This is a solid dystopian book about a moral militia. There was a war – that’s about all we know. Nothing was nuked it seemed, and most systems were n place, but the president had created the Federal Bureau of Reformation, thinking to crack down on dissidents and create a strong, moral society. He issued a set of moral statutes, which included the Church of America as the official religion, books and other media are banned, families are a man, woman, and child(ren), traditional male and female roles should be observed, and the one at the heart of this story, Article 5, where children of an unwed parent are not considered citizens and should be taken to reform schools. The books opens on a normal day, Ember and 2 of her friends are sitting around in their school uniforms, doing their homework, when a peremptory knock at the door scares them all. It is the MM (Moral Militia) as they call the soldiers behind their backs that enforce the Articles. They drag away Ember’s mother for having a child out of wedlock (she’s a bit of a free spirit), and take Ember too, although in a different van. They are rough, and hit and shove and kick them when they try and resist and ask why. One of the soldiers is the guy she had been in love with, who had lived next door to her most of her life, and whom she had sent away to join the army, thinking it was for the best. It wasn’t, as the book unfolds. Ember is sent to a reform school run by the Sisters of Salvation, a strict order of women who believe in taking these bits of “trash” and making them into little models of decorum. Right away Ember wants to escape – not only for herself, but for her mother, whom she fears for. Her mother she feels can’t take care of herself, and needs her. And so ensues a tight, never stop action story of Ember, and her search for her mother, and the soldier, Chase, who had been there when they were taken away. The book doesn’t allow much of a deep glimpse into Ember – who she is, what she wants, besides her frantic and frankly obsessive need to find her mother (she is seventeen). We aren’t drawn into her world, but sit on the outside, watching her behavior unfold. And Chase – his character is more complex, and there are moments when we see what’s beneath the surface. I love dystopian books, and what kept me from loving this one, was that Ember was not, to me, a truly likable character. She was sort of one-dimensional – all she could think about was her mother’s safety – to the detriment of her own and other’s safety. Now up to a point that is natural, but when confronted with as many dangerous situations, and major changes in her life and around her, you’d think she would think of other things. The other thing I would have wished for is more depth to the Articles – why and how did they come into being – why did everyone just bow down and do it. What had the war done that made them concede to this form of crackdown – curfews, originally fines for infringements of the articles, but later just take the offenders away and they are never seen again? There is a resistance, but who big is it – can it actually do anything? Some of that may be answered if there is a second book. No promo for one, but who knows. Interesting story, as it overly dramatizes some of the far right moral majority in this country already.
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