In an unimpressive dystopian romance, a girl flees a repressive institution with the soldier she once loved.
After a war whose details never quite emerge, the U.S. government authorized the Federal Bureau of Reformation, better known as the Moral Militia, to arrest any citizen in violation of the stringent “Moral Statutes.” Ember's mom is arrested for violating Article 5—having conceived a child out of wedlock—and Ember is sent to a girls' rehab where rule-breakers are punished with violence and those who try to escape are shot. Ember does escape, however, with the help of Chase Jennings, a friend who joined the Moral Militia years earlier, and most of the book chronicles the pair's tense and treacherous journey in search of Ember's mother and safety. That the two have feelings for each other is immediately clear, but drawn-out misunderstandings and a tedious unwillingness to communicate keep the two travelers at odds. Despite the book's implicit critique of sexism (“[women]'s subservience” is mandated by the Articles), Chase is portrayed as knowledgeable, street-smart and in charge, while Ember is loose-tongued and impulsive, frequently requiring Chase's assistance to get out of a scrape.
There are a few engaging action scenes here and there, but overall, it's a disappointment for romantics, feminists and dystopia fans alike. (Dystopian romance. 12 & up)