Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Pledge Book Review

 Author: Kimberly Derting. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 1442422017
Annotation: In the country of Ludania, citizens are divided into classes separated by language, each forbidden to speak to each other in anything but the common language, Englaise. Seveteen-year-old Charlaina “Charlie” Hart has always been able to understand all the languages, something she has had to keep hidden. After she unwittingly becomes involved in the rebellion against Queen Sabara, however, her secret might be the key to ending the cruel oppression of the people of Ludania.
Personal thoughts: I had heard many good things about The Pledge, and, after reading it in the span of a few hours, I now understand the hype! I was surprised by how engrossing the novel was, especially because it wasn’t particularly lengthy. I think the author really knows what she’s doing, and managed to create something thoroughly interesting but also succinct enough to be entertaining for even the most reluctant teen readers. I also think that the concepts in the novel make for a great jumping off point for a classroom discussion about class warfare or oppression in our current society. Overall, a very thought-provoking read that is difficult to put down. I’m really looking forward to continuing this series when the next installment in published!
Plot summary: In the distant future, the world is divided into countries that tenuously coexist. Each is ruled by a queen who oversees their country with an iron fist. The country of Ludania is home to seventeen-year-old Charlaina “Charlie” Hart and is governed by the fearsome Queen Sabara. For centuries, Ludania’s citizens have been divided into four classes: the Counsel class, the Vendor class, the Serving class, and the outcasts. Classes are differentiated by the language they speak, each class having its own language that the other classes are unable to understand. Englaise, the universal language, is the only way for members of different classes to communicate lawfully: if someone from a higher class is speaking in their native tongue, members of the lower classes are forbidden to even make eye contact until they are spoken to in Englaise. For Charlie, life as a member of the Vendor class is fairly mundane: she attends school every day with her best friends Brooklynn and Aron, works in her parents’ restaurant, and helps take care of her little sister, Angelina. But Charlie has a dangerous secret that she’s been keeping since she was a child: she has the ability to understand every language spoken in Ludania. If her ability was discovered by the authorities, she would be executed and her whole family would be put in danger. One night, at one of the underground clubs that Charlie and Brooklynn like to frequent, Charlie meets Max: a handsome and mysterious soldier who speaks a language Charlie has never heard before, but seems to understand. Charlie’s confusion is furthered when Max seems to know her and understand her ability. In the meantime, the threat of revolution in Ludania grows, and Charlie begins to realize that she might hold the key to the future of her country.
Review:  From the author of The Body Finder, comes this first installment in a new series for young adults that takes the always popular dystopian concept and mixes it with magic for a story that is certain to intrigue and entertain readers. The Pledge is set in the very distant future, and civilization as we know it has been replaced by a Bradbury-esque collection of countries ruled with an iron-fist by ruthless queens. The author does an excellent job of creating the world of Ludania, taking care to make sure that the history of the kingdom is clear as are the rules of language that govern its citizens. In Charlie’s school, typical situations like being made fun of by the wealthy and popular girls can turn deadly since the lower classes are not only forbidden to communicate with their higher-ups, but are not supposed to even comprehend the language they speak. Derting creates many tense situations where Charlie’s ability to understand all the languages in her kingdom puts her in mortal danger. This makes for a very suspenseful novel, and greatly adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the story. The secondary characters, such as Charlie’s friends Brooklynn and Aron, Max’s lackeys, Claude and Zafir, and the mysterious Xander, are as well developed as the plot, making for an overall engrossing book that is difficult to put down. The pacing of the story is excellent, particularly once the action really picks up in the second half of the novel. The second installment in The Pledge series, which has yet to be titled, is expected to be published in 2013.
Genre: Science-Fiction
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Divergent by Veronica Roth.    
Themes:  Dystopian, class warfare, language, royalty, war, oppression, rebellion.  
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from VOYA, Kirkus, Booklist and Publishers Weekly.
Series Information: First installment in The Pledge series. Second novel (not yet titled) to be published in 2013.
Discussion questions: 
-    Why do you think language was such an effective way to separate the classes in Ludania?
-    Do you think that language separates different groups from each other in our society? Why or why not? 
-     If you were Charlie, would you have helped Sydney? Why or why not?
-     Who was your favorite character in the book? Why?
-    What would you like to see happen in the second novel in this series?
-     Do you think that The Pledge would make a good movie? Why or why not?

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