It’s the year 2140, and Longevity drugs have made the world a wonderful place – for some. Taking Longevity means you can live indefinitely, but there’s a catch, of course: you must first sign the Declaration and, if you opt in, you agree not to have children.
Surplus Anna has committed an unforgivable crime.
She was born.
Surplus Anna’s story begins when she is fourteen years old, living in Grange Hall. This is a center for surplus children who are brainwashed into believing that their parents were criminals. They have no right to life, and their only purpose is to become a compliant servant. Anna strives to become a Valuable Asset to a wealthy household. She is completely indoctrinated.
When Surplus Peter arrives at the hall, he challenges everything she believes. A troublemaker, he disrupts everything, but tries to win Anna’s trust. He insists that her parents did love her and want her back, and that the people who have taken the Longevity drug are the true criminals. Anna’s security and the status that she accepts is threatened for the first time. While outwardly rebuffing Peter, her secret journal entries detail her inner conflict and the slow evolution of her heart and thoughts. She is interested in this strange new boy despite herself, but are his stories of the world outside enough to convince her to escape the cold, controlling walls of Grange Hall and rush into the dangerous unknown?
There are some genuinely creepy moments. In particular, the way Mrs. Pincent, the headmistress of Grange Hall, disposes of troublemakers is disturbing. The overall feeling of the Grange Hall setting is bleak and hopeless which makes the bright spots in the story shine more. The way the surplus children treat each other is sometimes shocking, until you remember they are all taught to believe that they are worthless. This is their world.
Anna is a great character to see this through; you really feel for her and want her to survive.
If you had the chance to live forever, would you opt in or out? This book does raise some interesting moral and ethical questions, however, the author never lets the setting, plot or characters act as a vehicle to drive a message home. The premise of a future where children are obsolete is thought-provoking and the plot is well-paced and suspenseful. I liked Anna’s character development. She isn’t rebellious at the beginning, and slowly she begins to question things. Mrs. Pincent is an interesting and somewhat mysterious villain. I hope we will see more of her in the series.
The twist ending may lack closure for some, but keep in mind this book is the first in a series. If you enjoyed The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins or Unwind by Neal Shusterman, you should definitely check The Declaration out.
4 out of 5 stars – excellent