The Declaration by Gemma Malley was probably one of the first utopia/dystopia novels I ever read. The premise is simple yet intriguing; what happens to children when adults want to live forever? It’s a question that Malley answers incredibly well through Anna, a 15-year-old girl who is one of the illegal children. Anna’s existence is unwanted in a world where the key immortality has been discovered. In order to control an undying population those who wish to use the longevity drugs must sign the Declaration and give up their right to have children.
Anna and other ‘surplus’ children live in Grange Hall and is expected to become useful to society in order to make-up for using up much needed resources. The life of those at Grange Hall is fascinating, although the cold-hearted House Matron is a little cliché when reading the novel as an adult. I feel that had the novel been aimed at a slightly older audience Malley could have delved more creatively into life at Grange Hall.
Anna’s ‘brainwashing’ is interrupted with the arrival of Peter, who tells Anna about her parents, and attempts to convince her to escape with him. At times the romantic storyline does verge onto cliché, however, in a world where children are unloved and isolated it works well to show a change in motive.
Malley expertly creates a realistic world that doesn’t feel too far removed from our own. The importance of preserving resources and population control are issues that are present in society today. It’s interesting to see Grange Hall and the far-reaching consequences for disobeying the rules.
‘Surplus meant unnecessary. Not required.
You couldn’t be a Surplus if you were needed by someone else. You couldn’t be a Surplus if you were loved.’
I loved this novel when I read it for the first time about 10 years ago, and as a book for younger readers it is a terrifying world that allows you to identify with the characters and their experiences. Re-reading the novel provided less entertainment as an adult reader as I couldn’t find another depth to it that I’d missed as a child. Overall the novel is brilliant for the target audience and is one of the novels that inspired my love of the utopia/dystopia genre.