Margaret Atwood once wrote, "War is what happens when language fails." As a writer, of course, I'm always particularly interested when people who love words tell stories of the power of words; I felt that way about Ally Condie's stolen remnants of poetry in Matched, and again in Kimberly Derting's fierce contest of language in The Pledge. Atwood, Condie, and Derting are circling around the same fire, here; if you liked one you'll like the others, as I did, and I suggest all three.
Powerful people can speak, more powerful people can control the story. Within the sharply, smartly drawn world of The Pledge, of all the many layers of regulated dialect and mediated power, only one language is essentially magic—-the untaught, instinctual language of the ruling class. What happens when someone powerless can suddenly speak and understand it? What happens when that someone is a young woman with something of her own to say? What happens when she chooses to love someone she shouldn't, someone who speaks it too?
We writers talk so often about voice, but this is one of the few YA novels I've ever seen that expressly examines the power of a girl's own voice, her right to have it and use it. The Pledge is deeply written and deeply felt, and I look forward to the sequel. --Margaret Stohl