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The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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.
This book is reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood in that society has shifted to view women as inferior and subservient, and people are punished for their actions before the new government took power. It also happens within the main character’s lifetime, so our protagonist has seen life both before and after. In The Handmaid’s Tale, you can surmise that the shift happens from within the government, after what was probably years of placing the appropriate pieces on a chessboard and then moving in for checkmate. But in Article 5, it’s not clear.
What was The War? What was it about? Who started it? Why did they start it? When did it start? How did they win? How did they manage to put such drastic societal changes into effect so quickly? What did the bombing of Chicago and other large cities have to do with any of it? Knowing these details would have helped me to better understand Ember, and I'd know exactly how much of both worlds she experienced. But since I didn't understand her world, I didn’t understand Ember.
As a result, she came across as erratic and sometimes not very bright. I didn’t believe that she wouldn’t ask more about her mother (hence, the big reveal in the end wasn’t at all surprising). I also didn’t understand her motivations for running away (both times) or for never attempting to see any situation through Chase’s eyes. I never really made any kind of connection to her, so her transformation wasn’t as profound as it could have been.
On the plus side, though, Chase is NOT the typical hot-jerk-boy, Ember doesn't swoon ridiculously over him, and there is no love triangle. That was extremely refreshing. That said, these two are full of angst ramped up to the nth degree. I liked that their relationship was complicated, but the constant bickering and posturing got tiresome after a while and it felt contrived that they didn’t just sit down and have a conversation to clear the air.
Overall, there just wasn’t enough here for me to want to read more, so I won’t be reading the next book (I assume there will be a next book, given the open-ended subplots).