In the year 2140,
it is illegal to be young.
Children are all but extinct.
The world is a better place.
Longevity drugs are a fountain of youth. Sign the Declaration, agree not to have children and you too can live forever. Refuse, and you will live as an outcast. For the children born outside the law, it only gets worse – Surplus status.
Not everyone thinks Longevity is a good thing, but you better be clear what side you’re on. . . . Surplus Anna is about to find out what happens when you can’t decide if you should cheat the law or cheat death.
I think I first heard about The Declaration from Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers, and I’m glad I did! It was a perfect choice to read for the dystopian challenges I’m taking part in right now.
Anna, our protagonist, is a Surplus teen living in Grange Hall – a home for Surpluses where they are taught to be Valuable Assets. Anna is a Surplus because her parents did not Opt Out of Longevity (a drug that lets you live forever), yet had a child anyway – which the Declaration says that one must not do. Because everyone is living forever, the world was becoming too populated. Governments made the decision that if you choose to take Longevity and live, you cannot have children and put more strain on the world’s resources. And so Anna is a Surplus. A perfect Surplus, in fact. She has been fully indoctrinated into the lies she is fed at Grange Hall, and never questions her lot in life – to become a Valuable Asset and pay back her debt to society.
Until Peter arrives. The oldest Surplus to be caught and sent to Grange Hall since Anna has been there, Peter has Anna questioning everything she has been taught about her parents, the Declaration, Longevity and the difference between being Legal and Surplus.
The Declaration is a fairly slow book, but not boring. It’s the first book in a duology (the second book is The Resistance: the trade paperback is due out January 26, 2010, the hardcover is already available), and I found that it consisted of mostly world building and character introduction. We learn about Longevity and some basics of how society works in the year 2140, we get backstories on our characters and current information/thought/feelings. The main action and suspense in the novel comes from Anna’s indecision about Peter and everything he tells her. We are left constantly wondering what she will do; will she stay? Go with Peter? Fight against being a Surplus? Become a Valuable Asset?
Our antagonist, Mrs. Pincent, is the definiton of a cruel woman – at the beginning. I don’t want to give spoilers, but Mrs. Pincent’s character was one of the only problems I had with the book. She became a cliché. One of those characters who you hate, but then find out there are reasons for them being the way they are, and suddenly you don’t know if you should keep hating them, or pity them.
The other problem I had was that I thought Anna was not quite as brainwashed as she should have been. She’s lived at Grange Hall since about the age of 2 or 3, with no contact to the outside world, and the Declaration and other rules and regulations pounded into her brain. I expected her to be a little more firm in her understandings in beliefs. But hey, if those are my only complaints, I think the book did great! I was fine with the slow pace, since it was sufficiently interesting and the second book sounds like it should have some good action in it.