Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Source: Publisher provided through GalleyGrab
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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.I didn't quite know what to expect coming into The Pledge. I read The Body Finder, but just liked it, and never read the other books in the series. I thought the premise of The Pledge sounded super intriguing but wasn't sure if she could pull off the task that is a well-written and developed dystopian. While it isn't perfect, The Pledge is certainly an entertaining and original addition to her work.
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.
A couple of things struck me at the start of the book. First, I didn't feel like the languages were differentiated well enough. I loved that the classes were divided by language, because it truly would be a perfect way to divide people into castes. Charlie's big important talent is that she understands all languages, even though she's not supposed to know but two. There were only a couple of times where it felt like her friends and family were truly excluded from what was going on, and they spent a decent amount of time around people not of their class. Language is the great divider in Charlie's world, and it just didn't feel all that divisive, though I'm a big fan of the idea. The other thing that hit me, in a good way, was that Ludania was ruled by a monarch. I haven't seen this in dystopians much, if at all, and it was an interesting view. This made the government's motives very different and more human, though the queen didn't seen to have much humanity left in her.
I enjoyed the romance a lot, and the "pledge" set me to swooning. I appreciated Charlie's reluctance to engage in any sort of relationship with Max at first. It was realistic. Sure, she was a little bit of a rebel at first, but it was normal teenage rebellion. An instant relationship and trust just wouldn't have fit. At her heart, Charlie was trying her best for her family. Eventually, Max does earn her trust and their relationship grows from there. I did feel like the situation set up in the end--in terms of their relationship--was odd. It didn't mesh with how they'd been up until that point, but we'll see.
I also really loved the ending. There was a very satisfying conclusion to the problems Charlie had faced, but new problems arose. We had closure, but we're still left wanting more without a cheap cliffhanger.
The Pledge is filled with thrilling and breathtaking moments of action and romance. It explores the ties of romantic, familial, and societal love and the heart of friendship. Kimberly Derting has written an individual and exciting dystopian that definitely exceeded my expectations.
Risk a paper cut? I pledge that The Pledge will quench your hankering for a new kind of dystopian while leaving you dying for more.