Vacation Reading: Grown-Up Books
The Emerald Tablet: P. J. Hoover

The Resistance: Gemma Malley

Book: The Resistance
Author: Gemma Malley
Pages: 336
Age Range: 13 and up

The ResistanceBackground: The Resistance is the sequel to Gemma Malley's dystopian young adult novel The Declaration (my review). I thought that The Declaration had a fascinating premise. It is set in a future world in which longevity drugs have made it possible for people to live, essentially, forever. To avoid overpopulation, however, the Government has implemented The Declaration. Before gaining access to the longevity drugs, each adult must sign a declaration stating that they will not have children. Any children who are born are designated Surpluses, taken away from their parents, and raised in Surplus Halls (grim orphanages, where the children are taught a mix of useful skills and utter self-abasement). In The Declaration, a teenager named Surplus Anna lives peacefully, if unhappily, in Grange Hall, until a boy named Peter arrives and suggests the unthinkable - that she might actually have a right to be alive.

I enjoyed The Declaration, but I felt that the ending, in which a previously undisclosed loophole plays a major part, was a bit of a let-down. Still, I was interested enough in the future world that Gemma Malley had created to want to read the upcoming sequel. And I was not disappointed - I think that The Resistance is stronger than the first book. The review that follows does contain spoilers for the first book (though not for The Resistance), so stop here if you are interested and have not yet read The Declaration.

Review: Gemma Malley's novel The Resistance begins a short time after the conclusion of The Declaration. In the year 2140, teens Anna and Peter, along with Anna's baby brother Ben, have been declared Legal, and are living as a family. Among the very few young people living free in their society (as free as anyone can be under the oppressive government regime), Anna and Peter are the subject of suspicion and disapproval from the aged people around them. They also bear the burden of being the secret hope for a new generation, from the shadowy resistance movement. They hope to have children of their own, and to choose the future over their own personal longevity.

As the story begins, Peter is preparing to take on a dangerous undercover mission - working in his grandfather's longevity drug factory, Pincent Pharma. As a spy, he reports to the charismatic Underground leader, Pip. As an employee, he reports to his manipulative, powerful grandfather, and to a once-talented scientist named Dr. Edwards. Anna, meanwhile, cares for Ben, and dabbles in a bit of resistance work herself. A third teen character, Peter's half-brother Jude, is also introduced, though it takes a while for him to reveal his true colors. Eventually, the teens learn that the activities at Pincent Pharma, and the ways that Surpluses are being treated, are more evil than they could ever have imagined.

The Resistance offers more background than The Declaration about how society could have chosen the renewal of the existing citizens, rather than the rejuvenation of introducing new life to the population. Things aren't black and white (in fact the whole book has a bit of a gray feel to it). Even Peter, subject to masterful manipulation, muses about the possibilities of endless life. This is a book that will make readers think.

The Resistance is highly suspenseful and action-packed, the kind of book that you'll stay up late to finish, because you have to know what happens. Peter is a strong protagonist, and several of the other characters, including Pip and Jude, are intriguing and multi-faceted. Anna is a bit more of an easily manipulated victim than one might prefer in a YA novel, but I think that she's true to her upbringing, as captured in this passage:

"Peter's heart, meanwhile, was pounding in his chest and every instinct made him want to throw himself at the woman, to make her understand what it felt like to be labelled Surplus, to be subjugated, beaten down, humiliated, until all you knew was the desire to serve, to pay your debt to society, to beg forgiveness over and over again simply for existing -- to feel like Anna had for most of her life." (Chapter 5)

I recommend The Resistance to fans of dystopian fiction, especially to those who enjoyed The Children of Men by P. D. James, and to anyone looking for a suspenseful, thought-provoking story. I do think that it's more of a high school book than a book for younger kids (Anna and Peter live together as man and wife, though this is more implied than described in detail, and there are some pretty grim things happening to the Surpluses). Recommended.

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the ARC, and may differ from the final printed book
Other Blog Reviews: Kiss the Book, Becky's Book Reviews
See Also: Gemma Malley's Top 10 Dystopian Novels for Teenagers in the Guardian

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.