Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Author: Kristen Simmons
Series: Article 5 #1
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Dates Read: February 27-March 2, 2012
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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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.
Article 5 is a fantastic novel, and a stunning debut. It makes a serious contender for my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, and I’ve read some good ones. Kristen Simmons pulls out all the stops. The dystopian world is well-shaped, frightening for its plausibility. In the vein of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, the world of Article 5 is one gone bad not because of natural disaster or paranormal entities. It is primarily a case of post-war governmental intervention run rampant and corrupted into something wildly wrong. In a world where practicing the wrong religion or reading the wrong books or being born the the wrong father can get you killed, rebellion is a terrifying prospect. Even headstrong Ember doesn’t consider acting out in a big way until the Federal Bureau of Reformation shows up on her doorstep, stealing her mother away from her and condemning her to rehabilitation camp until she “ages out” at eighteen. Afraid for her life and suspecting she will never see her mother, friends or home again, the only thing that can make it worse is the damning presence of Chase Jennings, the only boy Ember has ever loved, as an arresting officer.
Article 5 seeks to accomplish much, and it succeeds. It is a poignant statement on the corruption of government regulation. It makes the reader ponder the importance of freedom and rights. It leads the reader’s stomach to bottom out with dread with suspenseful scenes. Nail-biting tension keeps the pages turning. Certain scenes are written with the finesse of an great edge-of-your-seat horror movie, horrific and chilling to the bone. The characters are engaging. Ember is headstrong and fiery, but isn’t without her emotional baggage. This is understandable given the things she has to face, and makes her character relatable, seeing as how the world as she once knew it has fallen apart. Chase Jennings is a bit of an enigma–stoic one moment, fiercely protective the next, agonizingly tortured all the while. Once we begin to understand more about Chase, I find myself liking him even more (much as with Will Herondale in Clockwork Prince). The plot is a successfully executed gripping rollercoaster of events and emotions. Once you start reading this book, you don’t want to stop.
One of the little touches I really appreciate about the book is how, from the beginning, the history between Ember and Chase is a mystery. We learn little snippets through Ember’s flashbacks, both accurate and warped into nightmares. As her perspective deepens, the reader can relate to her more and more. The gradual unfolding of the story between Chase and Ember pushes their development and the reader understanding of the characters forward, but at the same time, allows the reader to step back and examine the events that have already happened through a different lens. Gaining understanding of these main characters and the things that have occurred around them is an important part of the story that occurs in parallel with the action, preventing the feeling of slowness that typically presents itself with a novel’s character background information.
As a Kentucky resident, I also had a little geek glee moment when I realized that parts of the novel took place in the state.
Article 5 is a brilliant, intense gem of a dystopian novel. I’d highly recommend it to anyone that thinks this is what they are looking for. I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on the next two novels in the trilogy.
As an aside, I had the opportunity to meet the author during a book signing in Lexington. Kristen Simmons is a very sweet, friendly, down-to-earth person. If you have a chance to meet her, you should! Here is some random additional information about Simmons and her book I gained through the session:
- Article 5 was the first manuscript she wrote which received interest from publishing agents, but it was not the first she wrote. She had a fascinating story about her struggle to get published, and a great message about how you should keep fighting if there is something you want to do with your life.
- She lived in Louisville, KY for six years. Article 5 was written during her time in the state. I suspected this from the descriptive details of (albeit future, destructed) Louisville in the novel.
- She had to cut a large chunk of words (many thousands) from her original manuscript to fit the length requirements of a young adult novel.
- She is a fan of the books The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. These two served as part of the inspiration for her novel.
- She did not set out to write a dystopian novel in those words. She was actually unfamiliar with the term until the publishing representative basically said “so, it’s a dystopian novel?”
- The characters are not based on specific people from her life. However, the character of Mrs. Brock is a nod to Headmaster Brocklehurst from Jane Eyre.
- The name of Rudy Lane (on which something important happens) comes from her greyhound, Rudy.
- She is a big fan of the survival/post-apocalyptic survival genre of books, films, etc. She is a fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
- I was surprised to learn, however, that she is not generally a big fan of horror movies. I expected that she would have been, given how successfully she created a creepy, chilling environment with the dog scene.