Series: The Pledge, #1
Release Date: November 15th, 2011
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Number of Pages: 323
Rating: 3 stars
In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.Kimberly Derting's The Pledge has a lot going for it: it has an interesting and original concept, fascinating (albeit mostly lacking) world-building, great writing that allows the novel to flow easily and makes for a quick read, some interesting relationship dynamics, and an explosive ending making way for an interesting sequel. However, that being said, The Pledge also has a lot that is not going for it, most prominently the characterization, the predictability of the plot, and, last but certainly not least, the romance, each of which I guess you could say I deducted about a star for.
Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.
The characterization in The Pledge, much like the world-building, is lacking for the most part. We're never really given any depth into who the characters are and what they're like, and because of that, I never cared much for the characters and their struggles. Each character was just their own little cardboard cutout: there's Charlie, the protagonist, who is special and doesn't realize her beauty and power; there's Brooklynn, the sexually promiscuous, incredibly gorgeous, and rebellious best friend whom our protagonist lives her sexual - and really any other - life through; there's Angelina, the protagonist's cute, innocent, and loyal younger sister who doesn't speak (considering I just finished Delirium and it was fresh in my mind, that direct comparison was a bit too much to get over at first); and lastly, Max, the mysterious love interest to Charlie who has secrets and is broody and overall just a 'meh' (at best) character.
The predictability of The Pledge's plot wasn't as big as an issue for me as I expected it to be, because while I did have most of the story and plot twists sorted out by the very beginning (though there were one or two twists to surprise me), it wasn't as detractive of an element to my enjoyment in The Pledge as the characterization (or lack thereof), or the romance (which I will get to next) were. While the predictability of the central plot in The Pledge was not a huge issue for me as I still enjoyed the story, it was a bit frustrating at times and I would have liked the plot to have taken more surprising turns, so the least I could do was detract .5 stars from my final rating for that.
The romance in The Pledge is, without a doubt, the most detractive element to my enjoyment overall. The romance between Max and Charlie was as rapidly escalating as, unfortunately, most romances in YA as of late. Max is immediately 'intrigued by' (come on, I couldn't have been the only one who found it creepy when he said that) Charlie, and the same goes for Charlie towards Max. Soon after they say a few words to each other (a few, people. A few.), Charlie finds she can't take her mind off of Max, and even thinks:
He frightened me just as much as he intrigued me.It seems that comments exactly like that, or at least similar to that, have been running rampant in young adult novels lately, and I really wish for it to stop. Whatever anyone may think, saying that the love interest frightens the protagonist as much as he intrigues her is not going to sell your romance, nor does saying that the protagonist could 'feel his [the love interest] presence as surely as she could feel her own' just after knowing the love interest for two days. It's not romantic, it's not cute, it's creepy and clingy and it needs to stop. The romance detracted one star from my final rating, and that's me being nice.
As a whole, I definitely enjoyed The Pledge, and look forward to seeing where the story could go in the second installment. Derting definitely has talent and it shows clearly in her writing style. I just wish that, in The Essence, the characters are provided with a bit more character development, and the romance takes a backseat, because if there were more character development and the romance were more fleshed out and steadily developed in The Pledge, it would have gotten at least four stars from me.