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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 6 October 2011
This is a book that is aimed at a young adult readership, but it's one of those gems that can be picked up by an older reader and, because of the interesting concept and style of writing, can be enjoyed by them as well.

I found the central theme really refreshing - there are no vampires or supernatural creatures here, just humans living in a future society where immortality is valued above all, and having children a punishable offence. Anna is a Surplus - as in surplus to requirements - who was discovered by the authorities as a toddler and taken away from her parents. She believes that she isn't worthy of hopes or dreams, or a life of her own, and is instead content to lead a life of service without asking too many questions.

Then Peter comes along and changes everything. Soon Anna is left questioning her every belief and her world is turned upside down. A tense adventure follows, with a very dramatic climax - and I'm sure a sequel is soon to follow.

The plot is cleverly written, the characters believeable - especially Anna's - and, although I found the ending rather a little too neat and couldn't work out for the life of me how certain parts of it were planned in advance by certain characters, I enjoyed it.

To anyone who's a fan of Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games series or Richelle Meade's Vampire Academy series, this is a must read.
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VINE VOICEon 20 September 2010
I've wanted to read this series for ages. The premise is brilliant, a not so distant future where the cure to illness, disease and old age has been found and people live forever but children are forbidden. Finally getting around to it in time for the release of the final book of the trilogy, I flew through all three books within a couple of days.

The Declaration is the first book in the series and introduces us to Anna and the world where people live forever thanks to a drug called Longevity. One of the downsides of eternal life is over population. If no one dies then there's no room for anyone else to be born. To solve the problem the Government, or Authorities have created a Declaration making procreation illegal. But there are still children born, children like Anna. The Authorities solution is to deem these children surplus, strip them of any human rights and rip them away from their parents. These children are then housed in a Surplus Hall, beaten, starved and trained to be a Valuable Asset, or in other words, slaves.

I adored every page of this book and read it in one go. The future Gemma Malley creates is shocking. Anna's story, along with the other surpluses is heart breaking; the idea of assigning such labels to children is horrifying. Yet there's also something very believable and familiar about the story. The Surplus Hall, while set 100 years in the future, brought to my mind the workhouses of the past in many ways. Life is hard and children are stripped of anything that makes them human. Mrs Pincent, the cruel house matron, wouldn't be out of place in Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. Longevity, the wonder drug that means everyone lives forever, never aging and never getting ill is quite frankly horrifying. Yet again there is something believable about the situation and the problems created by it both on the population and the world's resources. It wasn't at all difficult to imagine life with longevity and that made the story very scary indeed.

Gemma Malley's writing is very readable, I found myself completely caught up and involved in the story. The characters are vivid and well developed. I particularly liked Anna, who is quietly strong and resilient even when she doesn't know it. I was thoroughly behind her throughout the book. Peter intrigued me immediately with his intensity and passion for his cause. My only complaint while reading this book was that we didn't really get much of an insight into the world outside the Surplus Hall and I had a lot of questions relating to the beginnings of Longevity and how it was used. However I started the next book in the series immediately after finishing and all my questions are addressed then. Overall I though The Declaration was a fantastic first book. It's extremely readable, gripping, emotional and thought provoking and is one I will think about for a long time to come.
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on 4 June 2011
I was pleasantly surprised by 'The Declaration', the book begins with Anna being docile and downtrodden and ends with her fighting back and becoming her own person, and Gemma Malley's style of writing takes you on the journey with Anna. The plot is effective and intelligent, even though the book is YA, its shown in an adult way surrounding the issues that run within the book.

The characters are well written, especially Anna, you find yourself becoming increasingly more frustrated by her because of her blind faith in Mrs Pincent and her acceptance of being told she nothing but a drain on society but as the story progresses, you see glimpses of who Anna could be and she definitely is a strong person and a likeable character. Peter, the other character is the opposite of Anna, he is passionate about life, his freedom and all surplus children's freedom, he fights because he has to and his determination shines through and effects Anna. For me, Mrs Pincent is very much a character you will love to hate, her attitude towards Anna and Grange Hall is nothing short of cruel, you find out why but I still found her difficult to like as a character.

A great start to a thought provoking series.
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on 1 May 2017
Really engaging book. Halfway through it and looking forward to seeing how the trilogy pans out. If you like dystopian novels, give this a whirl.
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on 10 May 2015
Loved this. Such a good start to a crazy scarily close encounter of what is to come. Can't wait to read book 2
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 October 2015
Gemma Malley’s dystopian young adult novel is set in 2140 where for over a century longevity drugs have been available to prevent illness and death. The consequence, of course, is that the global population is in danger of spiraling out of control.

The UK response is for its citizens to sign a Declaration that they will forego children. For those still determined to have a family there is an Opt Out – stop taking the tablets and you can have a child. Otherwise children are regarded as Surplus, their birth being a crime against humanity and nature. The Surplus are divided into Small, Middle and Pending, according to age and live in closed community houses where they are trained [= beaten and abused] to become Valuable Assets, able to serve future employers within the Legal population. Children born to ‘irresponsible’ parents are trapped by Catchers and taken to closed institutions like Grange Hall or quietly ‘disappeared’.

Fifteeen year old Surplus Anna, the narrator, is a Prefect and Pending Surplus at Grange Hall, administered by it Matron, Mrs Pincent, a direct descendent of Wackford Squeers. The author paints detailed picture of the structure of this ‘society’ and the worthlessness of the Surplus. Peter, unusually a Pending rather than a younger child, is brought to Grange Hall and seems to know all about Anna’s family. Before long he is encouraging her to join him in escaping.

In other ways 2140 is little different from today with clothes still requiring laundering and people travelling in cars and lorries. This disconnect in the nature of life in the future is a flaw that Malley’s writing fails to overcome. There is also a problem with the pace of the story; much of the novel sets the scene for the action in its last quarter that takes place in the outside world and the conclusion is rushed.

There is much good writing in this book that poses questions of how society will develop, the response to rapidly declining global resources, the ethics of science and technology, individual and societal responsibilities, psychological control and institutional bullying. As such it should stimulate the imaginations of readers, in general, and younger readers, in particular. There is one violent scene late on that seems somewhat out of place.

The characterisation is generally weak with little exploration of psychological depth, an exception is the brutal Mrs Pincent [who boasts ‘That's how you really destroyed a Surplus. Make it think you love it before abusing it's trust so completely that it could never trust another human being again.’]

Malley presents a pantomime portrait of society – those like Peter and Anna’s parents [part of the Underground, a network of anti-establishment liberals who smuggle children to safety], being admirable and Mrs Pincent, her staff and the Catchers being horrific. Anna, who is confused, keeps a diary, against regulations, and periodically we read excerpts. Whilst the diary itself has a significant part to play in the story, these entries add little to the story, in some cases merely repeating what we already know. The environmental argument is, of course, subtle [‘each new person on this earth threatens our existence’] but its nuances are not addressed.

The crux of the book occurs when Anna, who has been successfully brainwashed into believing that she is worthless, was abandoned by her parents that those in Grange Hall know best and are looking after her best interests, comes to realise that the reality is very different. This cataclysmic change occurs much too swiftly to be believable. The author, belately, explains the reasons for Mrs Pincent’s behavior but since this has been flagged up much earlier, its impact is dissipated. There is also a belated, but unconvincing, explanation as to why such a pharmacologically-advanced society could not have developed ways to prevent pregnancy. Overall, he author tends to over-explain rather than leaving the reader to work things out, 7/10.
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on 24 August 2012
Surplus Anna is almost 15. She and many other children live in Grange Hall where they are taught to believe that their existence is is a burden to Mother Nature and humanity. It is now 2140 and since 2030 Longevity drugs helped cure all illnesses and made natural death impossible. People are old and don't die, but if the population keeps growing then there will be no space more children. Due to this, having children is against the law and to show that you agree to this law, you have to sign The Declaration.
The children at Grange Hall are brainwashed by their house matron Margaret Pincent to believe that their parents are sinners for signing The Declaration and then having children. They are treated badly and punished, when orders are not done, by being sent to Solitary (the basement of the building), deprived of something (a blanket, hot food etc) or by simply getting beaten.
But when Peter arrives with news about Anna's parents, EVERYTHING changes. Peter urges Anna to escape with him, though she is hesitant at first, she agrees and the two of them escape to Anna's parents. All this while Anna keeps a journal in which she writes all of her thoughts and plans on escaping. But this journal gets into wrong hands and becomes a problem for Peter and Anna.

* * * * *
I give this book five stars out of five because I think that Gemma Malley has done an incredible job of imaging life in the future and creating a story around it. The descriptions are very detailed in a few aspects including the look of Grange Hall - it felt like I was seeing it first hand. What I loved about this book is how it related everything back to the base of the story like a Mind Map. The story was complicated but it fit extremely well almost like puzzle pieces, things that didn't make sense at the beginning, fell into place easily at the end. This book was possibly the best books I have read in a very long time.
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on 20 July 2010
The Declaration is an imaginative story of life in 2140 - which, as it turns out, doesn't sound too good. The main character is Surplus Anna, who is dedecatedley making her way to be a Valuable Asset, under the watchful eyes of Mrs Pincent. Anna lives in Grange Hall, a sort of Orphanage, only all the children have parents - which is why they're there.
In 2030, a scientist discovered a way to cure Cancer and Aids, using cells, and later on realised that using the same process, you could make a drug that caused you to live forever. Hooray! Only, there was one small problem: Children. With no one dieing, the population levels were getting out of hand. So they made a "declaration" stating that to have children, you had to Opt Out, meaning stop taking Longievity Drugs and die.
Surplaces were children who had been brought into this world illeagily,and were caught by the Catchers.
Anna writes a diary - which is highly against the rules - and hides it in Female Bathroom 2. She lives a life which is about as respectable as it can get with a surplace: two blankets, extra portions and a favourite to Mrs Pincent: the perfect Prefect.
...untill Surplace Peter joins Grange Hall, and speaks to her as "Anna Covey" - as if she had the right to a surname! He tells her shocking things about the Outside, about her parents, and Anna's world is turned upside down with his blaphsemous sayings.

I marked this book four stars, for it's exceptionaley skilled writings and original ideas, and took off the one star for what appears to be a rushed ending. However, it is as near five stars as you can get - unless you have five stars of course.
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C.S. Lewis, author of THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, once wrote that there are three ways of writing for children. The first is to cater to what children want (but people seldom know what they want and this usually ends badly), the second develops from a story told to a specific child (Lewis Carrol's THE ADVENTURES OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND, for instance), and the third is that it is simply the best art form to convey the story.

Gemma Malley's debut young adult novel, THE DECLARATION, is of the last category.

I am making this point because while THE DECLARATION involves two teenagers, fourteen-year-old Anna and fifteen-year-old Peter, it never feels aimed towards the teen audience Therefore it is categorized as a young adult novel by the age of its narrators rather than its content and this, I believe, will give it an enduring quality. C. S. Lewis wrote, "Where the children's story is simply the right form for what the author has to say, then of course readers who want to hear that will read the story or reread it at any age."

THE DECLARATION opens in the year 2140, and people have conquered death in the form of Longevity drugs. With limited food and fuel resources, waste has become a serious crime and the worst crime of all is having a child. Anna is one of these children. She is housed at Grange Hall where she and other Surpluses are taught that the most they can ever hope for is a harsh life of servitude to make amends for their existence.

Anna is well on her way to becoming a Valuable Asset when Peter arrives at Grange Hall. He challenges everything she has learned by arguing that people who take Longevity are the real criminals and perversions of nature, not the young. He also claims that he knows her parents and that they want her back. Peter is strange and new, but is he enough to make her risk everything to escape with him?

Unlike some novels that use characters, plot, and setting as a vehicle to drive home a message, Gemma Malley never lets the moral and ethical questions she raises detract from the actual story. The characters are well drawn and identifiable, and the language is simple and unpretentious. THE DECLARATION is not without flaws, especially the failure to explain or integrate Mrs. Pincent's involvement with the black market product Longevity+ into a major plotline, but this lends mystery and excitement for a sequel.

Even though it contains a handful of science fiction and young adult hallmarks, such as a utopia/dystopia setting, wonder drugs, and finding and defining oneself, it cannot be dismissed as merely a youthful 1984 knockoff. It is mostly a book about people, fear, and loss. Themes that are, if not always, exquisitely accessible in this age.

Five Stars and a Gold Award.

Reviewed by: Natalie Tsang
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on 7 July 2009
I have just finished reading this book with my 9 yr old daughter, she chose the book on a trip to Waterstones and I have to say I was somewhat surprised! However, we both thoroughly enjoyed it and I found myself reading pages and pages of it to her, going well beyond her bedtime at times. It is a somewhat dark view of the near future with well written characters and a gripping plotline. As a cynical forty-something I was somewhat taken aback to find a tear in my eye in the final chapter, if you have kids of your own and you read it you will understand why....

Well worth a read for young and old (middle aged anyway - no longevity for me!) alike.
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