept the book exciting and I had to keep reading until I’d reached the very end. As the first in the series, it definitely builds up a substantial world in which to host a variety of exciting twists, and it ends on a hopeful note which I hope to see expanded in book two. I found more than I expected in Article 5 and I hope the following books are just as exciting.
This book had that special something that just pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go. I was hooked from the beginning and could barely put it down until I knew what was going to happen to Ember and Chase. There are still so many questions which need answers, and the beginnings of a resistance movement which is making me crave book two. The level of fear built up in response to the totalitarian force of the FBR is genuine and brings a shiver to your spine, definitely one to add to your bookshelf.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Article 5
- Breaking Point
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