Did Not Finish Friday: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Release Date: 1/31/12
Source: ATWT Tours
Published by: Tor Teen
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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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.
Why I didn't finish this book:
For me, it was the world-building in the first few pages that set me off on a rage. I'm not usually someone who fixates on the details but Christianity the main religion of the nation? A moral statute devoted to making people wear uniforms? A (future) statute for girls, forbidding them from studying math? What?
In my mind, there are two types of dystopias. There are the alternative society types (i.e. The Hunger Games, though it says it "lies in the ruins of North America," or Divergent) and then there are "realistic," futuristic ones. This one would fit under the realistic type, given that it still occurs on Earth and assumes that the U.S. existed at some point and that this is what happened to the U.S. after an indeterminate period of time. So then what's the point in preventing girls from studying math? What does that have to do with anything except to make the society seem harsher? How on Earth did society get to be this way? I feel like dystopias these days add in all these details to "shock" the reader, that there's always some vague mention of a "War" (in this case, there are also some mentions of Chicago being bombed!), and none of these adequately explains to me why we've degenerated to such violence. If it's an alternative society, so be it. For some reason, it happened. I don't need the reason... But if you want me to suspend my disbelief about this happening in the future to our society as it stands, then don't add in unnecessary details.... 'Cause by page 30 of Article Five, I was really annoyed.
What's sad is that the world-building was what drew me to the novel. I really liked the idea of the Bill of Rights being revoked. I can actually picture that happening at some point. Surveillance measures have wormed their way into society, and there are some seriously questionable laws right now like the Patriot Act. What's one step more into having a stricter version of the BoR?
If only Ms. Simmons hadn't added some of her details, I might've gotten into the story....
Then I wondered if I was being too harsh--just because Article 5 came out later than other dystopian novels doesn't mean I shouldn't give it another chance, shouldn't judge it based on how its "peers" have annoyed me. So I skipped ahead, and the book had some redeeming parts like Chase & Em's chemistry. I really, really liked Chase and Em as a couple, and I've mentioned many times before how I like relationships that are the rekindling of sparks romance. I loved their history, and it made me like reading from Ember's perspective more (on most pages, she was an average protagonist to me; I didn't really feel the "hook" of her personality)... and so I continued half-skimming, half-reading...
Then I realized the other low point of the book. The plot. The plot reminded so much of the plot in Shatter Me. Nothing really happens except that Ember and Chase argue a lot while they're on the run, sometimes encounter obstacles that allow Kristen Simmons to divulge more details about her world, and then manage to escape again after something drives a wedge between Ember and Chase. I didn't like that plot in SM and I probably wouldn't have liked it in Article Five, had the world not bothered me as much as it did.
The author's writing was fine. I definitely would be willing to give her another chance if she wrote a different type of story... but as it stands, the romance couldn't make up for the issues I had with the dystopian world and plot of Article Five.