The Declaration, chapters 4-5

The chapter begins with another diary entry from Anna, and, guess what, she’s still going on about how much she hates Peter. She talks about how his spirit isn’t being broken by being put in Solitary all the time, and mentions another boy named Patrick who was sent away to do hard labour for being defiant.

Then it’s back to the third person to hear more about how Anna likes being good and obedient, and the fact that she’s now a Dormitory Monitor and a Prefect and whatnot, none of the others talk to her. Which is okay, I guess, because it means the author doesn’t have to come up with any more characters.

“Managing Supplies Efficiently was at 8:30am, followed by Decorum at 9:30am, and then they were having a polishing demonstration with some real silver.”

Yeah, the curriculum isn’t so great. I guess the first one could be slightly complex and involve logistics and planning, but how much decorum and polishing do you need to teach these kids before they’re ready for their lives of slave labour?

There then follows an interlude in which Anna thinks about how much she loves polishing silver, which I guess is characterisation of a sort, before our heroine settles down to sleep. Of course, the ever-persistent Peter sneaks into her dorm to reiterate that he knows Anna’s parents and he’s here to take her to them. For the third chapter in a row, Anna brushes him off, so Peter drops a bombshell – he knows about her the butterfly birthmark on her stomach.

But fear not. Anna is not so easily swayed – in fact, she’s angry that Peter has reminded her of the birthmark she hates so much. I’ve heard of building things up, but honestly, if Anna doesn’t do something soon, she’ll run out of book in which to have an actual adventure.

And now for something completely different. Chapter 5 opens by describing Grange Hall as being like Sutton Park in Yorkshire, except grey instead of cream, and with lower ceilings. A quick look on the internet reveals that Sutton Park is mostly brick rather than cream, and that the high ceilings are integral to its design, so in fact, Grange Hall is nothing like Sutton Park.

There’s over a paragraph about low ceilings and how this lowers heating costs, which then segues into the perspective of Mrs Pincent, the Evil Woman in charge of Grange Hall. She has a Secret Past which has estranged her from her father and ex-husband, and given that her job at Grange Hall is described as ‘ironic’, we can easily assume that she probably had a Surplus child at some point.

Anyway, the Mrs Pincent of today is a bitter person, who loves nothing more than to break children and make them obedient – so of course Peter is a source of frustration to her. Her last troublesome child, Patrick, wasn’t just sent to a hard labour camp like Anna thought – he was worked to death in the desert.

But that’s not evil enough to establish Mrs Pincent as an Evil Woman of Evil. No, she also deals with black market Longevity drugs, or Renewal as it is inconsistently also called. In fact, let’s take a moment to list how evil she is:

  • Regularly beats children and puts them in solitary confinement
  • Sent a child to be worked to death in the desert
  • Wouldn’t return a child to her parents even though she was not a Surplus
  • Deals in black market drugs

Actually, there’s room for improvement here. She should be even more evil!

Also, apparently Surpluses are valuable because their stem cells can be harvested to make more Longevity/Renewal. So, in fact, why complain about raising these excess children? Harvest them for their cells!

Mrs Pincent decides she must break Peter by first being kind to him, and then betraying him. To that end, she tells Anna to look after him. Perhaps the plot will develop now.

Seriously, the writing style of this book is awful. I’m pretty sure I was writing at this level when I was fourteen. And even then I knew the value of pacing. When is this book going to go anywhere?

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