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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Article 5 - Kristen Simmons

February 2012

Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Kristen Simmon's debut novel, Article 5, is the scariest book I've read in ages. I know some readers will say it could never happen, but I think some of the post-war U.S. is an environment that presidential hopeful Rick Santorum would happily support. That completely terrifies me.

Following a major war, the U.S. is a completely different place. The Bill of Rights are gone and in their place are American Moral Statues.
  • Article 1- Americans may not practice a religion other than the religion of the Church of America.
  • Article 2 - You may not own any "immoral paraphernalia, including books not sanctioned by the Church of America.
  • Article 3 - A "Whole Family" is defined as a married man, woman and their offspring born after marriage.
  • Article 4 - Women must be subservient to her husband, and he will support his family financially and spiritually.
  • Article 5 - Children born out of wedlock are not legal citizens and will be removed from their home and put into rehabilitation. The woman who has a child without being married will be arrested.
  • Article 6 - It is illegal to get divorced, gamble, own a gun or plot to overthrow the government.
There is no police force. They've been replaced by the Federal Bureau of Reformation. If you disobey any of the statutes, you're whisked away to "rehabilitation."

Ember Miller's heard the stories about her peers disappearing for things like skipping school for Passover, but she never imagines to be one of them. When her mother is arrested for having Ember out of wedlock, Ember's world is torn apart. Worse, the boy she loves is the one who oversees the entire arrest. Whisked off to a cruel reform school where the Sisters of Salvation convert teen girls into subservient young women, Ember's life will never be the same.

I started Kristen Simmons novel last night. After reading half of the book, I was furious. I decided to watch my show and go to sleep, but things changed. After turning off the TV and curling up to sleep, I found myself thinking about Ember's situation and realized I couldn't go to sleep until I knew how things ended. I got up, went downstairs and stayed up until the wee hours to finish it. Only a rare few authors have ever managed to keep me up way past my usual 9:30-10:00 p.m. bedtime. It's compelling, vexing and memorable. This is a book that will get teens and adults talking.

Article 5 truly is a scary book. I hope we never live in a world like that. Over the past couple of months, some of the things Rick Santorum believes have come to light. Such as his insistence that rape victims not have an abortion because the child "is a gift in a very broken way." His firm belief that homosexuality is wrong, hence his comparison to same-sex relationships as being no different than bigamy, incest and bestiality. His feeling that birth control is "a license to do things in a sexual realm." His insistence that if families looked at their budgets, they could work something out so that the mom remains a stay home mom and housewife. Many of these beliefs appear in some fashion in Article 5. While this may be a fictional story, there's part of me that worries that down the line, some unrealistic politician will get into office and try to make some of this a reality.

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