Premise: The Unites States has been ravaged by war and major cities have been abandoned. The Constitution is no longer in effect. Instead, there are now the Moral Statutes, put in place by the Federal Bureau of Reformation. Moral behavior has now been legislated by these statutes and those who break them are rounded up and punished severely.
Ember Miller’s very existence is in jeopardy since she is the child of a single mother who reads unapproved books and secretly thumbs her nose at the system. After the government finally tracks down her mother, Ember does whatever it takes to find and rescue her. The only problem is the boy she loves, Chase Jennings, is the person who arrested her mother, and now Ember will have to be sent off to be rehabilitated into compliance.
Ember must go under the radar, deal with curfews, escape from imprisonment, and face death to find her mother. She will have to decide whether or not she trusts Chase and find out if there is any hope of throwing off the oppression of the FBR. Will compliance with the statutes be enough to keep the people complacent or will they eventually rise up?
Themes: The importance of separation of church and state came to mind as a theme when I first read the cover blurb. I’m not sure it was intentional, but the first half of the book puts that forward, while the rest of the book reinforces it. Can we legislate morality?
Survival comes to the forefront as Ember and her mother, along with other rehab girls and everyone else living under the oppression of the FBR, attempt to make ends meet by accepting the meager supplies doled out to them by the government. All of this is done while attempting to secretly hang onto the former freedoms they used to enjoy.
The changes that happen to people in the throes of war become relevant as Ember learns of the transformation that Chase has undergone after enlisting as a soldier and joining with the “Moral Militia” to hunt down the non-compliant. The horrible things that people see while in battle can be too much to handle for some.
Pros: At first glance, I thought I would hate this book, but I actually started to get into it around the halfway point. I was surprised I finished the book and was glad I did. Article 5 gave me some things to think about as far as my own biases. Though rife with plot holes and gaping omissions of important details, the story is still fairly well-constructed as a whole.
Cons: The reason I thought I would hate this is because it sounded preachy. I hate to say I was right. It sets up the government as a “Christian” ruling body that enacts moral statutes, and enforces them by rounding people up and executing them. While I understand this is fiction, I tend to implicate authors’ views at least in some part into what they write. I don’t know if I’m even right on this count, but that’s what I came away with. I didn’t really like Ember because she was so whiny and could have solved so many of her problems by simply breaking out of her self-deprecating angst and actually talking to Chase. Finally, the ending is a non-ending that is either intended to lead you into the next book (something I hate) or is a vague glimpse of hope to overcome the clutches of an extremely nebulous theocracy.
Recommendations: In spite of its numerous flaws, I found myself liking Article 5 more than I thought I would. Even with its annoying protagonist and unclear ending, I enjoyed the journey of reading through it. If you like post-apocalyptic young adult (though this is labeled as “teen”) then you can probably find other better-executed stories out there. I might give book two a chance if it is written, but more likely I will move on to characters I care more about and stories with a premise less preachy.