Kristen Simmons' debut novel, Article 5, a dystopian novel set in a post-War America, chronicles Ember Miller's journey to save her mother from a false accusation that may result in her imprisonment, or worse, death. Unfolding before our eyes is the condition of the country after the War - the government enforcing military administration, seemingly just but actually unfair Moral Statutes, streets filled with abandoned buildings, and people afraid to voice out their thoughts for fear of their lives. The government's oppressive rule have, in a way, made life almost unbearable for the citizens.
Our heroine Ember Miller has perfected the skills of keeping a low profile since she was a kid. But she can never predict the terrible fate that will tear her life apart. When her mother is accused of violating Article 5 (which states that children are considered valid citizens only when conceived by a married man and wife), she is shocked, furious then devastated. She tries fighting back but her attempts prove to be futile against the guns of the military guards and the country's iron vise law. What angers and saddens her most is the fact that her former sweetheart, Chase Jennings, is one of the guards who captures her mother.
Shortly after her mother's capture, Ember is sent to a Reformatory and Rehabilitation Centre which looks more like a jail with all the guards, huge locked gate and a heartless headmistress who starves her and cane her in public until her knuckles bleed. Ember is determined to escape, but there is no way out except the front gate, which is always guarded. At the reform school, she meets a new room mate, Rebecca Lansing. Even though Rebecca always sounds cheery, she actually despises the place. But then, who can blame her? Being as helpful as possible is probably her best way of survival.
A huge part of the novel focuses on Ember and Chase escaping the Federal Bureau of Reformation, dubbed the Moral Militia. On their journey towards safety, they encountered several problems, but luckily they managed to solve them, albeit with some difficulties. Deep in her heart, Ember still loves Chase, but she finds his betrayal hard to accept, and thus keeps on distancing herself from him and treats him coldly. Chase seems to keep secrets from Ember, and though I understand that he does this for her sake, it is still quite frustrating. Ember is not sure whether she can trust him, but under the dire circumstances, she has no other choice but to follow him.
Simmons avoids falling into stock characterization - the highly-skilled, kick-ass protagonist who overcomes great odds to achieve success - by emphasizing the distress and anguish Ember feels when she is forced to separate with her mother and is sent to the Reformatory and Rehabilitation Centre. The author also highlights how Ember grows physically and mentally into a tougher person after the various gut-wrenching incidents she endured. Ember and Chase's success is not guaranteed. In fact, as the novel progresses, it seems quite unlikely, with the MM hot on their heels and the fact that their news is made known to the public.
Ember and Chase's romance is quite plausible under the circumstances; it is the sort of deep-heart love laced with hurt, mistrust and pain. Chase loves Ember more than he loves himself and vows to protect her at all costs. However, Ember remains doubtful of "the soldier" Chase has become. She wants to trust him but she cannot bring herself to believe him all the way. She is repelled by Chase's wanting to kill a man who threatens her life, but I know that he does that only because he is concerned of her safety. But after some time together, they find the courage to confess to each other their true feelings, and I am glad for that. No love should remain buried in our hearts.
"It was you," I say softly. "It's always you I think about."
The intensity in his gaze took my breath away. I could feel him. Every part of him. His soul was sewn to mine. His heated blood flowed through my veins. I'd thought that I had been close to my mother, and I was, but not like this. Chase and I barely touched- our hands, mouths, knees- but there was no part of me that was not his.
--- Ember, in Article 5
In the end, Article 5 is less about Ember's mission to save her mother. This is the story of a girl who becomes conscious of how wrong and despicable it is for the government to rule its citizens by force, and ultimately understands of the true value of freedom and justice. There finally comes a point, when even the most innocent girl realizes that this just isn't the way it should be. A paradigm shift must be done - soon.
It's them Miller. Not us. It's the FBR that should be sorry. --- Sean, in Article 5show more