Over the last year or so, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading chapter-by-chapter deconstruction of YA and other fiction, from the likes of Jenny Trout, Ana Mardoll and WhitleyBirks. Then, recently, whilst reading the craptacular Divergent, I felt like I wanted to give something back to the deconstruction community, or at least have a go at writing some of my own and seeing what happens.
Now, keen as I am to mock Divergent, I’ve decided not to start with it, because it would involve rereading it again just after finishing it, and because I need to leave enough time between reading these summaries and writing my own to make sure I don’t accidentally plagiarise. So instead, I’ve decided to go with The Declaration, a trilogy mentioned by a colleague in the context of “is this a suitable class book for my ten-year-old daughters to be reading?”. I’m a little nervous that I’m going to be awful at this, but anyway, here goes.
“My name is Anna.
My name is Anna and I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t exist.”
Well, that’s an edifying start.
“I didn’t ask to be born.”
No, Anna is not just another moody teen – she’s a Surplus, or a child who was never meant to be born. But because she was, her parents went to prison, and she’s lived most of her life in Grange Hall, a place where these Surplus children are raised to become servants to the Legal people.
And yet, pretty much any word that might mean anything here is capitalised. In this chapter alone, we have the following:
- House Matron
- Sewing Instructor
- Valuable Asset
- Know [One’s] Place
- Opted Out
Are all these things so important that they need to be capitalised? It’s unclear right now.
“In some countries Surpluses are killed, put down like animals.”
So in most countries, children are killed, but people keep having them anyway. Not in Britain, though – here we just ship them off to orphanages to learn how to cook and clean for the rich people. Could be worse, I suppose – and I’ve no doubt it will get worse as the book continues.
Anna talks about an internship where she got to leave Grange Hall and work for Mrs Sharpe, who told tales of all the countries she’d visited.
“Anna! Anna, will you come here this minute!”
Then we have a jarring change of perspective to third-person. It turns out that whilst Anna is largely a good, obedient girl, she accepted a suede-bound journal from Mrs Sharpe, despite Grange Hall’s prohibitions on Surpluses doing any unnecessary reading and writing. The start of the book was her first journal entry.
Anna is summoned by the House Matron, Mrs Pincent, clearly designed to be the villain of the piece.
“Anna had been in that room enough times for a beating or some other punishment to feel an instinctive fear.”
Yep, life at Grange Hall is pretty grim.
Mrs Pinsent has a task for Anna – she’s to make up a bed for a new arrival. And it won’t be a baby or toddler like it usually is – this newcomer will be at least thirteen. A plot development! What excitement!
So, that brings us to end of Chapter One. I’ll stop here for now, although nothing much has really happened yet. The writing style feels quite immature; at first I put this down to the story being told from Anna’s perspective, but then we switched to third person and nothing changed. Is this a deliberate attempt to ‘write down’ to younger readers? At this point, I’m not sure.