Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Article 5: Compliance is Mandatory

Article 5: Compliance is Mandatory

Kristen Simmons
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Tor Teen, 2012   ISBN: 978-0765329585

Eight years ago a war broke out and when it was over, five years later, many of the big cities in the United States had been destroyed by the enemy’s bombs.  In response to the chaos in the country the president created the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR). The soldiers belonging to this branch of the military have one job to do: to make sure that citizens comply with the five articles of the Moral Statutes. The statutes ensure that people follow the state mandated religion; that they only read items approved by the government; that families consist of one man, one women and their child or children; that “Traditional male and female roles shall be observed;” and that children born out of wedlock are not considered citizens.

It used to be that if you were caught not complying you were fined, but now people are being arrested and taken away. One of Ember’s classmates , Katelyn Meadows, was taken away because she missed one day of school during Passover. Ember learns that other teens have been taken too and none of them have come back.

One day soldiers from the FBR turn up at Ember’s house. Ember and her mother have had no warning and Ember worries because she knows that there are books and magazines in the house that are in violation of Article 2. It turns out that things are a lot worse than that. Ember’s mother is being arrested because she is “out of compliance with the Moral Statutes” and she is being arrested and will be tried by a FBR senior officer in due course. Her crime was to have Ember out of wedlock seventeen years ago.

Ember tries to fight of the soldiers and clings to her mother but to no avail. What makes matters even worse is the fact that one of the soldiers who has come to take her mother away is an old friend of hers. Chase used to be a neighbor and then he was forced to join the FBR and Ember has not heard from, or seen him since he left. Until now. Chase helps his fellow soldiers load Ember’s mother in a van and then Ember is also taken into custody. Children born out of wedlock are taken away from their families and “rehabilitated.”

Ember finds herself in a rehab center that is somewhere in West Virginia. The facility is run by the Sisters of Salvation and the woman in charge, Ms. Brock, is a cruel and cold-hearted woman who savors the power she has over the girls in her charge. Ember plans on escaping as soon as she can so that she can find her mother, but she soon realizes that doing so is not going to be easy. The last person who tried it was shot. The girl’s name was Katelyn Meadows.

Ember ends up making a deal with her roommate, who is having a relationship with one of the guards. She will help their relationship a secret if they will help her escape. She thinks that she has a chance, but it turns out that she didn’t and she is locked up in a holding room. Ember fully expects to be beaten or worse when a most unexpected visitor arrives. Chase. He has paperwork that indicates that Ember is to be tried in Chicago the following day. He is to be her escort. Ms. Brock has no choice but to let Ember go, though she gives the girl only one overnight pass.

For the first few hours of their journey Chase says little. He is the cold and distant soldier who came to arrest Ember’s mother. He is not the boy whom Ember fell in love with not long ago, the boy who defended her from bullies when she was a child. Then, to Ember’s surprise she finds out that her so called trial is not going to happen. The summons Chase took to the rehab center was a fake. The plan is that a ‘carrier’ that they will meet at a checkpoint in Virginia is going to take Ember to a safe house in South Carolina to reunite her with her mother. They have to get to the checkpoint before Ember is due back at the center and before Chase’s superiors realize that he is AWOL.

In this often grim and disturbing book we meet a young woman who lives in a United States that is ruled over by an oppressive and cruel regime. She knows that the situation in the country is bad, but she does not realize how bad it is until she ends up on the wrong side of the law. Once they start the book readers will feel compelled to keep reading so that they can find out what happens next.

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