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Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
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Mar 06, 12

Read on February 16, 2012

I didn’t have much faith in this book. At first the writing seemed clunky in a way that prevented me from properly immersing myself in the story and the characters, especially the beginning. The arrest of Ember and her mom was so exaggerated and overly dramatic to the point where I was rolling my eyes.

Too. Much. Angst.

And then somehow the book grew on me—or maybe the writing improved, heh. I won’t be too spoilery so let’s just say I was right there with Ember in the moment whenever she felt pain or anger or helplessness, and I haven’t felt this way for a long time while reading a book.

These days, daily atrocities (not the “important” ones like hurricanes and floods, but the ever-present ones like poverty and corruption) that we see on national news is mostly listened to for a few seconds before flicking away to another channel because we’ve seen it all before—compassion fatigue, as it’s called. Before reading YA dystopian books, compassion fatigue is the defense I put up in preparation for all the expected atrocities, but somehow the author wormed herself through it and made me care for all her characters. Against my will I felt at turns horror, pity, disgust and rage at the injustice that was going on, and felt for the predicament each character was in. I wanted to see retribution for the victims. I wanted to set things right.

Not many books do that to me. And that is the mark of a great author. Don’t even get me started on character development (yes! It actually exists). In the beginning, Ember is a dainty little missus with a heady case of TSTL-ess (view spoiler) in a way that’s reminiscent of DAMN TOO MANY YA BOOKS (prime examples: Twilight, Hush Hush, I’m looking at you). Somehow, by the end she’s a gun-toting badass that is resourceful in the ways of escape and rebellion. I’m not even being sarcastic. And as much as I would love to be like her, her eventual state of being comes at a too-high cost that never in a million years would I choose to go through.

I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m not too keen on the love interest. Tall, dark, and handsome, yadda-yadda, we’ve all read and know Chase’s type: heartbreakingly beautiful, a mysterious exterior, a dangerous secret, and a tendency for semi-violence teetering on the edge of what is considered wife-beatery. Then again, that tendency is maybe not so surprising considering he’s an ex-soldier within a dystopian setting ravaged by war and crime. I’m just disappointed the author decided to choose such a conventional package, considering the rest of the novel is so fresh and original.

Eh. I’ll just go ahead contradict myself and say it’s not original, merely told in an original and fresh way. The world we see isn’t so different compared to other dystopian YAs. Merely remove the subtext of government systems and rules, and the exterior remains the same: poverty, hunger, death. Damn, there I go again with compassion fatigue (see how rooted it is?). While I may toss those words out callously, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t horrified at what was happening. A specific incident of the beggar with the sign has been gruesomely etched in my mind—if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I mean.

The PLOT! Oh, the plot. In the end, maybe that was what caused me to gobble up the book in less than four hours. It had me guessing at every single effing turn and turned my world upside down and at too many times I was like, “oh shit, that did NOT just happen” and a few pages later I was marveling at how Ember and Chase managed to wrangle themselves out of that one.

And clapping my hands with glee, of course.

I feel like giving a medal to Ember specifically for how she staged that escape at the end. Made me realize how far she’s come, bless her poor soul.

I’ll be waiting with baited breath for the sequel in the hope that it’ll live up to the amazing book Article 5 was—and I have a suspicion it’ll somehow outshine it. If not, the rest of Kristen Simmon’s books will be on my to-read list anyhow, because it’s evident she’s a damn good author even from her debut novel. I can’t wait to see how she improves with future books!
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Anagha My feelings exactly!

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