Friday, April 9, 2010

The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Title: The Declaration
Author: Gemma Malley
Genre: YA, Dystopia


Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK & USA)
Publishing Date: May 2008 (UK)/ August 2008 (USA)
Paperback: 320 pages

Stand Alone or series: Book 1 in a two book duology.

Where did I get this book: Library (as usual)

Summary: (from amazon)
It’s the year 2140 and Longevity drugs have all but eradicated old age. A never-aging society can’t sustain population growth, however…which means Anna should never have been born. Nor should any of the children she lives with at Grange Hall. The facility is full of boys and girls whose parents chose to have kids—called surpluses—despite a law forbidding them from doing so. These children are raised as servants, and brought up to believe they must atone for their very existence. Then one day a boy named Peter appears at the Hall, bringing with him news of the world outside, a place where people are starting to say that Longevity is bad, and that maybe people shouldn’t live forever. Peter begs Anna to escape with him, but Anna’s not sure who to trust: the strange new boy whose version of life sounds like a dangerous fairy tale, or the familiar walls of Grange Hall and the head mistress who has controlled her every waking thought?

Review:

What would you do to live forever? That’s the question at the heart of this story.

In the year 2140 it seems like people would do just about anything to keep from going into that good night. In order to take Longevity, the medication that keeps illness and death at bay, people have to sign the Declaration and agree not to have children. There’s just not enough space on the planet for people to continue to be born if very few people are dying. The planet has already become over populated due to the time before the Declaration and there is precious energy and fuel to go around. People that choose to have children anyway are arrested and their children are considered “surpluses.” Surplus children are sent to orphanage type detention centers in order to learn how to pay back their debt to society for existing (by working as servants essentially).

I don’t think it needs to be said that living as a surplus is a pretty shitty way to live.

At the beginning of this story, Surplus Anna is one of the most promising occupants of Grange Hall, a center for surplus children. In fact, Anna is soon going to be placed in a permanent job outside of the center. Then one day a new surplus boy named Peter shows up and turns Anna’s world upside down.

First things first, I LOVED the idea of this story. While I do think some of the treatment towards the children was horrific, I still found the story to be within the realm of the believability. I also really liked Anna’s journal entries. I know the Book Smugglers thought they were a bit too juvenile, but I actually thought that made it all the more realistic.

My biggest complaint about this story is that I don’t think it went far enough. While I enjoyed the book overall, I was left with a sort of blandness throughout the story. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is that this story was lacking, but there was definitely something. I also dislike stories where character are too “good” or “evil” and this story kind of fell into that trap (not to mention the ending was a bit too tidy for my taste). There were some parts that I thought I was given too much information and others where I felt like there wasn’t enough.

In the end I think this book is a good first half though and I look forward to reading book two.

Notable Quotes/ Parts: (from chapter 1)
11 January, 2140

My name is Anna.

My name is Anna and I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t exist.
But I do.

It’s not my fault I’m here. I didn’t ask to be born. But that doesn’t make it any better that I was. They caught me early, though, which bodes well. That’s what Mrs Pincent says, anyway. She’s the lady that runs Grange Hall. We call her House Matron. Grange Hall is where I live. Where people like me are brought up to be Useful – the ‘best of a bad situation’, Mrs Pincent says.
I don’t have another name. Not like Mrs Pincent does. Mrs Pincent’s name is Margaret Pincent. Some people call her Margaret, most people call her Mrs Pincent, and we call her House Matron. Lately I’ve started to call her Mrs Pincent too, although not to her face – I’m not stupid.

Legal people generally have at least two names, sometimes more. Not me, though. I’m just Anna. People like me don’t need more than one name, Mrs Pincent says. One is quite enough.

Actually, she doesn’t even like the name Anna – she told me she tried to change it when I first came here.

But I was an obstinate child, she says, and I wouldn’t answer to anything else, so in the end she gave up. I’m pleased – I like the name Anna, even though my parents gave me that name.
I hate my parents. They broke the Declaration and didn’t care about anyone else but themselves. They’re

in prison now. I don’t know where. None of us knows anything about our parents any more. Which is fine by me – I’d have nothing to say to them anyway.

None of the girls or boys here has more than one name. That’s one of the things that makes us different, Mrs Pincent says. Not the most important thing, of course – having one name is really just a detail. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like a detail. Sometimes I long for a second name, even a horrible one – I wouldn’t care what it was. One time I even asked Mrs Pincent if I could be Anna Pincent, to have her name after mine. But that made her really angry and she hit me hard across the head and took me off hot meals for a whole week. Mrs Larson, our Sewing Instructor, explained later that it had been an insult to suggest that someone like me could have Mrs Pincent’s name. As if she could be related to me.
Actually I do sort of have another name, but it’s a pre-name, not an after-name. And everyone here has got the same one, so it doesn’t really feel like a name. On the list that Mrs Pincent carries around with her, I’m down as:

Surplus Anna.

But really, it’s more of a description than a name. We’re all Surpluses at Grange Hall. Surplus to requirements. Surplus to capacity.
Verdict:

While this book wasn’t perfect, I thought the story was really interesting. This book is also short enough that it’s a nice quick read which I can appreciate (since every book I’ve picked up lately seems to be huge). I've already put the second book, The Resistance, on hold at the library.

Rating: 6. Good, but might not be for everyone

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