Thursday, 22 November 2012
Anna Covey is a ‘Surplus’. She should not have been born. In a society in which ageing is no longer feared, and death is no longer an inevitability, children are an abomination.
Like all Surpluses, Anna is living in a Surplus Hall and learning how to make amends for the selfish act her parents committed in having her. She is quietly accepting of her fate until, one day, a new inmate arrives. Anna’s life is thrown into chaos. But is she brave enough to believe this mysterious boy?
A tense and utterly compelling story about a society behind a wall, and the way in which two young people seize the chance to break free.
The first thing that really struck me about the book was Anna. It starts off with one of Anna's 'forbidden' diary entries, and I think this was the perfect way to introduce both her character, and the world that the book takes place in. I was immediately right there, standing next to Anna, and I could see everything perfectly, through her eyes - her voice was so believable and real. Her belief in the 'system' and in the apparent fact that she was a surplus - a crime against humanity and Mother Nature - was totally unwavering, which is what you'd expect from a character who has been told all of these things for near enough her entire life. She doesn't have any memories of the short life she had before the Surplus Hall, and so she didn't know any differently. She was even proud of the fact that she may make a 'Valuable Asset' - a highly useful servant, for a 'legal' person. Her voice was so real, and I fell in love with her straight away. This was only intensified when Peter arrived, and things started to rapidly change around her.
Peter was another character that I really liked. He stood out from the rest of the characters (as did Anna), and he definitely wasn't afraid of showing people that he was different to the rest. Not only was he a bit of a rebel, he was also selfless, brave, generous, loyal and so, so sweet! He was also, despite living the majority of his life in secrecy, really intelligent. As soon as he and Anna spoke for the first time, I knew the I was going to really enjoy watching their relationship grow, and that I was going to love Peter by the end of the book. I wasn't wrong.
Anna and Peter obviously weren't the only characters in the book, though. There was a fairly large cast of other, equally as interesting characters. At the beginning of the book, Anna lives at Grange Hall, which is a 'Surplus Hall', where those who are illegally born are sent to be taught how to be 'Useful' to the rest of society - which essentially means that they are enslaved. Being there meant that there were bound to be plenty of other characters in exactly the same position as Anna - surplus and forced into a life of submission, subordination and servitude. Despite these characters only being allowed one name (Anna, for example, starts off being called only 'Surplus Anna'), and being allowed no personal possessions, they each had distinct personalities - characters that we could distinguish, not just from their names and descriptions, but from the way they acted. Characters like Sheila, who was convinced that she was legal and shouldn't be there, and Charlie, the prefect-turned-bully. Even the smaller, less important characters were well-developed.
And then there was Mrs Pincent, the House Matron at Grange Hall. She would be what you could possibly call the 'typical antagonist' - she was the evil, cruel obstacle that stood in the way of Anna and her freedom. Except, this is what she appears to be at first, but she has her own fascinating, secret past, that not only explains why she's like she is, but also, further down the line, causes a really interesting twist in the story.
And what an awesome story it was! I found myself totally captivated by every single page - I just had to know what was going to happen next. I also didn't find any of it predictable, so every twist in the plot came as a complete shock, which I loved.
I also thought that the entire premise for the novel was really interesting. Basically, a drug has been invented, called Longevity, that was originally designed to cure things like cancer, and other such diseases, but it was soon discovered that it also prevented death. Obviously this would lead to huge overpopulation problems, if no one dies, but new people are still being born. So the Declaration was implemented, which people sign to say that they will take Longevity and live forever, but never have any children. You can 'opt-out' of Longevity, so that you can have one child, but this is not a popular option, and you may well be able to imagine. Some people however, break the Declaration, and have children anyway. If these 'illegal' children are discovered, they are sent to a Surplus Hall, to spend the rest of their lives in servitude, and the parents are thrown in prison as criminals. This is what happened with Anna and her parents, but their situation isn't all that it first appears - and neither is Peter's.
I really hope that if you haven't already picked this up, I have managed to pique your interest enough to convince you to do so now. This is a seriously explosive start to a really exciting and unique dystopian trilogy, and I can't wait to get started with the next book!
Posted by Dani C at 14:55