Article 5: Dreadfully derivative

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsArticle 5 by Kristen Simmons Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

So, I put this as my status on Facebook:

Guess which book I’m talking about. I’m reading this YA post-apocalyptic novel where the United States of America has been torn apart by War and now it’s all separated into regions and you can’t move between regions without permission from the central government that is set on enforcing its rules on everybody and then the girl that’s the main character gets abducted from her home by the government and sent to this brutal place with a bunch of other kids but she survives because of this guy that she’s known forever and he loves her and protects her and then they join the rebellion.

My friends have come up with six different novels that match this description, and none of them are correct. That’s the problem with Article 5. It’s been done. Multiple times. And better than this as well.

Article 5 is a standard YA dyslit with the struggling heroine, overly simplified love story that kind of makes me want to retch, because seriously, you’re 17 and hormonal and that’s not true love (n.b. I am a grouchy 37 year old now, apparently, so get off my lawn!) and I was so bored with this book that I ended up skimming the last 100 pages because I’d read enough that I felt like I should finish it so I could give it a full review, because it’s not bad, it’s just dreadfully derivative, but I didn’t want to finish it so it was just sitting on my bedside table on top of a lovely pile of books that I did want to read, staring at me balefully with its bookmark sticking out like an impudent teenager just daring me to try and push it aside and start something else.

So I finished it. And it was still boring. And predictable. The end.

Also, I got mad at this book because I loved the description of the changes to the political system from the blurb (see below), and I wondered what caused the remainder of the people in the USA (I’m assuming this was a civil war, though it’s never spelled out in detail) to adopt such a harsh system of government, but it’s just accepted that “the War” happened and the author never explains why or how or who or anything. Some backstory would have made Article 5 more interesting to me.

Published on January 8, 2013. 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 The Bill of Rights has been revoked and replaced with the Moral Statutes.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. 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.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. This always seems to happen when a genre gets oversaturated.

  2. I loved your Facebook post and while I was reading it, I thought of yet another book that almost fit, *The Reapers Are the Angels.* I agree with Kelly, this is a publishing problem. They can’t all be “The next Hunger Games,” and they shouldn’t be.

    • Kevin B /

      Whu? The Reapers are the Angels isn’t even remotely like the Hunger Games, nor is it trying to be. Except for it being post-apocalyptic (caused by zombies though, not war) and having a female teenage protagonist it has nothing in common … It’s not even YA, despite the age of main character.

      Actually I’d recommend it as the perfect antidote book for everyone tired of formulaic post-apoc YA.

  3. John Hulet /

    I love this review. Sometimes a little originality has to happen!

  4. Yep. Publishers are out to make money and when readers (especially teens) love something like THG, they want to capitalize on the trend. Can’t blame them, but personally, I despise it. I think those of us who read and write SFF review blogs notice it happening pretty quickly (and downgrade our ratings for non-original material) but readers who don’t care about originality just gobble it up and the publishers rake in the money.

    But, hey, at least those kids are reading.

  5. I actually had this reaction when I saw this in the catalog which is why I didn’t order an ARC. Sorry I was right, Ruth. Though sometimes when you read these, you wonder what you might have thought had you read it two or three years earlier

    • Yeah…sometimes I’m pretty tolerant of the first few derivative books. I’m wanting that feel of the first one, but maybe the original author hasn’t put out a new one yet or maybe the series is over and I want to be back in a universe as close to the original as possible. And I think maybe that’s why non-reviewers don’t mind as much. We read books in such volume that we get sick of the unoriginality. Maybe we’ve read the trope 10 times when your average reader has only read it twice.

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