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 this novel home from school.  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 that made me think.  It is implied that the earth’s resources are depleted.  Energy is regulated.  Old people are pitted against young, and in the end, it was decided the old have more rights to live.  But at what costs?  Children are considered evil marks upon the world.  Only one child is allowed per family.  Any others are to be killed or taken on as Surpluses.  Surpluses have no mind, opinion, thoughts.  They are beaten into subservience, ridiculed, belittled.

I found the plot to be well-structured and the concept engaging. I also think the author did a fair job at tackling serious issues about death, the natural progression of life, the role science plays in our future and our responsibilities to ourselves, our young and our old.

The novel started out well for me, throwing me into Anna Covey’s world where death is in the past.  Old people now have Longevity, and all children are an abomination. Drugs have been developed to stop the onset of ageing and there is no room left for children.

Anna is a Surplus, and according to the Authorities,  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.  And they are punished severly.  Having known nothing else, Anna accepts her fate, and lives a life inside four walls, away from sunlight, laughter, and freedom.  Until the day Peter, a new surplus who’s lived on the Outside for sixteen 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 world where ailments can be remedied with some 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. So much of 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. 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 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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3 thoughts on “If the chance to live forever came with an ugly price, would you opt in or out?

  1. Sometimes I wonder now if I can read anything without being critical like this. I am wondering if you read this three years ago, would you think the same way?

    As a writer, and a beta reader, I now read very critically. I do not let myself get lost in a story for the sake of the story. I analyse the writing. A year ago, I probably would have read this novel and really liked it. Now, I would probably have the same reaction you had.

    Funny, I just started reading Harry Potter (for the first time. I was rebelling against it for a long time.)

    I wished I read it years ago, because right now I am thinking “You cannot start a story without the main character in the first scene… or not in the main character’s voice! You cannot switch Point Of view mid chapter! Wait! How come she can do this and we are all taught not to!

    It is ruining the story for me.

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  2. I write YA and let me tell you, the agents and publishers I’ve dealt with are not fond of ‘tell’ stories. They hate them, at least the ones I’ve dealt with. I think this was sold completely on the premise, which is a good one. I just feel the presentation could have been a bit more intense.

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  3. Interesting review, Jenny. I enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale and the writing was good. Your rating is pretty close to the overall Amazon.com rating of 3.7. I find it curious that a book by a mjaor publisher such as Bloomsbury would be so full of tell. Maybe the premise was such a strong sell or do you think YA allows more tell?
    Cheers
    Ruby

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