Written by Gemma Malley
Bloomsbury, 2007, 301 pp., ISBN: 13-978-1-59990-119-0
I am not Anna Covey. I am Surplus Anna. I am. I know I am. Please let things get back to normal. Please let everything be OK again.
Unfortunately for Anna, she is Anna Covey and her life will never be normal again. In this futuristic novel, a young girl discovers that living in an orphanage as “Surplus Anna” may not be normal. The Declaration portrays a dystopia where those who sign a “declaration” can live forever — as long as they don’t have children. In fact, all children are illegal and people who choose to have them pay with their lives. The need for servants, however, is still strong, so surplus children are taken and trained to support the Legals, who are immortal. Anna, as a surplus child, lives a grim reality that holds little hope beyond filling a service as a “Valuable Asset” to those who have longevity. She does not even wonder how she became a surplus, having been indoctrinated to believe that her parents didn’t want her. That is, until Peter, a problematic surplus, is brought to the training school of Grange Hall. Peter tells Anna that she does have parents who love her and that if they escape Grange Hall, she will find her family.
Fast paced with on-the- edge-of-your-seat intensity, The Declaration is a middle grade novel that allows readers to ponder the concept of normal, the importance of questioning the status quo, and the benefits and challenges of having a world where people might possibly live forever. Protagonists Anna and Peter are well-developed and present the complexity of knowing what shouldn’t be known and how that knowledge can make one dangerous to society. The Declaration is followed by its companion, The Resistance (Malley, 2008), which continues the story, but can also be read as a stand-alone. The Declaration would make a great companion to books such as The Giver (Lois Lowry, 2002); The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins, 2008); the Maximum Ride (James Patterson) series, as well as the Shadow Children series (Margaret Peterson Haddix). An excellent example of suspense and governmental control gone amuck, this British tale could be a precursor to Dickens as well as the novel 1984 (George Orwell, 2003).
Gemma Malley is British and lives in London. The Declaration is her first novel and as she notes in an interview, she wrote about this novel as a way to question the idea that aging may be considered a disease that can somehow be cured. Taking the questions and issues of the present and writing the “what if” that follows, Malley will have young people thinking about their present circumstances, the question of change and progress in a world that no longer creates, and the morality of living forever at the expense of others.
Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH