July 31, 2012

Article 5: A Panoramic Review

"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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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.
" (from Goodreads) 
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
 
My reaction: 


This is one of those books that you can enjoy as long as you don't think about it too much. If you critically analyze the world-building, things will begin to fall apart. It's both quite conventional for a dystopian novel — think militarized regime à la 1984 — and not that plausible. I was skeptical that the military and people high in command would actually care about a couple of runaways like Chase and Ember; I just don't see it as being a practical, efficient use of resources (along with the reform schools). Basically, Chase and Ember are living in a police state and always on the run. That's pretty much all you need to know, and trying to figure out how everything fits together — the past war, the Statutes, the evacuations, the weird reform schools for girls — will not lead to success.

Plot-wise, it's predictable. The one big revelation that happens towards the end I had my suspicions about for a while (spoiler, highlight to read: I suspected that the mom was either dead or going to die). I guessed the plan for how Ember was going to extract Chase and herself from a tough spot before she executed it. So don't go into this expecting a whole bunch of surprises that you can't see coming. Also, I wasn't totally sold on the climactic scene; I think things were a little too easy for Ember and Chase, and the adversary they faced should have been able to do something else.

That said, as a reading experience I found Article 5 to be pretty gripping, and I was really into it most of the time. There was a point at which I was feeling the whole thing was pointless and had lost its direction; Ember and Chase go from one skirmish or hiding place to another without accomplishing anything for quite a while. But then the big revelation occurs and that changes things.

Best aspect: the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) aspect of Chase's character. (PTSD has always been an area of psychology that's interested me.) His behaviour is never officially labelled, but it's clear that's what Chase is dealing with. He's obviously torn about his involvement in the military — he's a strong fighter, but he feels sick about what he's been forced to do. This guilt mixes with blame of Ember for not asking him to stay (though this is pretty irrational, since what could they have done, really? He was drafted...if he disobeyed, they would have been on the run anyway, right?). Of course, Ember blames him, too, since he's present when she and her mother are arrested. 

Their relationship is fraught with tension. In one way, it's a slow-burn romance (you're going to have to wait a while for any kisses!), but since they have a history and were involved before, it's not a new romance. There are all these memories and past stuff that they either need to talk about or get over. Ember's memories of Chase from before work really well to contrast with the current Chase — they're almost different individuals in her mind.

If I could change something... I'd make Ember a little more self-reliant and independent right from the start. To be honest, Ember bugged me in parts. She spends a lot of her time doing the following: panicking, freaking out, crying, and being scared (sometimes all at once!). Since Chase is from the army and knows more than Ember about the society and survival, and he and Ember spend most of the book together, she relies on him heavily. As in: there will be a danger, Chase will come to the rescue and save Ember, she will cling to him, and then they will bond before they remember all their issues and go all cold and distant with each other again. This happens multiple times with different dangerous situations: lather, rinse, repeat. Aspects of their relationship — his protectiveness of Ember, his greater strength, his tendency to save her all the time — might remind you of the Bella-Edward relationship in Twilight, so you have been warned.

However, to put things in perspective, I feel like many of us would do the same as Ember in the situations she faces. I think I would be freaking out too if someone was pointing a gun at me or I was hiding while someone else was getting murdered nearby. If there was a strong guy like Chase next to me, I might very well be clinging to him in shock too...so I don't think I can blame Ember all that much. But the Ember-crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat thing does get tiresome. Thankfully, Ember also has some good qualities; she's extremely loyal to her mother, and cares about integrity and ethics — not only her own, but also Chase's. And she goes through some important character development and comes into her own at the end, a key piece of information eventually pushing her into a place of greater mental strength. Hopefully she won't regress to her previous behaviour in the next book.

If you haven't read it: and you liked the quick pace and constant danger of The Hunger Games and the slow-burn, "forbidden" romances in Matched and Birthmarked, you'll probably enjoy Article 5. But if you're a reader who wants to think critically about the dystopian elements of the society, you'll likely be dissatisfied.

If you have read it: do you agree with the above comparisons? How do you think this book stands up to those others?

Just one more thing I want to mention: at times I was reminded
of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The desperate lengths people will go to when threatened or starving are portrayed well here.

Quote: 




"My terror grew, closing off the world around me. Chase's presence didn't soothe me as it had in the past. The mouth that had once curved into a smile and softened against my lips was a hard, grim line. There was no warmth in him now. This was not the Chase I remembered. This wasn't my Chase."



Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. I know I've touched on a lot of weaknesses above — shaky world-building, clichés and stereotypes, repetitive plot. But despite all of that, it was a good reading experience for me, and for the most part I enjoyed the romance and the characters. If you can tune out the many questions or criticisms that may arise as you read it, and just go along for the ride, you might find yourself surprisingly riveted to its pages.

 
Disclaimer: I received this for review from the publisher.


Note: Article 5 contains some mature content (scenes of violence).

This book counts towards my goal for the Debut Author reading challenge.

8 comments:

  1. Great review! This is a book I heard a lot about and then forgot about. I think Ember could do with some more character building, she's probably annoy me as well, but I would really like to read this!

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  2. I thought Ember was super frustrating-she'd be one way and then the other and it annoyed me! This one was not a winner for me although I remember interested in finding out what people think of the sequel-there's definitely room for improvement! Great review-I really like this format :)

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  3. I love the way your review is formatted, I got alot from this review and I think I might just read this book!

    www.staceyuma.blogspot.co.uk - A Book Blog.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The worldbuilding was shaky and Ember sometimes annoyed me too, but overall I thought this was a good read. I'm not a huge dystopian fan but when I do read them, I tend to prefer mine full of action. So, this was right up my alley :)

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  5. Hmm..I had this one on my tbr pile after reading some glowing reviews but I completely forgot about it. I think I'm going to move it down a bit as I have other pressing reads to get to. While I do like action in my dystopians, I also need a firm basis of world building and a good plot.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I thought you would like to know of a blogger who likes your tapestry of words so much they are reposting your work under their own blog; probably all of your work though I did not check. The link I found of your work is here: http://jomblanx.blogspot.com/2012/08/a-tapestry-of-words-ya-reviews_2.html

    I think you will recognize it easily enough. I have reported the blog to Blogger but so far they have done nothing so I am taking the fight to others affected in the hope you will report the blog here: http://support.google.com/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1114905&page=ts.cs

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for alerting me to this :)

      Delete
  7. You are welcomed. I just received a message from Blogger that they have removed the content I reported but I could not possibly report all of my posts so they have not all been removed. However, they are investigating the blog and hopefully will take it down. So frustrating when this goes on.

    ReplyDelete

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