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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Review: The Declaration

Author: Gemma Malley

Release date: Paperback May 2008 UK
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury

Summary from the Publisher’s website:
Anna Covey is a ‘Surplus’. She should not have been born. In a society in which ageing is no longer feared, and death is no longer an inevitability, children are an abomination.

Like all Surpluses, Anna is living in a Surplus Hall and learning how to make amends for the selfish act her parents committed in having her. She is quietly accepting of her fate until, one day, a new inmate arrives. Anna’s life is thrown into chaos. But is she brave enough to believe this mysterious boy?

A tense and utterly compelling story about a society behind a wall, and the way in which two young people seize the chance to break free.

The Declaration is a gritty, believable exploration of the future of humanity.

Anna is a Surplus. She is one of many. She lives in Grange Hall. An institution that prepares Surpluses for a life of servitude. Anna is a Surplus because her parents were selfish. They signed The Declaration and yet they had a child anyway. In the future world of this novel children are a burden to society. They are unnecessary and a drain on the world’s resources. How did this change come to be? Humanity discovered Longevity. Drugs that allow people to live forever. An ageing, undying population is more than enough people for one planet and so the Declaration made it illegal to have children. Any illegal children are Surplus and thus become the property of the state and are effectively slaves until they die. Illegal Surpluses are exempt from Longevity and so they can and do die.

Gemma Malley’s novel paints a dark and sinister picture of the future. But it is a design that is every bit convincing. What is to say that we will not find a cure-all? And if we do, how do we decide who has the right to ever-lasting life? Would we want to live forever? And if we could does that mean that the time we have would become less valuable? It is a simple question of supply and demand, isn’t it? These are some of the challenging questions that The Declaration explores. It makes for gripping, blood-pressure raising reading.

Beyond the lives of the Legals, who are now here to stay for an eternity, are the Surpluses. Anna is a Pending. She is about to become a Valuable Asset for society. She will work hard and repay her guilt owed to Mother Nature for ever being born into this world which is a crime. Anna is a fascinating character. She is the perfect Surplus – deferential, obedient, capable. Except that she has a secret and so maybe she isn’t as Valuable as the House Matron believes her to be.

The tension in this novel increases with every turn of the page. At some points I had to put it down because I couldn’t cope with the racing of my heart-beat and the fear that Anna was going to face the ultimate punishment for being a Surplus. The plot is surprising and I really felt like I didn’t know where I was heading. It was a strange feeling and I am in awe of Malley’s ability to make a reader feel uncomfortable in a world that is in many ways familiar.

The Declaration is thrilling, terrifying and yet it has a touching warmth about it too. I don’t really want to give too much away about the new Surplus that arrives at Grange Hall. But needless to say, the new arrival is a catalyst. If you’re a fan of dystopias and you haven’t read this yet, then you really must. The Declaration is an uncompromising, riveting vision of a future not so far away.

Read for the British Books Challenge 2011.


Jesse Owen said...

Ooh! This sounds good. I'm really enjoyed the dystopian novels that are out at the moment and have been looking for more. Adding to my wish list - fab review :D

Cliona said...

Fantastic review-it sounds like a very emotional story and a brilliant piece of dystopia!

Vivienne said...

I do have this one and the sequel. I didn't realise it was as dark as that. Can't wait to read it. Dystopian is my second favourite genre.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Wonderful review!

The premise of this novel is both great and scary. You're right, this is (sadly) a plausible scenario. I can't imagine children being a burden, but there you go. This sounds just like the sort of dystopian story I'd read. I also have to say that I really love the cover. It's so pretty!

Rebecca-Books said...

Oh I love this series!
The Resistance, the second in the series is even better, I think. Glad you liked it :)

Caroline said...

How fascinating!!
Great review, I will definitely pick up this one!
I find it strange and at the same time very interesting that a lot of YA dystopia books have for premise the control of the number of kids a family can have and how there seems to be a barrier between kids and parents. It says a lot on our world and how people fear it might end up!
Now I have my brain in over-drive!