Annotation: In the not-too-distant future, the United States is governed by the Moral Statutes: laws created following a catastrophic world war. One of the newest laws is Article 5 which states that only children conceived by a married man and woman are valid citizens. Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller has always tried to abide by the Moral Statutes, but after Article 5 is enacted, she and her single mother can no longer hide.
Personal thoughts: I am really a big fan of dystopian novels, but it seems like after you’ve read 20+ titles in the genre, the ones that don’t do something completely different kind of blend together. I enjoyed reading Article 5, but I’m worried that it might not be unusual enough to really stick out in the crowd. I kind of already knew what was going to happen when the story began, just because it is what usually happens in dystopian novels. I do think it is a good book, however, and would easily recommend it to someone who wanted a Hunger Games read-alike. I will also definitely be picking up the sequel when it’s released, and I hope that the author can take the story in a unique direction that will really make the series a standout.
Plot summary: After a brutal war destroyed most of the United States’ major cities, the country is now under control by the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR). The Moral Statutes govern what citizens can and cannot do, and compliance is mandatory. The newest of the Moral Statutes is Article 5, which states that only children conceived by a married man and woman are valid citizens. Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller has tried to live her life in compliance with the Statutes. She attends high school, behaves appropriately, and tries to discourage her free-spirit mother from acting immorally. After the FBR initiates a crackdown on Article 5 violators, however, Ember and her mother, who has never been married, find themselves under arrest. Ember is sent to a reform school for girls, and her mother is sent to prison to await trial. The reform school is operated by a cruel woman named Ms. Brock and guarded by dozens of FBR soldiers. Ember wants nothing more than to escape the school and rescue her mother, but she cannot forget the face of one of the men who arrested her: Chase Jennings, the only boy she has ever loved.
Review: From debut author Kristen Simmons comes Article 5, the first novel in a new dystopian series for teens. Dystopian novels seem to be the bread and butter of the young adult genre in recent years, and, although it is well-written and has originality, Article 5 does have a lot in common with other recently published dystopian novels. The government rules with an absolute iron fist, people who disobey aren’t heard from again, the main character finds herself thrust into a situation that causes her to be at odds with the government, there is a romance that is threatened by the aforementioned situation. These are all plot points that Article 5 shares with other novels in the genre (in fact, Katniss Everdeen, the Godmother of dystopia herself, has these in common with Kristen Simmons’ Ember Miller.) The fact that Article 5 is a lot like other recently published dystopian novels, however, doesn’t make it any less entertaining. The author does a great job of creating tension in the story: the reader is never sure who to trust, what the truth about various situations is, and what will happen next for Ember Miller and Chase Jennings. There are also several plot twists that keep the book flowing very smoothly from start to finish, leaving the reader at a satisfying point to anticipate the sequel. Ember is a very likable if slightly underdeveloped character (the reader doesn’t really get a sense for who she is prior to the events of the story because the action starts within the first pages of the novel.) Hopefully, the author will be able to expand on Ember, Chase and their relationship in the sequel, Breaking Point, which is set to be released on February 5, 2013.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Divergent series by Veronica Roth, Eve by Anna Carey, The Pledge by Kimberly Derting, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Starters by Lissa Price, Partials by Dan Wells, Legend by Marie Lu, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, What Happened to Serenity? by PJ Sarah Collins.
Themes: Dystopian, post-apocalyptic, oppression, romance, duty, mother/daughter relationships.
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from School Library Journal and Huffington Post.
Series Information: Sequel, Breaking Point, set to be released February 5, 2013.
Discussion questions:- What do you think of the Moral Statutes? Do you think it’s possible that something like the Statutes could ever be enacted in the United States? Why or why not?
- What would you have done if you were taken to reform school? Would you have acted like Rebecca? Rosa? Ember? Why?
- What do you think was the reasoning behind Chase’s actions throughout the novel? Was it love? Loyalty? Duty?
- Why do you think Tucker had such a grudge against Chase?
- What would you like to see happen in the sequel to Article 5?