J. Ford's Reviews > The Declaration

The Declaration by Gemma Malley
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Oct 21, 2011

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If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

This is the question asked in Gemma Malley's dystopian novel, The Declaration.

My son brought home a dystopian novel yesterday titled The Declaration by Gemma Malley. Apparently, this novel has been out since 2007 so I apologize if I’m a bit behind the times. Since I’m a huge dystopian fan, I thought I’d sit down and read it, see what my kid is reading.

From the cover:

In the Year 2148, 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'd better be clear what side you’re on. Surplus Anna is about to find out what happens when you can’t decide whether you should cheat the law or cheat death.

If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

There is much in this book to provoke thought. The earth's resources are depleted. There is not enough to go round, and old are pitted against young in who has more right to live. I found the plot to be well-structured and engaging, and I believe the author really tried to tackle serious issues about humanity's relationship with death, nature, science as well as personal and social responsibility.

The novel started out well for me, throwing me into Anna Covey’s world where death is no longer inevitable and all children are an abomination. Drugs have been developed to stop the onset of ageing and because of this, there is no room left in the world for youth and renewal and the most natural cycle of life: birth, youth, middle age, and death.

Anna is a Surplus, and in effect should never have been born at all. Like all Surpluses, Anna lives locked away in Grange Hall, where Surpluses are forced to make amends for their parents’ ‘sins’ for having conceived and given birth to them at all. Having known nothing else, Anna accepts her dark fate, the lack of light and laughter and freedom which is her world. Until the day Peter, a new surplus who’s lived on the Outside for many years, arrives with news her parents love her, are desperate to find her and she’s not a Surplus after all. Does she trust Peter or does she trust what she’s been taught for fifteen years?

I think the author does a good job with tackling the issues facing our society these days: a society where beauty and youth is everything. A place where ailments can be remedied with some unknown chemical cure, in spite of the three thousand side-effects these drugs carry. A world that is being over-populated because the natural phases are life are not allowed to take place. She also tackles to some respect society's fear of teenagers and their culture. Where I think it falls short is in the writing. It is a ‘tell’ story and not a ‘show’ story and I think it would have worked better if it were written completely in first person. As it is, parts are in first person, the rest in third. I think this aspect of the author's writing kept the characters from living and breathing on the pages. Also, I felt some scenes could have unfolded better and could have been more intense. The suspense factor was lacking. I felt there was a lot of melodrama going on by the end of the book and it wasn’t as chilling as I would have liked to have seen.

With that said, I still think fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Children of Men would like this storyline. Over all, it is a good story and I would give it 3 ½ stars out of 5. I will definitely read the continuation, The Resistance, to see how the story ends.
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