Everyone knows a smile is universal. When you can understand all the languages known to man, how is it that you incorporate smiling in your vocabulary? Kimberly Derting's The Pledge follows a working school girl with a unique talent living in a dystopian class system that's on the verge of its own societal apocalypse. The four sectors of Ludania's class system: Counsel, Vendor, Serving, Outcast, is all Charlie has ever known. She pledges everyday to a disembodied queen, a loyalty she blindly believes in to keep her safe. Thoughts and murmurs of the resistance and revolutionaries have been trickling down the grapevine. It's not until Charlie and Brook--Charlie's best friend--revisit a night club that is bound to close shop soon--for the night clubs can never stay long, not without being caught--that Charlie encounters her brief glimpse into the underground's underbelly. Even then she never quite suspected that all the secrets that's she's all her life would manifest into something completely unthinkable.
I'd have to give Derting points right off the bat for her originality and the whole premise of The Pledge. Creating this unique dystopian world took some imaginative doing and she definitely flexed that muscle. With only brief glimpses into the world as it used to be ordinarily, the things kept from "back then" is names of long-lost cities; Brooklyn, Charlie's friend's name. The writing and descriptive prose accentuated the novels rural and industrial cities and towns. It vividly painted the picture of all the places Charlie encounters and segments of other locations when the book was broken up by brief chapters with other narrators.
The main character's interactions with other friends could have been more profound but it did not fail to reveal some of Charlie's naivete and self-consciousness. The interactions enhanced her character and helped develop her to see the constructive views other had on what Ludania's downfall will be and process them to make her own opinion. The sparking romance between Max and Charlie was sweet to watch grow, reading about how they both tested each in their own subtle ways. Their connection was built upon their reactions toward one another, reactions that the other couldn't always visibly see.
The plot that carried the story line to its climax and unwinding was evenly paced and smoothly executed. The Pledge vowed to be about a dictator-ruled country divided by the languages they speak and how that determines their values as human beings. It delivered that way of thinking into a constituted reality reinforced by visible executions and constant security checks if anything were to attempt discord to the pledge.