Condensed Goodreads review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/739076460
Dystopia, and about time too! I’d come across this one on the lists of several I follow, and a brief overview of some of the shelves it’s been put on marked it as a potential winner! Let’s mosey on down to the Ministry of Love and see what Article 5 is all about!
I only hope I’m not at a disadvantage for not having read the first four ‘Article’ books!
(WARNING: This review contains overuse of a joke referring to the old song ‘Scarborough Fair’, thanks to a tenuous connection with the Big Bad (who never actually appears in the book) ‘s name. The reviewer apologises in advance).
Our heroine Ember is with her homies, Beth and Ryan, who are risking a citation for indecency by holding hands. Ah, it’s one of those dystopian societies.
One which causes the main character to infodump about her unfashionable skirt, apparently, as President Scarboro—henceforth ‘Scarborough Fair’—has decreed by Moral Statute that everyone must wear gender-appropriate clothing, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, and without no seams or needlework if they want to be a true love of mine.
… he’ll be another I’m going to be wondering about in regards to how he got into power in the first place, isn’t he?
More of his rules include persecuting the Jews, (always a classic) and other random people, at a rate at which I’m not sure would leave anyone left in the country after a year or so, but it was all because America was getting picked on by…
I don’t know, Canada probably, and installing a ridiculous theocratic dictatorship is mandatory after that. They should have got Our Saviour Greg from The Selection to set them up with a sweet caste system while they were at it.
So, Ember goes home to find her mother reading a cheesy Harlequin Romance of some sort, and the Good Taste Police drop by to arrest her for it. Actually she’s under arrest for having had a child out of wedlock, another thing Scarborough Fair came up with off the top of his head just last week. Mummy tries to protest that she has rights, but unfortunately we were also told that Scarborough Fair scrapped the idea of rights as well.
And what’s worse; the Love Interest is part of the arresting team. Bummer.
Tears and lamentations ensue.
Ember thinks about the first day she noticed that her Love Interest was hawt, a completely appropriate memory to have as you and your mother are under arrest for you being illegitimate. This is followed by an info-dump about Scarborough Fair banning newspapers and the interwebz, and so Ember can wangst about her love interest, Chase Jennings.
On a bus, she meets up with an acquaintance called Rosa, who demands recognition of their shared English classes and calls her mother a whore. She’s the Bus Expositioner, there to conveniently explain Article 5, and how Ember is now a ward of the state.
This necessitates another flashback of wuvvy duvvy-ness involving Chase and a game of Truth or Dare. The flashback apparently accounts for several hours, after which time the girls end up at a reformatory school, run by a teleporting old woman called Brock who informs her she’ll be staying there at the Pokémon Centre until her eighteenth birthday.
(It’s funny because there was a character called ‘Brock’ in Pokemon).
Rosa tells her not to worry about this, because if you behave badly enough, you can be released early.
Uh, Rosa, this is a world that disappears you for skipping school. The fuck do they do to people who are too bad even for the Pokémon Centre?!
Anywho, Ember then meets Rebecca, who she describes as an ‘android’ because she’s… cheerful? Her parents were missionaries who left her at the Centre when they went abroad just before international travel was banned. Ember assumes they’re dead now, seeing as there was a lot of anti-American sentiment during the war.
Ems, there’s a lot of anti-American sentiment now, it doesn’t mean scary foreigners will kill a yank as soon as look at one!
Then it’s time for breakfast, at which Rosa makes a daring escape attempt!
Ah, what nice long chapters this book has.
Oh, yeah, Rosa—what’s she up to?
… getting immediately recaptured, that’s what. Well, good, so far Scarborough Fair is beating the other Big Brothers for effectiveness, even if he is a loon. Then she gets the crap beaten out of her, and Our Hero is actually surprised that these soldiers would hit a girl. She also mentions that her mum had an abusive boyfriend called Roy, probably a cousin of Ed from XVI.
But never mind that, it’s time for class, where we learn about all of Scarborough Fair’s crazy rules. Article 1 mandates adherence to the Psychotic Bastard religion (ahem, Church of America, sire, call it Church of America!) Article 2 bans ‘immoral paraphernalia’, which could account for… well, everything. Article 3 says that families have to be one man, one woman, and children, which isn’t really a rule so much as a definition; maybe Scarborough Fair gave up on the Psychotic Bastard religion and started a Psychotic Bastard dictionary?
I’d buy it.
Article 4 says women must be subservient to men, and men must provide for the family. Article 6 outlaws a whole bunch of crap including divorce, gambling, and firearms, because if there’s one thing those ultra-conservative Christians love, it’s gun control!
And Article 5 says citizens must be born within wedlock. Given the skill with which these Articles were developed, I’m surprised they had the brains to count as far as six articles.
Anyway, this exposition is so boring that Ember decides to try her own daring escape attempt, faking the need to go to the loo in order to get access to a phone. But her epic plan fails, due to the phones only dialling within the Pokémon Centre.
Ember is sent to bed without any supper, except instead of being sent to bed she’s punished in front of all the other girls, even though Rebecca points out that that’s against their own rules. Ember sasses, and the ensuing punishment consists of the guard whacking her in the throat and Brock caning her hands.
More importantly, we learn that Brock is actually Judge Dredd.
“My dear Ms Miller, I am the law here.”
So, that night, Rebecca sneaks out of her room, and Ember follows to discover her shacking up with one of the soldiers, so Ember blackmails them to come up with a plan to get her out of dodge. Rebecca tells her she’s a moron, and that the last girl who tried to escape was killed, and it was someone Ember used to know. Dun dun dun!
It’s weird, but I keep forgetting Ember’s name as I write this review… I wonder what I can do to remember, remember, our heroine Ember?
Tell her to speak it with a mynah bird’s caw,
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,
And get La Resistance to betray the LAAAAAAAAW!
Then she’ll be a true love of mine…
Actually, we haven’t run into La Resistance yet, have we? Well, thank Scarborough Fair for small mercies.
Ember harangues Rebecca for more information she doesn’t have, and what with her disbelief that the evil dictatorship is… evil, I suspect anterograde amnesia may be acting up again. Meanwhile Rebecca finds the phrase ‘iron bra’ absolutely hysterical.
The coiner of that shining example of wit, Sean the soldier, takes another two days to figure out a plan of escape rather than doing something sensible, like framing Ember for something and getting her sent to Room 101 (here called ‘The Shack’) like Rosa was. Rosa comes back all zombie-like, and Ember doesn’t even consider trying to help her or any of the other girls. Our Hero!
Eleven days later, Rebecca has taken hold of the Idiot Ball, and insists on accompanying Ember on the first leg of the Great Escape… and then she just doesn’t. Huh. Unfortunately the amazing Randolph, the bad guard, shows up and Sean is forced to resort to the ‘we were just making out’ cliché to avoid detection. Randolph decides to inform Sean that making out is also against the LAAAAAAAAW, and hits him on the head. So much for that subplot.
Rebecca still has that Idiot Ball though, and tries to attack Brock Dredd. She gets knocked out, leading to Ember attacking another guard, leading to both of them being taken to Room 101, where it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
Okay, enough with the references! It’s just… this book is so bland so far.
Anyway, before Ember gets the hose, Chase shows up to save her.
A quarter of the way through!
Chase convinces Brock to let him take Ember out of the Pokémon Centre to be a witness in her mother’s trial. Brock doesn’t bother to check and see whether he’s actually been given this order, as she’d picked up the idiot ball when Rebecca was knocked unconscious. Then when tying restraints around Ember, Chase doesn’t cut off her circulation, making Ember hate him, because how dare he have nuances!?
Later, she sneers at his ability to drive within the speed limit, something apparently only the soldier of a dictatorship could do. But of course, he’s not really working for them because Ember is his fwend. Wow. I totally didn’t see that one coming. What follows is her whining and criticising her rescuer for absolutely everything he put himself through to save her, without even thinking of asking him for an explanation, what a nice person!
Anyway, it looks like mummy’s gone off to South Carolina to find a ‘safe house’, so that’s where our dynamic duo are off to as well, celebrated by a flashback to Chase giving exposition about his backstory, and how a bunch of places were bombed. Still, he got a shiny bike out of it!
Ember continues to snipe at Chase for everything when they stop for supplies, and thinks back on her dumb friends, who I guess won’t actually do anything in the story. Chase turns on the radio so we can get our first mention of La Resistance, who are apparently really shit in this book, and after some more exposition our heroes get chased by the fuzz!
The fuzz stops them, asks for licence and registration, and then lets them go. Careful there, Article 5, something almost happened!
Chase then teaches Ember how to use a gun, and a flashback ensues. Then some filler. Then another flashback. Then a nonsensical conversation. Then they go to an abandoned department store to stock up on supplies.
Ember, however, was so traumatised just by looking at an enclosed space, that she can’t bear to change in the fitting rooms, prompting Chase to ask what happened to her, and her to start sniping at him that it was all his fault. And Chase is like, ‘whatever, brah’.
I like Chase!
But then disaster strikes, as two guys show up to be a bit rapey and we get a fight scene! They have the power of fire hands, as one of them ‘burns’ Ember’s head by grabbing her hair, but Chase and Ember have the power of being main characters, and manage to fight them off.
Ember is upset that Chase looked like he was going to kill one of the would-be rapists. What did you think the whole learning to shoot thing was for in that case, Ems—paintballing practice?
Well, whatever she thought it might be for, she now plans to leave Chase and try to make it on her own in the American dictatorship wilderness. Good luck with that, Ems, were this a paranormal romance I’d have been delighted to find a girl who wouldn’t put up with a Love Interest’s violence towards others, but these people attacked him with a knife!
She thinks she’ll get far, as she has ‘pretty good intuition about people’. Yeah, like Rebecca, Sean and Chase himself. Great intuition. (I notice you haven’t spared much more than a thought for Rebecca and Sean by the way—remember them? The guys you totally screwed over and left at the Pokémon Centre?)
Then she reconsiders, given how sexy Chase is and everything, and flashbacks to how he offered to run away with her but she said no, blaming that for her mother being arrested, because otherwise Scarborough Fair wouldn’t have had any dramatic irony to use against them.
In the end she decides she will RUN AWAY, and comes across an old woman with a dog. Her wonderful intuition tells her she can trust this fine upstanding citizen, but of course it turns out she’s a crazy woman who keeps rotting animal carcasses and thinks Ember’s her long lost daughter. When she says the carcass is called Luke, Ember assumes she’s killed a person, except the carcass is a dog, so I guess Ember couldn’t tell the difference.
Ember kicks the poor woman and makes her cry, and then Chase shows up to save her from this TERRIBLE ENCOUNTER again. Ember yells at Chase that she was trying to run away from him…
… and he’s like, ‘whatever, brah.’
I like Chase!
He tries to explain that her plan is stupid, but she brings up him using violence in self-defence, what do you say to that, Chase!?
Well, when he explains that he was defending her, it’s all okay!
He says he’ll never hurt her, and not to do stupid things anymore. I wonder what the chances of that are going to be?
*Spoilers: slim to none, that’s what*
Anyway, they make their way over to a checkpoint, but no one’s there to meet them so they decide to stay a while so Ember can patch up the wounds on Chase’s extremely sexy body, dipping some gauze in peroxide and sticking it on his cut without warning to remind us how well Ember thinks things through.
On the radio they hear about themselves attacking those guys; I guess random scavengers love reporting in to Big Brother, and also that Ember’s been declared missing. But Chase figures that if Brock was too stupid to check whether or not he had orders to take Ember when he showed up, then she must have been too stupid to check after he’d gone, and therefore someone must have ratted him out.
At least, I assume that’s his reasoning, he doesn’t actually seem to use any on-page.
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO… TOMORROW!)