Tag Archives: romance

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons: Review

*slight spoilers*

I feel like I’ve just run a marathon.

Article 5

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I picked this up.  I’d read the synopsis on Goodreads and thought that the premise looked pretty good.  So I happened to walk by it in the library last weekend and thought “Awesome!”

I was excited, to say the least.

I’m a huge fan of dystopian novels and the idea behind Article 5 was no exception: a heavily militarized America after a war and the now strict rules dictating the lives of citizens.  The country is essentially governed by the church and the military, who rule by forcing citizens to follow a new set of religiously based laws known as the Moral Statutes.  After the main character’s mother failed to follow Article 5, having a child out of wedlock, she is arrested and her daughter is sent on a journey towards freedom.

The unfortunate thing about this whole situation though is that with this novel, your mileage may vary.

Now, this book starts off rather strong, giving a rather quick intro to the world and this society, showing off the strength of the main character and her determination to find her mother and discover some sort of freedom in this world.  I was enthralled by her love for her mother, the only family she has, and the lengths she’s willing to go in order to save her.

There were characters introduced with great promise and who had awesome chemistry with Ember.  Rosa, my favorite by far, is a smart-talking Hispanic girl with the courage to defend herself in a misogynistic dystopian America.  And Ms. Brock, a scary-as-hell headmistress who knows how to get her word across.  These were great additions to an already promising story, so I was psyched to have found this book.

And then I hit page 98, where everything fell apart.

It’s such a shame, too.  The author had built this brutal world filled with believably ruthless people, driven by desire and desperation, even sorrow.  And it all crumbled not even one-third into the story.  This is where it got kind of painful to continue.

It all started right after the main character finally met up with her love interest and AAAAAAAAAAGH the chemistry was terrible!  Right off the bat Ember lost all of her gusto and ambition.  She was transformed from this strong female character into a dumbass in distress.  Absolutely intolerable as a person, let alone as a protagonist, I almost shut the book.  But I pressed on, hoping to find the girl that had graced the story at the very beginning of the whole thing.

But what contributed to this downfall of the story?   How did it get so bad so quickly? The biggest chunk of the book was riddled with so many problems in plot:

  • The most selfish protagonist I have read about since Bella Swan.  Her love comes back to rescue her and she bitches at him the entire time for not being “the same Chase” she left behind.  Even though he is clearly suffering from PTSD she refuses to give the guy a break! She even runs away from his twice and almost gets both their asses killed.  Another thing some reviewers have complained about his how she yells at Chase and chastises him for almost killing people who were essentially going to rape her.  Completely ungrateful for any intentions he has about protecting her.
  • Chase was in love with her – why?  I mean, I can see how he felt about her when life was “normal”, but this whole journey was just unbelievable.  His patience was simply unreal.  Though, yes, we can argue that he was doing this very much so out of his guilty conscience for the death of Embers mom.
  • I really wanted to love this romance, but Ember was so awful that when they did get some intimacy going between them, I just found myself squirming in my seat, slightly disgusted. I couldn’t’ even enjoy the romance in a “romantically driven” book!
  • The fact that Ember didn’t realize her mother was dead got kind of old after a while.  And by hat I mean that she commented on hoping to find her unscathed so many times that by the time she does find out what really happened, you feel annoyed at her rather than sympathetic for her loss.

…to the overall writing:

  • There were a few inconsistencies with certain elements of the story.  Sometimes I would read something and instantly feel confused, like the author had stuck something in there, forgetting to introduce the concept or even mention when a certain event had happened.  As if half of some stories are just missing from the book. At one point Ember mentions that a character’s arm shifted in his cast – what? He had a cast now?  Also on page 171 Ember mentions that girls born out of wedlock have to wear scarlet 5’s on their shirts – but why mention something like this so far into the story?  This is a point brought up I guess to show some kinds of reference to The Scarlet Letter, but it’s effect is totally lost at this point.
  • Ember as a character fails at thoughtful introspection.  Until she realizes just how awful she was at the end of the story, she essentially pats herself on the back throughout the whole ordeal, thinking “I have great intuition about people!” and other things that make her so resourceful.  Except not.  Not even likable.  I guess Simmons was trying to make Ember sound smart, but she just couldn’t.  It just wasn’t possible at this point, and throwing in random big words didn’t help either.  She doesn’t deserve to use words like “loquacious” or “fleetingly”.  It just out of place and forcefully “poetic” for such a simple-minded girl.
  • The wording was awkward.  So awkward.  There were quotes I just didn’t quite understand, and while I figured that the author was trying to go for that artistic dystopian style, this book fell far from the mark.  I often felt like some sentences didn’t even make sense. And even when they did, it just served to make the protagonist sound like a whining child. Just a select few:
    • As if submerged in a pool of ice water, my fingers finally thawed enough to pull down my shirt (141).
    • People change? Not good enough.  Obviously he was different, but that didn’t explain why he’d arrested us or set us free, it just made me want to kick him again (143).

 

    • This is what my life has come to, I thought, watching him.  Taking clues from some a guy who is clearly waiting for some kind of sign from the universe (218 -After he saved her stupid self COUNTLESS TIMES. Unbelievable.).
    • His eyes burned with the anger I knew he only reached through fear.  How did I know that about him? I though fleetingly.  How could I read that, when I hardly knew what was feeling? (293)
    • I was the one who held things together, not the person who stirred up trouble (239). – Read the first three chapters and you’ll just facepalm at this.
    • I could go on and on with so many  more, but I won’t.  And if you’re thinking that these are quotes that just don’t make sense out of context, I promise that reading them in the story won’t make them any better.

…to things that just bugged me as a reader:

  • Chase should have had the POV in this story, not Ember.  His story would have been so much more interesting to hear!  How exactly did he get to where he was?  Why did he love Ember so much?  What was it like to live with all of the guilt form his training?  Though now that I think of this, this story would have been better told from ANY other character’s perspective.
  • Why did Simmons drop Rosa?  There was no reason to drop Rosa.  She was actually a likeable character in this story, and she essentially got lobotomized and left for dead in the reformatory.
  • The romance is not developed in the slightest.  One moment Chase and Ember are having their little drama and the next they’re making out, then the next they’re angry, then the next everything’s forgiven, and then something else utterly frustrating happens. And to make matters worse, what development we do get comes from page long flashbacks that have nothing to do with the story. I ended up skipping a few, just annoyed.  It’s such an unrewarding system.

The ending was promising however.  And I mean, I almost forgave the book for its shortcomings at the end, in which Ember hatches an admittedly smart plan in some sort of escape mission, showing her bravery and FINALLY some development as a character.  I was impressed, and yet confused by the comeback.

Overall, this book had me shaking my head for its majority.  It was so hard to sit through this thing, but I wanted to be able to say that I stuck it out.  It was an interesting journey, but that hardly makes up for the shortcomings of the novel as a whole.  As great as the first 90 pages and the last 10% of the book were, they can’t possibly cover for such an awful middle section.  Because that’s all I remember.  Upset and anger at Ember and annoying sympathy for Chase, who was essentially sacrificing himself for someone that readers were ultimately unable to connect to.   This is a sad case of a book with an awesome premise and –eh- somewhat terrible delivery.

The author does have her good points, and when she shines she really shines.  The action scenes were amazing, well-written, and pulse-pounding.  The tension and atmosphere are spot on in some parts and very vividly presented. The supporting characters overall added to the atmosphere of this brutal world, pulling in the audience for more of what was to come.  Unfortunately, when she falls short, she plummets.  The writing did not come off nearly as poetic as I’m guessing she wanted it to, and the  book, as well as Ember, come off as being way less deep than they think they are.  Want some good prose?  Read Ally Condie’s Matched.

If I were to rate this book, I’d have to give it a 2 out of 5. It has its good points, but they don’t even come close to making up for the absolutely insufferable parts of this journey. Not worth buying, somewhat worth a library loan. And it’s certainly not worth reading the other books in the series.  Oh, didn’t I mention?

It’s a trilogy.

-Andee

CROSSED Review: Ally Condie (Spoilers)

 

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Huh.

I’ll admit it.  That was my reaction to Ally Condie’s second book in her Matched  series. Crossed picks up where the first story left off, with Ky sent out to die in the Outer Provinces from whence he came, leaving Cassia to pick up a new ally in pursuit of finding her love.  And thus begins the next part in our three part series of rebellion!

Now, I loved Matched.  It was a breath of fresh air!  I’d just finished the Hunger Games series and I actually felt kinda into the whole dystopian vibe, so I went to the library, saw the green cover, and there went the rest of my week.  Really it took me only two days to finish that bad boy, and at the end I squeed. Hardcore squeed.  A satisfying love triangle within a 1984-esque society that’s actually not a hackneyed mess?  It was a dream come true.  I was invested from the first chapter and finished the book in record time, laughing, crying, and wriggling in my bus seat as I finished the last chapter, people seemingly too freaked out to sit next to me.  Matched made a true fangirl out of me, and so I anxiously waited to get to the next book.

So a few days later I finally get Crossed.  And from that point onward I felt as if the story was for some reason going by much slower than I had anticipated.

Now I’ll admit that Crossed was sort of disappointing.  I was expecting more, with better scenery than the first movie since now they’re in the wild, and a much bolder and engaging romance between our two narrators.  But I found that I actually had some gripes with the story:

  • The pace was so slow, it took me longer than usual to get through just a few chapters.  Reading across the span of 60 pages took longer than i felt it should have.  This is my biggest complaint, and the biggest one I’ve heard so far from fans.
  • The setting was rather disappointing   Now, I can see how this sort of thing might be very new and invigorating for someone like Cassia who’s been sheltered all her life, but to the audience it just ends up reminding us of The Host, just with a better written romance.  All of this potential and it’s spent it in a cave?
  • Questions, oh so many questions!  While I thought that the book was pretty decently paced, for what it is, I thought that there were some questions best in this story, not what is surely to come in Reached.  Why did Xander give those blue pills to Cassia?  What happened to Laney?  Who was the Enemy?!  This last one I actually did expect an answer too, and was greatly surprised when we got nothing more than a simple hint from Ky at the end about one possibility: could it be the Rising?
  • Some character gripes. I really hated it when Vick died.  I didn’t feel that it was entirely necessary.  And while Eli is a likable enough character (they all are, thankfully), I feel like he’s really just there for the shallow purpose of assuaging Ky’s guilt for leaving the camp decoy’s behind.  He didn’t really change the game or have anything significant to contribute to the plot.  If he had ended up dying at some point I would have felt sad because he is a nice kid, but I wouldn’t have been distraught.  Kind of a wasted opportunity and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly he lent to the story. But I’m sure he won’t disappoint in Reached.

But for my complaints I will say there there was a lot that I enjoyed in this story:

  • The scenery, though a bland choice in my opinion, was beautifully described and Condie really, truly pulls out the beauty in everything.  The musings of the characters gave me insight into the landscape.  I’m a tried-and-true city girl, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel, at least once, that I myself was in that canyon, writing poetry to myself about the walls of the caves or the plants of the valley.
  • People have complained about how the characters are actually far too reflective, stopping the plot at every chance to ponder their past or the mysteries of the cavern and how it might relate to their own lives and situations.  But I actually appreciated this. For one thing, Condie is a master at her craft and she writes amazing prose and poetry.  Every time Ky went back into his own story, his observations about the environment always played perfectly with the narration. These two elements really complemented each other and while the book did have me falling asleep at some points, I can forgive it because of the payoff of this wonderful, introspective writing.  It’s hard not to appreciate beauty.
  • The romance, while not as enthralling as I would have liked, is very realistic.  More realistic than the whole Hey let’s give Katniss three books to play around and finally settle on one of us thing from the Hunger Games series.  The protagonists kissed, they never took each other’s touch for granted, and they argued.  Nothing sexual and raunchy or over the top.  It was wonderfully balanced, and the tone was very much in line with the way it started in Matched.   And I actually like the role Xander played as suitor much more in this book.  He was suave and mysterious, an equal match for Ky.  I respected him more in this book.   And believe it or not, I can actually see Cassia ending up with him in the end of it all.  This series can go in a few different directions and still get a satisfying ending, I believe.   Condie’s set this up very well and I commend her for that.

In my opinion these points push the book into a rather favorable light, overall.  This wasn’t a bad book! I would even say that it was a good book, though not quite up to par with its Matched  predecessor.  There was a lot of mystery that I would have liked to see unraveled, and so I was a bit disappointed with the story itself.  But I do think that this book is rather well paced for the sake of the series as a whole, even though it the plot moved as slow as molasses at some points.  While I would say I had to plod through parts of it I had to never force myself to actually start reading it again.

There is a wonderful promise waiting at the end of the Condie rainbow and it’s the final, hopefully revealing book of Reached, where we should get the unraveling of all of the mysteries of the Society, its motives, and maybe even its origins.  Despite the short-comings of this sequel, I feel that just leaves us with more anticipation for the final part of this dystopian trilogy.

So if I had to rate this book, I would give it a 3/5.  No more, no less.  A good book, but it didn’t quite fulfill our expectations and it certainly did not live up to Matched.  A good effort sadly suffering from a slight case of sequelitis.  But the series is so worth a read.

~

Now, I don’t usually write reviews, but I felt compelled to for two reasons.  A) Writing helps me figure out my own honest opinion about the book, and B) I recently read some reviews that just pissed me off.

Honestly.

It takes a lot of effort to write a book!  That I’m sure of, and I’m tiring of seeing people sh*t on Crossed because it didn’t completely bend to their desires or answer every question that they had.  Good stories take time and pacing, and this book at least gives us some beautiful insight into Ky’s past and his own thoughts.  I actually felt like Cassia was a secondary character to him in this one, but I’m OK with that.  The two person perspective worked and I don’t think people are giving any of this credit for what it is.  It’s like people are somehow reading with their eyes closed!  There was so much subtext and so much mystery to it.  You can’t take every line, every work at face value.  This series is deeper than that.

But even more than that, I’m just sick and tired or reading reviews like “OMG this book sucks where’s Xander????” and “Condie f-ed this up, what was she thinking this is not the romance I wanted!!!1!!!1”.  It’s upsetting because I love seeing criticism from both sides. But at least do it respectfully.  Some reviews just seem like folks decided to ride the hateful bandwagon together, insisting that Condie just pushed through the second book in an attempt to make money and cheat her readers.  That she can’t write.  That she wasted our time.

And I’m not trying to shoot anyone down for their opinion.  We’re all entitled to what we think and how we feel.  But when you start attacking the author (and not even in a well-presented manner), I’m done.  Your review has just crossed a line.  We’re here to critique the book itself and not throw uneducated accusations at someone who wanted to give you a good experience.  It just hurts me to see people who obviously didn’t take anything from this book trying to blindly tear it down.

Let’s open our eyes when we read.  Remember, we get what we take away; at least make the experience count.

-Andee