Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New Laws to Control Your Whole Life

Article 5
A dystopia these days is nothing out of the ordinary. A superb dystopia? Now that is something truly special. Article 5 may be Kristen Simmons' first novel, but she wasn't kidding around. The world she created will make your hair stand on end and make you grateful for all the freedoms you have living in these United States instead of the ones Ember Miller lives in.

Ember lives in a United States that is much different from the one you may be used to. The Bill of Rights is gone, freedoms no longer exist, and a moral code has been inflicted upon the country that gives the government freedom to arrest you for things like skipping school for a religious holiday or having a child out of wedlock. When Ember and her mother are arrested until Article 5 because Ember's mother never married Ember's father, they thought things couldn't get any worse. That is, until they see who is arresting them. Chase. Ember's childhood sweetheart- the very same one she wrote letters to and missed so much when he was recruited and taken by the government to enforce the compliance of their rules. 

Ember feels betrayed by the boy she once loved, but when she is separated from her mother and thrown in a rehabilitation center, she truly begins to realize the trouble she is really in. She tries to escape but is caught and thrown into solitary confinement. She is about to be "disciplined" but the orders come in for her to be transferred to her trial about the Article 5 noncompliance. Imagine her surprise when Chase, the very same one who arrested her, has come to transport her. Imagine her even bigger surprise when they leave the rehab and Chase reveals he has gone AWOL and is taking her to a safe house to find her mother. Ember is nervous about trusting him, but with the lawlessness of starving civilians and terrifying constriction of the government officials (and those who follow them), she knows she has no choice. The only thing she can think about is getting back to her mother. Can she make it through parts of the country that have been either abandoned to starve or taken over by an overzealous government? Will she ever see her mother again? Can she trust Chase?

I simply couldn't put this book down. I read it in two big chunks and had I not been working and forced to leave the house, I would have finished it in one sitting. The story is very well paced and exciting to read. You never know what is going to happen in each and every place Ember and Chase have to stop for gas or supplies. I also liked that Ember embodied a girl who grew up in a fairly comfortable home with her mother, oblivious to the true nature of the world around her, but still she was one tough cookie. She was terrified but didn't hesitate to react when the proverbial feces hit the fan. It made the story very realistic and made me think about what I would be doing in a situation like hers. Would I fight back and try to get to my mom? I certainly hope I would be as brave as Ember was!

The story is appropriate for any high skilled middle school student through high school student. It is an average reading level for a young adult story with no real sex or violence. There is a hint of guards and officers taking "girlfriends", but it isn't handled in any great detail. The discussion possibilities of this story are tremendous. Our children assume their freedoms are a given, take them for granted, but how would they feel if they had to live in Ember's United States? Which rights would they defend the most? How would they survive? Who would they become in the story? The best stories are those that force us to transport ourselves into the world the author created and make us live the story with the characters. Simmons and Article 5 did just that. Excellent breakout novel. Can't wait for the next book in the trilogy!

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