It is 2140. Surplus Anna is a prefect at Grange Hall, the grim institution that trains Surpluses to be useful to Legal people. Anna is not a Legal; her parents were not supposed to have a baby. She despises them for breaking the Declaration everyone signs that promises not to procreate, although she can't even remember them. Anna knows that many Surpluses are eliminated; not all can stay in a Surplus Hall and learn to be useful, so she's grateful. Anna is not a rule breaker. She has learned better from Mrs. Pincent, the woman who runs Grange Hall, who doesn't hesitate to beat, starve, or send unhumble Surpluses to solitary.
Anna is just doing her job and going to the classes that teach her to be a good servant and to live as a deserving Surplus. Yet she sometimes dreams of her time as a substitute servant at the home of kind Mrs. Sharpe. Working at Mrs. Sharpe's gave Anna a peek into life as a Legal. Mrs. Sharpe travels to many different countries; Surpluses are not even taught about countries at Grange Hall.
Anna does more than daydream. Mrs. Sharpe gave her a lovely pink journal, and Anna cannot resist writing things down in it, even though she knows it is strictly forbidden. She risks severe punishment by even owning such a thing, which she hides in a secret nook in Female Bathroom 2. In those pages, she lets herself ponder a tiny bit and wish she could be Mrs. Sharpe's servant always, and travel with her. Anna is a Pending, which means she will soon be ready to be employed as a servant for a Legal. Yet, despite her vague yearnings and wonderings, Anna does not challenge Mrs. Pincent or the status quo of her life. She knows, as she has been told, that she does not deserve to be alive.
Then, one day, a new Surplus enters into Anna's dull gray existence. Shockingly (for most new Surpluses are younger), Peter is around Anna's age. He is also a Pending. But unlike Anna, he is obviously not going to fit in or learn his place in the order of Grange Hall. In fact, he stuns Anna by seeming to know who she is immediately: "You're Anna Covey, aren't you?" he says, and tells her he knows her parents.
Anna is horrified. Surpluses do not have last names, and it is just weird for Peter to say he knows her parents, those hated and unremembered people who broke the law. Peter makes Anna more than uncomfortable --- at least at first. When Peter lands in Solitary and Anna overhears plans regarding him, she amazes herself by sneaking in to speak with him. And there, they make a totally impossible plan. Can they really escape? Anna doesn't believe it, and yet even the remotest prospect might be worth the risk.
I was immediately drawn into Anna's story, pulled by the intriguing premise and by the thrilling suspenseful pace. There is also a bit of romance, but not enough to overwhelm the plot. Author Gemma Malley weaves a conclusion together that is unexpected and satisfying. The story is thought-provoking and may well haunt readers long after finishing it. Might Malley's new fans hope for a sequel?
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on October 2, 2007
- Publication Date: August 19, 2008
- Genres: Science Fiction
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
- ISBN-10: 1599902958
- ISBN-13: 9781599902951