Sunday, July 15, 2012
Review: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Title: Article 5
Author: Kristen Simmons
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Article 5 joins the pile of few books in my life that make me want to scream, “Why the hype? Is my copy missing a couple hundred pages or something?” In all honesty, I was unable to understand just what was so great about this book. Not only was there a severe and disappointing lack of world-building, I found the protagonist to be far too annoying for my liking as well. In fact, I’m surprised I even made it through this novel! I think Article 5 had a lot of potential, but ultimately, it simply fell flat as so many other dystopian – no, sorry, dystomances - seem to be doing lately.
In a futuristic world where compliance is mandatory, rights and laws as we know it have been replaced with a set of austere regulations known as the Moral Statutes. Seventeen-year-old Ember's mother has unknowingly broken one of these rules and must now pay the price. Ember is forced to watch as soldiers from the Federal Bureau of Reformation - what Ember refers to as the Moral Militia - drag her mother away from her and to her dangerous fate. Ember, refusing to let this happen without a fight, winds up being taken from her home and placed in a girls' rehabilitation center. Now, Ember will do anything to break out and save her mother before it is too late. Yet, even more disturbing than her mother's demise is the fact that Ember's love of her life, Chase Jennings, was the one who took her mother away.
I'm not going to lie - the beginning of the novel was hooking. I found myself flipping the pages rather frantically, eager to know what happens next. However, when I forced myself to stop, I found a plethora of problems within the story and found it incredibly hard to move on. One of the main reasons I love dystopian novels is because the reader is allowed to experience a different world, so similar to our own, that the author has envisioned. Yet, even more important than that, is how our world became the futuristic realm our protagonist finds herself in. Unfortunately, Simmons was unable to provide me with answers on this front. I was sorely disappointed by the dearth of world-building that was present in this novel and envy readers who were able to work past this road-block. I, however, could not. For me, world-building is essential in any dystopian, fantasy, or paranormal novel and the complete disregard for it in this novel ruined the story for me. I constantly found myself coming up with more questions and fewer answers - something that is most certainly not a good sign.
World-building - or lack of - aside, I also found myself to be extremely frustrated with the characters in this novel. In the beginning of this book, Ember seems to be strong-willed, determined, and intelligent. Yet, as the story progresses, it is evident that she loses her zeal for rescuing her mother and deteriorates into a petulant, useless, and frankly speaking, irritating character. Ember's time in the girls' reformatory center where she is sent reinforces the need of a strong female character in a world that seriously lacks them, but Ember fails to live up to this cause. Furthermore, her actions are borderline ridiculous which simply adds an unrealistic element to the entire tale. Ember actually runs away from Chase, the one character in this novel who has jeopardized his career and reputation in the attempt to keep her alive, twice! Yes, that's right, twice! She is constantly changing her opinions of Chase - one minute he's evil, the next moment he's protecting her, and the next moment she doesn't feel safe with him. In fact, there isn't even a logical sequence of ideas to justify these unruly actions! Ember's intial distrust of Chase makes sense, but why she continued not to trust him and her consequent reasoning for her actions simply mystified me.
Speaking of mystifying, I could not for the life of me understand why Chase stuck around with Ember. If I were him, I would have left her a looong time ago. Yet, that point aside, the romance in this novel just made me roll my eyes and want to hit my head against a wall - repeatedly. Not only was the supposed sexual tension in this book cliché, so were many of the scenes where these two actually interacted. Plus, the love story in this novel is your typical we've-been-in-love-since-forever which almost annoys me just as much as insta-love and love triangles do as there is virtually no development between the romantic interests. Sadly though, the romance in this novel would have been greatly improved if these two had actually talked and had a conversation opposed to just thinking about how handsome/pretty/hot the other was. If anything, that simply served to make me regard this romance as artificial and as a plot device opposed to an actual love story.
Article 5, in my opinion, should be renamed to Article Monumentally Disappointing. Not only was the hype surrounding this novel false, but the world-building was lacking, the protagonist annoying, the love story non-swoon-worthy, and I even had quite a few issues with the manner in which the first person point of view was written. While I appreciate the unique dystopian setting Simmons created, I wish we could have gleaned more insight into it. Perhaps my plethora of questions will be answered in the sequel, but I am most certainly not sticking around to find out. (Can you imagine me reading another book with Ember in it? I'll skip that, thank you very much!) While I didn't enjoy this story in the least, many other readers did, and like always, I find myself wishing I could have seen the brilliance of this novel that they saw. Yet, I think it's safe to say that Article 5 was most definitely not a novel for me.