This year for Christmas my dad gave me Agenda 21 by Glenn Beck (with Harriet Parke). I know what you’re thinking. What kind of dad gets his teenage daughter a book by Glenn Beck for Christmas? But I thought I’d give it a try anyway. A quick internet search reveals that the book title is a reference to a non-binding UN plan of the same name intended to promote “sustainable development” at the international, national, regional and local levels. This plan strives to achieve social equity, reduce consumption and emphasize environmental preservation. In this book, the authors imagine a world in which the ideas of Agenda 21 are strictly implemented. Citizens are prohibited from anything that consumes more resources than it contributes. They are also forced to live and work in a society that allows no room for personal achievement or success.
This book's story line will be familiar to teen fans of recent dystopian novels that have come out since the incredible success of The Hunger Games. Like Matched by Allie Condie, Delirium by Laurent Oliver and Divergent by Veronica Roth, to name a few that I’ve read, Agenda 21 follows the story of a young girl who lives in a dystopian society. This girl, Emmeline, lives under the rule of an oppressive and over controlling government that has resulted from its attempt to make all people equal in every aspect. If you’re familiar with this story line, you pretty much know how this book is going to end. However, even knowing this, I really enjoyed the book. Unlike other dystopian novels, Agenda 21 does a better job of explaining how the government gained all this power to make this society the way it is. It’s fascinating and scary at the same time.
The government of this society became as powerful as it is by making small, subtle changes that went unnoticed until it was too late. Small changes were made and people were made to believe that they should all be equal. An older woman who was alive when the "reforms" were first implemented tells Emmeline that there were four types of people: the believers who supported the reforms; the protesters, who spoke out at great risk but were silenced; the quiet and watchful who put their heads down and said nothing; and the passive unbelievers who did not try to act until it was too late. She later elaborates on the fourth type, the passive unbelievers. She explains that they “trusted the way things were.” They believed that if they worked hard, they would succeed and be rewarded for their efforts. When the government started to make changes they still “trusted the way things were” and they missed the early warning signs. By the time they really understood what was happening, it was too late.
The story is about Emmeline's journey from acceptance of the way things are to someone who seeks freedom for herself and those she loves. Emmeline lives in an assigned community and in an assigned home with an assigned partner. She is one of the last children to be raised by her parents instead of in a “Children’s Village.” Because of her unusual upbringing, she recognizes the importance of family more than others her age. When she has a baby and the government takes it away to be raised in the “Children’s Village,” she is willing to do anything to see her baby. Her love for her child eventually motivates her to make a radical decision that changes her life.
Although this book may not have been written as a book for teenagers, I enjoyed it. If you like this type of book, you will probably like Agenda 21 as well.