It’s the year 2140, and Longevity drugs have made the world a wonderful place – for some. Taking Longevity means that you can live indefinitely, but there’s a catch: you must first sign the Declaration and, if you opt in, you agree not to have children.
For children born outside the Declaration, the world is a grim place. Surplus Anna is one such teen: a worthless burden who must pay back society for her very existence. Bleak and foreboding Grange Hall, with it’s severe headmistress, will prepare Anna for her short life of servitude.
But Anna is different. In the pages of a coveted diary, she secretly pours out her heart, her hopes and her many, many fears – including her mistrust of a new arrival to Grange Hall, a boy named Peter. Peter says that Longevity is bad, that nobody should be considered a Surplus … and that Anna’s parents love her and have been searching for her. Who is she to trust? The strange boy whose version of life sounds like a dangerous fairy tale? Or the cold, familiar walls of Grange Hall and the headmistress who has controlled her every waking thought?
The basic idea of this novel is that sometime between now and 2140 science has found a way to use stem cells to cure every disease and human frailty there is, and along the way they also manufacture a drug called Longevity that stops aging at whichever age you begin taking the medication. But with this marvel comes the fact that no one dies, so the world runs into some problems with space, supplies, energy etc. To fix this, the Authorities have come up with a solution that involves the signing of a Declaration stating that if you intend to take the drug, you must sign off on all rights of having children. Nothing is ever perfect however and people end up having kids anyway, which are called Surpluses or Illegals. To solve this problem the authorities create groups of Catchers to search for and apprehend any non-legal people. They also set up prison like institutions to hold and train these Surpluses to be servants in order to pay back society for the blasphemous nature of their stolen lives. Anna is very close to becoming a Valuable Surplus, in one such place called Grange Hall. She is aware of how worthless she is and that she is an evil thing that mocks Mother Nature and all the Legals whose very air she is stealing. But then Peter arrives at Grange Hall and in just a short time he convinces Anna that this is all wrong and that she has loving parents and as much a right to live freely as anyone else. Shortly thereafter they devise an escape plan, that they hope will reunite Anna with her parents.
When I first heard about this book, I was instantly intrigued with the plot about a society of people that live forever and all the problems that may come along with it. However, by halfway through the story I lost most of my interest. I found Anna to be very boring, she had no personality and appeared to be more of a sketch that an actual character. Some of the secondary characters such as; Peter, the headmistress Mrs. Pincent, and Surplus Shelia a fellow dormitory mate of Anna’s were much more developed and interesting. Also a short appearance by Mrs. Sharpe, a Legal who Anna once worked for, was for me a real highlight in the story, as she displayed so much relevant emotion to the society in which the novel was set.
The idea of the story itself showed much promise, but simply wasn’t developed enough to deliver. There was good dialogue and adequate background to set-up the strange societal rules. However, along with the characters, the plot was not strong enough for me to fully enjoy the book as a whole. All the major revelations were very clear pages beforehand and the ending was a climax that seemed too neatly tied up to really impress, and ended up coming too fast and ended up flopping, what for me, could have been an intriguing lead-in to the follow-up novel, The Resistance.
About The Author
Gemma Malley studied philosophy at Reading University before working as a journalist. She edited several business magazines and contributed regularly to publications including Company Magazine and The Sunday Telegraph before moving to the civil service, where she held a senior position within Ofsted, the education and care watchdog. She is married to Mark, the head master of a preparatory school in North West London. The Declaration is her first book for young readers.
Published in 2007 by Bloomsbury USA
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