Titles: Article 5 | Breaking Point | Three
Series: Article 5
Author: Kristen Simmons
Ratings: 3-3.5 stars | 3.5-4 stars | 3.5-4 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Romance
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As you probably know by now, I’ve dedicated myself to reading one series a month for the foreseeable future, and for January I chose Article 5 by Kristen Simmons. It’s a series that’s been on my radar for a while now, despite how mixed reviews are for the first book. I haven’t read many dystopian books that don’t include some sort of fantasy or futuristic element, so I was definitely curious about this more contemporary-style dystopia and what type of world Kristen Simmons created. But let’s be honest: I loved the fact that it was a YA trilogy without a love triangle, all too rare these days, so that was an automatic win for me. I ended up reading all three books in the span of about a week, i.e. I could hardly put them down. It’s a very addicting, fast-paced series. However, I do have some issues, mainly with the main character and the vague worldbuilding, but thankfully by the third book they are mostly resolved.
Worldbuilding: Article 5 is set in the near future, after a war (referred to as “The War”) took place within the US in which major cities were bombed by unknown terrorist groups and people evacuated to smaller ones. A new president rose to power, claiming that immoral behavior led to the people’s demise, and in order to rebuild they would need to be governed by strict laws. The Bill of Rights was taken away, compliance became mandatory, and the new governing body made of soldiers – the Federal Bureau of Reformation – would enforce new regulations (called Moral Statutes) with little mercy. To give you a little idea of what these statues entail, families are to be made up of one man, one woman, and children through wedlock. Anyone who is caught veering outside those boundaries will be punished.
In the first book especially, I found the worldbuilding vague and slightly confusing, and I felt like there were many questions left unanswered. We are given details about the dystopian society here and there throughout the book, but I could never form a complete picture of how things actually came to be or how they currently worked. The War, for one, wasn’t explained at all, so it felt too convenient. For the longest time I didn’t even know who the US was at war with: an outside force, or itself? Then there’s the new government, whose rise to power didn’t seem believable, and I couldn’t grasp its actual purpose. I didn’t understand why some violators of the Articles were punished, and why others weren’t, and how the government was getting away with people disappearing all of the time. By the third book, things are more or less explained, but the lack of coherence in the first book was frustrating.
Despite its vagueness, I still found the situation horrifying and unsettling. Society has basically reverted back to Puritanical standards, with men in roles of power and women expected to be submissive. Immoral behavior – like sex out of wedlock – is punished harshly, and women are often sent to rehabilitation centers if they misbehave. I was disgusted by what Ember and her mom had to go through, all because Ember’s mother and absent father weren’t married. It made me tremendously sympathetic toward the characters, and I wanted this new world to be brought to justice. It’s in the second and third books when strides are made toward this goal by Ember and Chase and the resistance they’re working with. Many times lines are blurred between the “good” and “bad” guys, and I really enjoyed that as well. Ember and Chase have to make difficult decisions regarding right and wrong, what they’re willing to sacrifice and what they’re willing to live with.
Plot and pacing: Obviously I’m not going to give a summary of each book, but I think Kristen Simmons is a fantastic story teller. It was so easy to get sucked into Ember’s narrative, which has a great mix of action, thrills, and romance. The first book focuses mainly on Ember’s escape from a rehabilitation center and her and Chase’s attempt to rescue her mom. They are constantly rerouting and doing everything they can to stay off the FBR’s radar. “On the run” plot lines don’t always appeal to me, but Ember and Chase’s situation always feels super intense, so boredom was never an option. In the second and third books we learn more about the resistance and are given an excellent and diverse cast of secondary characters. It’s not an easy fight for justice, and I was fearful for Ember and Chase’s survival at nearly every turn. I wouldn’t say there are many twist and turns or “oh my God, I never saw that coming” shocking moments, but there are betrayals and surprising deaths, and the action is constantly in motion. I think the best thing I can say about this series is that it was nearly impossible to stop reading.
Characters and romance: Ember’s character was the most difficult and frustrating aspect of the book for me. If I don’t like the main character, the book has a lot to make up for, so thank goodness for the fast-paced story and sweet, sweet Chase. Because Ember drove me insane, and it took about a book and a half for me to fully like her. While the love she has for her mother and the determination she has to find her are certainly admirable, she is also stubborn, thoughtless, and naive. Most of that centers around her treatment of Chase, the boy she grew up with and has always loved but who was deployed by the FBR. When she discovers that he is one of the soldiers there to arrest her mom, she immediately assumes the worst, and for the rest of the first book refuses to see reason. She blames him for everything, despite the fact that he saves her life multiple times and is risking his own life for her. I just could never understand Ember’s thought processes toward him, how she could ever blame him when it’s clearly the government’s doing. Thankfully she improves by the middle of the second book. She’s lucky Chase didn’t ditch her ass before then.
Speaking of, Chase is a really sweet love interest, hardened by his time training with the FBR but ultimately a good and selfless boy. We don’t learn much about him in the first book, but in the second and third we are treated to more of his background, and so much of it broke my heart. Yet through it all he stayed true to Ember and his love for her, and that kind of dedication is nothing if not swoony. Maybe she didn’t deserve him, at least in the beginning, but his devotion to her warmed my heart. Their romance has a drawn-out trajectory: we get snippets of their childhood friendship and love, but in the present it’s at first fraught with tension, complications, and lack of trust on Ember’s part. It was sometimes exhausting and frustrating, but their loyalty to one another ultimately never wavers. At times it’s Chase who is the strong one, and at other times Ember, and by the end they’ve become true partners. Their romance isn’t my favorite, but I’m so pleased that it was triangle-free and that there were just enough heart-melting moments.
Final thoughts: I’m happy Article 5 was my first series read of the year! It was fun and thrilling, albeit frustrating, and I’m sure to pick up Kristen Simmons’ future books. In fact, The Glass Arrow is currently on its way to me. :) I hope going forward I won’t have similar problems with her main characters, but keep those swoony boys coming.