Three - Kristen Simmons (An ARTICLE 5 novel)

In this continuing narrative of a dystopian future, Ember Miller and Chase Jennings are getting seriously tired of constantly running from the Bureau of Reformation, an organization that enforces moral standards on society in an effort to bring traditional social values back into place after the conclusion of WWIII. Media in any form is banned (audio, visual, or tactile). The nation's new official religion is the Church of America, all families must consist of one man, woman, and child(ren), and only children conceived my a married man and wife are considered valid citizens of the United States. Others will be "rehabilitated." Basically, the future sucks!

Since Ember and Chase are the two most wanted criminals of the Bureau, their lives are constantly at risk. When they arrive at the location of a known safe house, however, they find the building burned to the ground. While trying to find alternative shelter, they run into someone from Chase's past, and band together to try to find the elusive organization which goes by the name Three. They realize Three may just be their last hope for survival, and their last chance to strike back at the Bureau for all the damage it has caused.

Part of me struggles with the dystopian genre because of the often heavy-handed tactics that get used to hyperbolize current struggles and issues in North America (and the world). Three is no exception, in some regards, playing off the "traditionalism" of the American religious right with their ideal moral standards. But at the same time, I don't really care if it's heavy handed, because the book still carries me along and has compelling characters and a fast-paced plot. Ember, our fabulous protagonist, is wonderfully imperfect, struggling constantly to justify the actions of her fellow rebels in light of the Bureau's own questionable tactics. Is killing acceptable if it's for the right reasons? Is the loss of innocent life justifiable in any way? Are all soldiers of the Bureau really evil? (Anybody see the connections to Hannah Arendt's The Banality of Evil?)

So yes, this book is in many ways just the same as other dystopian novels; it works off of exaggeration and extrapolation of current political systems and social fears, and maybe that's not a bad thing. Simmons certainly raises important questions amidst the nearly constant action sequences, and Ember and Chase, amidst their vacillating feelings for each other, are well-developed characters that I want to see succeeding in the end. There is lots of kissing and swoon-worthy moments between the two, which will keep the romantics invested.

The other secondary characters are nicely rounded and manage to dodge reader expectations, as well. All in all, aside from some didacticism, Three manages to stand up as a delightfully addicting addition to the dystopian YA canon, and is a bittersweet, but mostly believable ending to the Article 5 trilogy. 

Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out February 11, 2014)

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