It is the future. An incredible thing has happened. Disease has been cured and a drug that will extend life forever has been discovered. Sounds like paradise, but there’s one hitch. With nobody dying the world is becoming overpopulated and running out of resources. So the Declaration is created. People have a choice – take the Longevity drug and never die, or Opt Out and have children. Pretty much everyone chooses not to die, but there are a few that rebel and have children anyway. If the children are captured (and they are almost always captured), they are considered Surplus and are sent to live in Grange Hall where they are trained to be servants for those who are legal. These children are treated horribly and are brainwashed to think that they should never have been born.
Anna had been at Grange Hall longer than any other child. She is determined to become a Valuable Asset in someone’s home. But then a new Surplus shows up. Peter is unusual because he was not captured as a young child, and he refuses to submit to the brainwashing and abuse that the other children take for granted. He quickly ingratiates himself to Anna and tells her that he knows her real parents and he has been sent to help her escape and take her to them. Anna is not inclined to believe him or even to care about her parents (after all they are terrible people for breaking the law and having her) but when it becomes apparent that the head mistress of Grange Hall is going to have Peter murdered, she decides to help him escape and to leave with him.
I’ve read a lot of books in which children are treated badly – whether it’s from child abuse or neglect or from addictions on the parts of the parents. The Declaration, however, is different. In this book the mere existence of the children is treated as despicable. People are willing – even eager – to trade the existence of children, a natural and good part of the life cycle, for the opportunity to live forever (certainly an unnatural thing). The abuse and brain-washing that Anna suffers was very painful for me to read.
This is certainly a compelling read, and I’m eager to read the second book in the series. It’s a great choice for anyone who loves dystopian fiction.
The copy of the book that I read was from my school library.