Books · REVIEWS

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Article 5

“How cold and foreign this city seemed, that even death could pass unnoticed.”

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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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

Personal Thoughts:

Dystopian fictions that is centered in political or government structures and its issues are something I enjoy reading. I like how they usually project the possibilities of the future. Unlike with science fiction, I find dystopian fictions much truer or closer to reality. They usually shows a bleak future that we can get if we are not so careful with the path we choose today. Article 5 is no different, it shows a possible reality of what our government can be.

After the war that ended few years ago, United States has a new government, where highly conservative rulers enforce compliance of the Moral Statutes. There are list of articles that follow certain moral behavior, and these articles are strictly enforced by the military government called FBR (Federal Bureau of Reformation) also know as Moral Militia. They ensures that citizens abide by the rules of the articles, and any violator will be punished. Ember and her mother are taken into custody for non-compliance with article 5, which outlaws children born out of wedlock. Ember is born seventeen years ago, where FBR and the articles doesn’t exist yet, so technically it should not be an offense. But the FBR don’t intend to grant Ember and her mother an exemption so they arrest her mother and sent Ember to the reform center where they intend to make her learn how to follow their rules. But Ember is not someone who will just accept the situation, with her mother nowhere in sight, she can’t just stay in a reform center. She needs to know if her mother is safe or not. But leaving the reform center is impossible. Everyone who tried to leave without permission either end up dead or get caught and punished. She is loosing hope already until Chase came and get her out of the reform center. But Chase is not telling her all the truth, soon she and Chase is running away and hiding from the FBR.

I enjoy the narration format where Ember is flipping back and fort between the past and the present. While the present only focus on Chase and Ember running away from the FBR, Ember’s memories of the past years gives a detail story of Ember and Chase relationships before they went separate ways. It shows a different version of them not just as a couple but also as individual. It explains so much what their environment or the government have done to both of them. Chase become tough and hard while ember become distrustful. They are both conflicted by everything that happen after they lost their family and each other.

“Losing your family….it puts fear in a different perspective”

Ember is a strong, independent and determined character who won’t back down fighting for her rights and what she believed in. Her determination to save or help her mother from possible hurt is remarkable. But Ember is not perfect. She is stubborn and inconsistent sometimes. When she was still in the reform center she don’t have issues about fighting back or hurting people just to get out and find her mom, but when she was with Chase she kept on thinking that she should run away because she can’t fathom seeing Chase hurting someone where in fact Chase is just doing all those for her, to protect and save her.

“Chase killing someone was something I could not be a part of, no matter how perilous it would be without him, no matter what past we’d shared. Whatever part of him was still him, the greater part, the more dangerous part, was always lurking.”

She made some mistakes and did unnecessary things that lead to more problems. She maybe fighting hard but she’s not always fighting smart, which makes her a little childish in my eyes. Considering her age, her actions maybe a bit acceptable but with all the circumstances she been through, I expect her to be more cautious in her next step. Her past mistakes should count something, but instead she let her emotions and fear dictate her actions. Most of her actions where based on spur of the moment decisions ruled by her conflicted feelings with her ex-boyfriend, Chase.

“He was my anchor in the hurricane, yet at the same time, the hurricane itself, so that I nearly always felt safe and afraid simultaneously. There was nothing in the world as confusing and powerful as being close to him.”

It took awhile before Ember realized and accept the reality. That everything Chase did was for her, to keep her safe and protect her. Ember mistakes occur not because of stupidity but mostly because of ignorance and lost faith to people – the result of what she’s getting from her surrounding and her government. For a while she let her conflicted feelings ruled her, but sooner than later she realized what she did and make amend for it.

Chase is a troubled and traumatized person who is trying make amends with what he thinks he did wrong in the past. As a soldier he is strong and obedient but when something happens to someone he love he will fight the law even it means his own death. For someone who isn’t actually doing a narration it surprised me how I can easily sympathize with him. I can easily see his emotions, feel his pain and all the things he was forced to endure. I even feel that I know him more than Ember actually know him. Which is weird, because Ember supposed to know him more than I did and she is the one who actually giving me the details about Chase. When Chase is afraid or freaked-out, I feel the tensions in him and almost wish there is something I can do to help him.

The world that Kristen Simmons created in this book is the real strength of Article 5. It is hauntingly brilliant and disturbingly realistic, something that could be our reality in the not-so-distant future. I won’t even be surprise to know if some of it actually happening somewhere already or happened before. The oppression, discrimination to women and overly controlled government is not new to us, it happened before, it just that Kristen‘s version is extreme but still possible. Even without so much back story about the war that happened or the current situation outside America it is still easy to picture the new government she created.

Filled with fear, actions, and intrigue, Article 5 is a thought-provoking, powerful and hauntingly realistic story. It will leave you contemplating about our current government and the possibilities of the open future. It makes me questions how much is the reality of this situation from our current world now.

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