Kristen Simmons was raised on a ranch in the USA, where her youth was filled with animals, Jazzercise, and the joy of books. She has a master's degree in social work and is an advocate for mental health. She currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.
Gr 9 Up-How far is the government willing to go for national security? In her debut novel (Tor Teen, 2012), the first title in a projected trilogy, Kristen Simmons spins her own answer to this question with a dystopia that is as chilling as George Orwell's 1984. After the War, the Bill of Rights was replaced by the Moral Statutes, unrealistically stringent regulations strictly enforced by the Federal Bureau of Reformation (FBR). Violators have a way of disappearing, and terrible rumors abound about their fate. When Ember's mom is arrested for being a single parent (an Article 5 violation), Ember is shipped off to a correctional facility where inmates are bullied by armed guards and brutally punished by a sadistic headmistress. She'll remain here until she turns 18-if she can last that long. Just when things seem most bleak, Ember is unexpectedly rescued by Chase Jennings, former-crush-turned-FBR officer. Now fugitives, they must trust each other if they are to survive. But will their inner demons get the better of them? A cliffhanger ending sets the stage for the next installment. This absorbing story is darker than the typical dystopia, and the extreme situations Ember and others face can be difficult to stomach. Violence and some mature content make this title best suited for older teens. Jennifer Ikeda's emotionally charged reading gives Ember's first-person account a haunted quality that is not as apparent in the print version. Therefore, libraries might want to consider purchasing both formats of this must-have story.-Alissa LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.