Friday, 23 September 2011

Book Review: The Declaration by Gemma Malley

Pros: thought provoking, fascinating premise, well executed, everyone has plausible motivations for their actions

Cons: ending a little too pat, subject matter's dark for younger teens

For Parents: no swearing, no sexual content, depictions of child abuse (beatings, brainwashing), threats of violence, murder, suicide

Surplus Anna lives in Grange Hall, training to be a Valuable Asset.  Her parents ignored the Declaration in order to have her, and it's her duty to repay the world for their selfishness by becoming a servant of Legals.  She'll be sixteen soon and her time at Grange Hall is ending.

She's a good Surplus and Knows Her Place.  The coming of a new boy, her age, much older than Surpluses are usually found, turns her life upside-down.  He claims to know her parents.  He claims to know a way to escape Grange Hall.  He calls her Anne Covey.

Like the protagonist in 1984, Anne's first act of defiance regarding her life is to start a diary.  Her infractions mount quickly. 

The premise that in the future humans would learn how to prolong life - to live forever - is interesting, especially given that this book takes it to the next level: with no one dying, there's no room for kids.  We're never completely told what the actual Declaration says, which would normally annoy me, but here worked to add tension and horror, at each new revelation.  I also liked how Malley gave periodic insights into how the world of the future worked, especially the idea that people, knowing they'd have to deal with climate problems rather than their descendants, finally took steps towards curbing them.

Everyone has a plausible reason for why they act the way they do, including Mrs. Pincent, the House Matron, whose goal at the Hall is to break the children and make them hate their parents.

While there's no swearing or sexual content, there is a fair amount of violence, both verbal and physical abuse of children, murder and suicide.  The book shows some of the realities of police states, where rights can be withdrawn on a whim and terror is a means of controlling people.

The ending is a bit contrived, all the plot lines a little too neatly tied up, but that's forgivable given the heavy nature of the book and the audience it's intended for.

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