Article 5: review

March 10, 2012 2012, 3 star books, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, kristen simmons, Reynje 26

by Kristen Simmons

“Dystomance” doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon, and the appetite for YA romance playing out against a backdrop of government oppression remains healthy, judging by the titles storming my goodreads feed. I’ve had varying degrees of success with this particular subgenre, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer those where the romance takes a back seat to the plot and worldbuilding. It’s a personal preference, but I find that the opposite scenario, with the romance centre stage and the world set up to fuel romantic angst, makes for less of a satisfying reading experience.

So while I approached Article 5 with some trepidation, and I would still shelve it along with its apocalyptic and dystopian romance companions, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked this book. I don’t love it and it’s not without issues, primarily of the worldbuilding variety, but this is a solid contender with more substance than a case of tru luv gone awry.
Lately, it only takes accessing the internet or broadly keeping up with global political developments to see that Simmons’ vision of an ultra / neo-conservative United States is not exactly unimaginable. While the book is somewhat sketchy on the rise of this government, the Moral Statues and the war that preceded, the underlying ideas make for a plausible, interesting premise. If the book is rather lacking in explanation (and it is), it does a decent job of creating a stifling atmosphere of control and surveillance by a regressive right-wing government.
During a systematic sweep of the nation to reinstate strict moral codes and “reform” its citizens to traditional gender and family roles, Ember Miller and her mother fall afoul of article 5 of the Moral Statutes, by virtue of Ember’s illegitimacy. Present at their arrest is young officer and Ember’s former neighbour, Chase Jennings, apparently having been completely indoctrinated by the Moral Militia.
The sparseness of back story will doubtless be a major roadblock for some, and that’s understandable. However, to Simmons’ credit, she has crafted a compelling dynamic between the main characters that keeps the book engaging. Rather than relying on an instant connection born out of inexplicable chemistry, Ember and Chase’s relationship is tied to their shared history and complicated by their present circumstances. Ember is an impulsive, scared teenager fearing for the life of her mother and her own safety. Chase is a conflicted young soldier suffering the effects of PTSD and a burdened conscience. While the development of their story is predictably hindered by one of my pet peeves – a willful lack of communication – the plot maintains a brisk pace and the focus is not entirely on the will-they-won’t-they element.
The characters are better fleshed out here than some comparable reads of late, and Simmons’ incorporation of mental health issues is insightful without being obtrusive and bludgeoning the reader with cumbersome messaging. Chase, in particular, is strong, well-developed character, gradually revealed in more detail throughout the story. And while Ember was not always a character I cared for, I appreciated the fact that she had agency and motivation independent of the romance subplot. As she gains understanding she becomes a more sympathetic character, and one that I warmed to as her story progressed.
The writing of Article 5 is brisk and even – and as the conduit of Ember’s voice, it’s articulate and aware. It’s a fast paced story and a relatively quick read, with compelling stakes and an ending that avoids cliffhangers, yet leaves the way open for Simmons to further develop her characters and the world they live in.
While I would have preferred more detailed development and solid explanation for the premise, I still found Article 5 held its own in a crowded field, and I look forward to reading the sequel.
Rated 3 out of 5 stars

26 Responses to “Article 5: review”

  1. Bookworm1858

    I found the premise for this book frighteningly possible but really didn’t like either of the two main characters. Not a winner in my book but not the worst by any means.

  2. Gina @ My Precious

    Oh what a fantastic review. I’ve wanted to read this one for a while now. I’m excited to get a copy for myself after reading your review. I’m on your side, I like dystopian books where romance is in the background and world building and other stuff takes front stage.

  3. A. Knight

    I rally liked this book. And that’s mostly attributed to the fact that I loved everything you mentioned enjoying, and the parts that left you hanging. Different tastes and all that. But I’m glad you liked it. I think you’re 100% correct about the fad for ‘dystomance’ as you put it. I don’t think it’ll be going away anytime soon. Plus, who would want it to? I enjoy it immensely ;)

    Asher

  4. Blueicegal ♥

    I’m really looking for a book with characters that stand out. So that’s a plus. But not sure if it’s a 3 star read. Will look up on some more reviews and then see. Thanks for sharing reyyyyy. Lovely review as always :)

  5. Vegan YA Nerds

    Great review, Rey! I haven’t had much interest in this book even though it’s all over the blogs and Goodreads but you have me interested in it now, even if it wasn’t the greatest book.

    • Reynje

      Thanks :) To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested initially either – so I was pleasantly surprised. I love it when that happens :)

  6. Savannah Valdez

    I loved this book! And I get what your saying about the sparseness of the story, then again, it is a trilogy so I was expecting that. And I am expecting to learn a lot more in the next book! Hooray for some juicy secrets!! LOL

  7. A Canadian Girl

    Reynje, your review kind of makes this one seem a little like Legend. I’m not a hard core dystopian fan but I did like Legend so I’ll be checking this one out.

    I like that the romance is based on a past history and that it isn’t the focal point of the story. It’s too bad the background of the world isn’t explained properly but since this is a series, I’m assuming the author will get to that in the future.

  8. Shooting Stars Mag

    Great review. I haven’t read that many dystopian novels to be honest, but I think I’d like the ones where romance takes the back seat too. I just think if you’re building this crazy future world, then the “love story” really wouldn’t be the main focus, you know?

    Glad you liked this one! Sounds pretty interesting.

    -Lauren

    • Reynje

      My thoughts exactly Lauren! I prefer dystopian novels where the romance is not the main element of the plot. Really hoping to find out more the world of Article 5 in the sequel :)

  9. roro

    great review Reynje/ i loved it though i want 2 know more of the coverment
    i canm’t waitfor book2

  10. Natalie (Mindful Musings)

    I’m with you on liking the romance to take a backseat in my dystopian books (actually, I’ve felt that way with a lot of books lately). I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting burned out on all the (frequently unrealistic) romance that’s present in YA lately or what, but I’m starting to feel like a bitter cynic! Lol.

    • Reynje

      I know the feeling, Natalie! Fortunately, this was a case where I actually liked the romance element, as it didn’t overshadow the plot :)

  11. Jenny

    I absolutely loved this book, but I definitely agree with you on the world-building, I would have enjoyed a little more history of the War and how the world came to be as it was. That being said, it didn’t bother me all that much because, like you mentioned, the characters were really well done. Glad you enjoyed it for the most part!!!!

    • Reynje

      Thanks Jenny! I definitely enjoyed this one a lot more than some other recent YA dystopias I’ve read – I’m intrigued to see where the sequel will go..

  12. Eleanor

    I think I’ll be adding this to my to-read list, Ember and Chase have piqued my interest and I’m always interested in books which contain a skilful treatment of mental health issues. Thanks for the review! :)

  13. Sam

    Brilliant review, Reynje. I loved this book a lot more than you did, but it’s great to hear you enjoyed aspects of it. I wish we could have found out more about the Moral Statutes, but apart from that, I really liked it. Hopefully the sequel will be just as good, if not better. :)

  14. Melliane

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book even it didn’t blow your mind away. I think it’s always interesting to see the author’s ideas about the world in this kinf of books. I hope the second novel will improve. great review.

    • Reynje

      Thanks Melliane! I’m definitely curious to see where the author is going to take the story next. I think the sequel has great potential :)