Oh my gosh, I finished this book last night and it was as amazing as I remember. As an added bonus, there was a chapter from the next book at the end (which I can't remember reading before) so I'm going to buy and read that on Friday before I go back to work.
The thing that struck me about this book was that I felt the emotions of the character so much more than I have with anything else I've read recently. Yesterday I had the most horrible, crushing feeling of dread when I read the chapter where Peter and Anna are trying to escape from Grange Hall.
It was similar to what I feel like when I'm guilty of doing something wrong.
The themes, I would say, are overcoming fear, self discovery, loss with a little bit of romance added in. Obviously the book is dystopian, but in a way I hadn't seen before. In many dystopian books, you see a Utopian society which is inherently wrong. This book begins by looking directly at the bad side of society. The Utopian part is not looked on as good or perfect by any of the narrators, which is different, and it makes the story seem very dark. Of course, children being beaten to death doesn't help this. You can see the science fiction element in the medicine as well, but I wouldn't say that this is a romantic story. It's about Anna's escape with Peter, not for Peter, which is refreshing in this genre.
I would highly recommend this book, especially if you liked The Hunger Games or Divergent. There is a lot of action and a couple of huge twists. It's a quick read, I probably could have read this in a day if I'd had the time. The story starts quite slow, but increases the pace as the book goes on. I felt like I was on a roller-coaster of emotion and that's what made me read through so quickly at the end.
However, I didn't like the way the narration was split. The viewpoints seemed to change very quickly. Malley doesn't use a chapter per narrator, instead she changes narrator within a chapter. Personally, I think this is wrong, but saves copious amounts of short chapters. On the other hand, the audience can wait to hear what is going on in different parts of the story. That's what builds tension.
I was so happy with the ending that I think it could have been stand-alone. It tied up a lot of threads, but for me left my imagination running as to what happened after the ending. I don't know if reading The Resistance will ruin what my imagination has set up for the past five years, but I have to find out what happens to Anna.
I love that Peter says he knows they are meant to be together because she has a butterfly birthmark on her stomach, and he was found with a signet ring with a flower on it, and that flowers and butterflies need each other to live. The birthmark is described in different ways by different people. Mrs Pincent sees it as a dead, squashed moth which symbolises Anna as a pest and vermin. Anna's parents say it means she should be free, which is what Anna thought as a child, but now agrees with Mrs Pincent. Also, Peters ring is important as is carries the initials of someone in his family.
Here is where I describe what happened in the book, so SPOILERS from this point. I've already described most of the plot in this post, but here's the whole story:
In the future, scientists have discovered a cure for diseases like cancer and AIDS. They realise shortly afterwards that this drug can also make people live longer. But living longer means population overcrowding, and so the Declaration was agreed. If you are taking Longevity, you cannot have children. If you want to have children, you can Opt Out of Longevity. One child per Opt Out.
Of course, children are still being born secretly. The children born to those on Longevity are called Surplus. If they are caught, they are sent to Surplus Halls where they learn to cook, clean, and be subservient.
Anna is one of the Surplus living at Grange Hall. She is ranked as a Valuable Asset because she has been so completely brainwashed by the House Matron, Mrs Pincent, that she thinks her life of servitude is more than she deserves. She writes all her thoughts in her diary, which she is not supposed to have and she could possibly be beaten to death if anyone discovered it.
One day, Peter arrives at Grange Hall and tells Surplus Anna that he has a plan to break her out and take her back to her parents, who love her. Anna does not believe that anything is wrong with Grange Hall, and that her and Peter don't deserve anything other than to serve for the rest of their life. Peter tries to make her see that it is not the burden of the young to serve the old, and that the people taking Longevity are the ones who are surplus to population, but Anna can't.
After a couple of months, Anna is called into Mrs Pincent's office to report anything Peter might have said about his life Outside to her, but Anna doesn't tell her everything. After leaving the office, she overhears a phone call in which Mrs Pincent makes plans to have Peter terminated, and says that Anna has been indoctrinated almost too well. This is the turning point for Anna, who realises that Peter was telling the truth all along, and she decides to escape with him.
She hatches a plan to be sent to solitary with him so they can escape through a vent in the basement, but instead her punishment is being sent to the top floor to clean up after the babies in Grange Hall and to wash all the dirty nappies by hand. Disgusting. She gives a Legal some sass while Mrs Pincent isn't in the building and gets sent to solitary.
To break out of their prison, they have to climb through a vent and through dirt and mud. It's a little bit like Shawshank but without the faeces.
The reader is told loads about the way the Declaration works, and how it is wrong for society. And of course there are two big twists. You need to read them to feel the full force, so I'm not going to tell you them.
Okay, I will.
Anna's parents commit suicide at the end of the book, so she and her brother Ben can live as legals. It is a stipulation in the Declaration that a child will be given Legal status if one of the parents die. A life for a life.
Along this same theme, Mrs Pincent reveals why she is so cruel to the children. She was given the opportunity to produce a Legal child, whilst taking Longevity and not breaking the Declaration. She married a man who could produce one child due to his standing in the drug company. When she was seven months pregnant, she discovered her husband had been having an affair which had resulted in a pregnancy and a baby, two months before her own was due to be born. Devastated, but unable to get rid of the child, she asked her husband to do it. She discovers, through Anna's diary, that he did not kill their child, but left him and her grandfathers ring with some Surplus Sympathisers, where he was brought up by.... dun dun dun! Anna's parents!
This is probably the cruelest twist, because Mrs Pincent has ordered her son to be killed, and has beaten him senseless for three or four months. To pay her estranged husband back, and to ensure that Peter lives, Mrs Pincent shoots her husband dead.
So, at the end of the book, both Peter and Anna (and Ben) have achieved Legal status, which is why I think this could have been a stand alone. However, I want to know what Anna and Peter are going to do to help the Surplus problem, and how they will stop the Longevity drugs being used. Oh, did I mention Peter's grandfather created Longevity? Or he certainly is one of the major players at the company.
I think Peter will take the organisation down.
This is quite an underrated book, I don't know anyone else who has read it, but I think it deserves a read.
You can find it here on Amazon.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!