Imagine a world ravaged by war and taken over by the religious right. This is the dystopic future of Kristen Simmons Article 5. Sometime in the not so distant future the United States has lost a war with foes unknown. The outcome of that war is that the moral majority takes over and takes away the civil liberties of the population. Sounds scary and just a little bit possible doesn’t it? This is the world of Ember. She is a regular 17-year old worried about mom, school, friends. Then she comes home one day and the Moral Militia are arresting her and her mom for article violations. Why? Because her mom became pregnant without being married. Ember is a bastard. Doesn’t matter that it happened long before the MM took over. They are still arrested and taken away. Ember has no idea what happens to her mom; she is taken to a reform school with a bunch of other girls like her. Then her childhood love, Chase, who now belongs to the MM comes and rescues her. They embark on a race to find a safe place in a world that is hunting them.
We don’t learn a whole lot about the war or the group that brought about this dystopian power. Now most of the time I would rage about the lack of world building and how it makes the book weaker, but in this case it is ok. The present time of the world is developed enough that I don’t think you need the whole back story of the world. It makes it scarier in my opinion to leave parts up to your own imagination. The articles themselves are pretty interesting and don’t seem that out of the realm of possibility: you have to worship the one religion; family is defined as man, woman, children; you can only read appropriate materials; you have to behave morally; etc. Seems like things you hear about in present day. Of course the military isn’t killing you if you violate any of these right now. I thought the MM coming in and cleansing towns and people was also a really interesting idea and well thought out. I can just see this systematic taking over of the country. I also liked the rebellion because of course there will be a rebellion. Not everyone is going to fall in line.
I think my biggest issue with this book was the main character. Ember is a really hard character to like or root for. She is whiny and stupid for most of the book. She is 17 so you would think she would be a little smarter and she is about some things but then she is really stupid and naive. Her relationship with Chase is one example. They were in love, he joins the military (because he is drafted and has no choice), he is there when she and her mom are arrested, he rescues her, but then she runs away from him and doesn’t trust him several times even though he has shown no reason for this. I didn’t get her motivation for most of the book and she really didn’t grow into a decent character until about the last 50 pages or so. If I was Chase I probably would have left her on the side of the road. Chase was a great character. You could see his conflict and his determination to do what is right. He was a character I could root for.
Of course there were things about the book that were very predictable as well. The storyline with the mom was so predictable I couldn’t believe it. I was waiting for the twist throughout the whole book because I couldn’t believe it would be so obvious, but it was. I couldn’t believe Ember didn’t ask more questions or pick up on the signs or that situation. The MM was also very one dimensional. I wish we could have seen a little bit more from the bad guys. However, I like where this world is going and I will probably read the next book in the series.
Seventeen-year-old Karou, a lovely, enigmatic art student in a Prague boarding school, carries a sketchbook of hideous, frightening monsters–the chimaerae who form the only family she has ever known.
This was a type of tale I had not seen before, the stories of chimaerae and angels. It’s a love story, is she human or monster and how does she feel about the truth when she finds it? I may or may not want to read any follow-up books, but I did enjoy this one.
Devon is your typical teen girl. She is a star soccer player and a good student. Her home life isn’t the best with a single mom who acts more like a child than a parent. Devon has strict rules for herself so she won’t turn out like her mom. One summer day she goes on a date and ends up having sex with the boy. Then she gets pregnant. Devon is so steeped in denial that she denies the sexual experience and the pregnancy. She even denies giving birth and throwing her baby in the trashcan. But she can’t live in denial forever. Devon is sent to jail for her crime and must face up to the legal consequences of her decisions.
I’m not sure if it was listening to this book instead of reading it, but I did not find Devon to be a sympathetic character at all. I found her delusions and denial hard to swallow. Of course, I can’t imagine ever being pregnant and hiding it or not realizing you are giving birth until the baby pops out but that is just me. Devon spends the majority of the book not really present. She doesn’t get why she is in jail and she blocks out the events that led up to her incarceration. We find out what happened through a series of flashbacks. We learn about Devon’s date and how she hid her pregnancy and what happened the night she had the baby. It isn’t until the very end of the book that Devon actually quits fighting her lawyer and owns up to her actions. I have to say that the legal processes in the book seemed spot on. I really enjoyed Devon’s lawyer Dom and her eternal patience for Devon’s bad attitude. Not sure how I feel about the end of the book, but in a way I thought it was justified; stupid but justified.
Campbell Cooper is dying and she has been for some time. The cancer she has been fighting since she was a child is finally winning the battle. Cam’s mom doesn’t accept that and wants to try whatever she can to help Cam. She discovers Promise, Maine, a small town with supposed magical healing properties. So she packs up Cam and her sister Perry and moves from Disney World (where she works) to Maine. Promise turns out to be a strange little town. There are purple dandelions and flocks of flamingos. Cam finds not a cure but a life in Promise. She learns to make friends and finds love.
Cam is a fantastic character and your typical dying teenager (if there is one). She is mopey and sarcastic and difficult and fun. You know how her journey must end but the path there was great. I found Promise to be a charming little town and the unusual aspects of it really made you think for a while that miracles might happen. The true miracle in this book is not anything concrete, like a cure for cancer, but it is the miracle of living each day and finding joy in the world around you. Cam’s journey was a wonderful one and definitely worth the read.
Piper somehow finds herself the manager of high school rock band Dumb. She has one month to prove herself as a manager by finding them a paying gig. The only problems: the band is falling apart and Piper is deaf and knows nothing about music.
I really liked this book. It seemed very real with complicated characters and a great story. I love Piper’s journey in the book. She goes from shy wallflower to badass chick. I like her interaction with the band and I liked that all the band members were distinct characters. The girls in the band got a little more attention than the boys (except Ed); we really don’t know that much about Will and Josh. I also really liked Piper’s relationships with her family; they are complicated and messy and real. She resents her baby sister Grace because her parents raided her college fund to pay for Grace’s implants. So now Grace will hear when Piper never will. She is angry with her father because he never learned sign language and doesn’t appear interested in her. Her mother is so busy working and taking care of Grace she has no time for Piper. And her younger brother is at times a pain and a helper. I really liked that Piper doesn’t use her deafness as a crutch. In fact she uses it to manipulate people (which I loved) and help her get out of situations. This isn’t really a book about a deaf girl managing a band it is about a girl coming into her own and figuring out who she really is and who those around her are.
That isn’t to say that the book doesn’t have it’s problems. The band was a little stereotypical with a nerdy drummer, reclusive bassist, over the top self-absorbed singer, angry girl guitarist and pretty girl who knows nothing. Even with the stereotypes though I still enjoyed them. There is also this whole journey to learn about rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. I liked the journey but I can’t believe someone wouldn’t know who Kurt Cobain was especially living in Seattle. Didn’t seem very realistic to me. After all he is mentioned on every MTV and VH1 special imaginable. I also thought the ending was pretty predictable. It left no problem unsolved and no bad guy unpunished. I like my endings a little more vague than this.
But this book is still excellent and worth the read. I devoured it and really enjoyed Piper’s story.
So, I have some mixed feeling about this book. I really, really wanted to like it, especially since I’ve met the author and he’s really nice fellow. But there were a few things that just didn’t work for me, but I’ll get to those in a bit. The basic plot: Piper has been severely deaf since the age of 6. She’s used to being on her own and being studious. Enter the band “Dumb”, a hot mess of a trio that somehow or another managed to win a Battle of the Bands. Piper sees the band play on the school steps and later acts aloof enough to get their attention. The lead singer informs her that she is going to be their manager if she is able to get them a paying gig within the month. So Piper sets out to do just that. Along the way, they pick up a few more band members, making it a total of five, each with their own “flavor”. They’re not very good musicians and they have a tendency to self-destruct, so Piper’s work is cut out for her.
What I liked about the book: Kallie! She starts out pretty boring, but redeems herself by the end. The emphasis on rock history and using it as an outlet rather than a way of making money. An disabled narrator who refuses to let anyone tell her what she can or can’t do (rock on, Piper).
What I had issues with: I’ve actually been in a few bands, none of which have ever had a manager. It’s hard for me to believe that this “band” made it as far as they did before even making the decision that they needed a manager. I mean, their first practice is a complete disaster and the only songs they knew were barely recognizable covers. Not sure how a band like that would win a Battle of the Bands, especially in Seattle. I also have trouble with the whole “making money” aspect. Granted, I can see the appeal for some of the members, but it never sounds like any of them are in it simply to make music. When it is finally realized that money is not necessarily the goal (though they manage to make more money by the end of the book than any of my bands ever made. ever. I swear I’m not bitter.), they begin to bond in that sort-of-sappy-teen-movie way. The ending just felt contrived to me. All happy, with the strings neatly tied up. Finally, I was annoyed by the stereotypes the band members portrayed. You’ve got the silent and antisocial bassist, the egotistical lead singer, the angry girl guitarist, the nerdy drummer and then the addition of the talent-lacking, but drop-dead gorgeous new guitarist. Luckily, the latter character turns out to be one of the better characters in the book.
Ok, I’m going to back off now. It’s not a bad book, by any means and likely one that readers will connect with on one level or another. It just wasn’t the book for me.
Note: This book is on the 2012-13 Gateway Award Nominee list and is the Pizza & Pages selection for February.