by Kristen Simmons
Series: Article 5 #1
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New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned. The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes. There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back. Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren't always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it's hard for her to forget that people weren't always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It's hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different. Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.
Compliance is Mandatory
Kristen Simmons debut novel Article 5 blew me away. Set in the United States this post-apocalyptic dystopia was gripping and the romance bittersweet. I consumed this book in a few hours and it left me wanting more, wrought with emotion and completely convinced I could never be compliant.
The tale focuses on the seventeen-year-old protagonist, Ember Miller. She and her mother live alone in a world where the Bill of Rights has been revoked and they are now governed by the Moral Statutes. A list of rules (articles) that if not adhered to, can have you arrested, tried and convicted. The whole country is run by the Federal Bureau of Reformation. Their rules are enforced by a group of soldiers nicknamed, the Moral Militia. In this crazy world, (that must be run by some crazy religious zealots) only one religion is accepted, there is no Internet, the news is controlled by the government and a candy bar will cost you a hundred dollars. Holding someone’s hand while unwed in public is a punishable offense. At the school Kristen attends, soldiers regularly show up and arrest students for Article violations; verily they are never seen again. When Kristen returns home after school, the soldiers show up and arrest her mother for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statues. Kristen struggles to stop them from taking her mother and recognizes one of the soldiers. It’s Chase Jennings. Chase use to live next door and he is the only boy she has ever loved. Outraged that he would participate in arresting her mother, she strikes an officer. Kristen is arrested and taken to a reform school/home run by the sisters of Salvation. Kristen learns she will remain here until her eighteenth birthday. Concerned for her mother and unwilling to submit, Kristen makes plans for her escape. The tale that unfolds and the journey Kristen takes left me breathless, outraged, depressed, delighted and craving more of Simmons tale.
While Simmons world-building prepared me for this oppressed, sadistic, controlled new world, it also left me frustrated with questions. We never learn about the war or why the people accepted this new government. I am hoping that book two, which remains yet untitled will shed some light on these questions. Having said that, I was completely caught up in the tale, and Simmons’ characters. While flawed they had such depth and believability. Her depiction of the Moral Militia and the Sisters of Salvation send goosebumps down my spine. A farm family of three who’d sell out their neighbor for a reward reeked of what a post-apocalyptic world would entail. We meet broken and brave souls willing to risk it all. This is a world where one’s humanity is lost to preserve self. To survive you must trust no one. The plot was fast-paced with lots of action and was very character driven. The tale Simmons’ weaved had lots of twists and reveals that sent my heart racing and my emotions soaring.
Kristen and Chase are both flawed characters. Kristen has been the parent in her relationship with her mother, she feels abandon by Chase and feels utterly helpless. She struggles with this because her personality demands that she be independent and self-sufficient. The fact that she depends on Chase scares her. Chase has had an equally tough life since the change. His mother has passed and after spending time with his Uncle, he is basically abandoned. He is drafted by the militia and there he is broken. The romance between the two of them, at times broke my heart. It is quite apparent that these two love each other but there is so much baggage, emotions, and things left unsaid, that they constantly hurt each other. Watching the two of them figure things out was a roller coaster ride, and I ended up loving every frustrating, emotional minute of it. In Kristen and Chase, Simmons’ captures what happens to the human mind when placed in survival mode. How it struggles to abandon its own ethical and moral code to survive.
I highly recommend Article 5 to fans of post-apocalyptic dystopias and romance. This novel gives an eerie look at a morally controlled society and a governing body with absolute power. It also provides a look at humanity and man’s will to survive. Simmons’ has made my list of must watch authors and I am eagerly awaiting news on book two. Article 5 is currently available in paper and eBook formats.