REVIEW: The Pledge by Chandra Sparks Taylor
Dear Ms. Taylor,
Wow, you have packed a lot of story into this book. From the blurb
Raised in a strict household, sixteen-year-old Courtland Murphy never had a date. But that was before the guy of her every dream-‘basketball star Allen Benson-‘asked her out. She’s gone from never-been-kissed to dating the hottest guy in school. And now her new boyfriend is pressuring her to prove she loves him-‘by having sex. But as a member of her community’s Worth-the-Wait club, Courtland made a vow to stay a virgin. Now everyone-‘from friends to family to fellow club members-‘gives her different advice, from “do it!” to “you made a pledge, girl!” It would be so easy for Courtland to go all the way with Allen, but sometimes his charming personality leaves her wondering. Who knew being in love could be so confusing?
I knew there would be peer pressure about sex but it turns out that’s barely scratching the surface of what Courtland faces. As a cheerleader, she has to balance practice and games with school. Plus some people like her now just because she’s on the squad while others are looking to tear her down to build themselves up. And what’s with her aunt? Courtland used to look up to and like Dani but lately Dani’s been doing and saying things that make Courtland uncomfortable. Before the story ends, she’ll grow up a lot and question almost all the plans and decisions she’d thought she’d already made.
Courtland is basically a good person and daughter – as her mother tells her – but she’s sixteen and trying to become an adult and she’s going to make mistakes and show some rebellion. It’s also a time when relationships with other girls at school can often turn out to be messy. Women can do some stupid stuff in pursuit of men and Courtland is wise to follow her mother’s advice not to spill all her secrets.
She and her sister, Cory, also have to deal with their father who Courtland feels is disappointed in them because they’re girls. Their parents are also having issues with their own relationship. And finally does Courtland think as highly of herself as she thought she did? Who’s in charge of her life – Courtland or everyone else? It all adds up to a lot of stress both at home and at school. Looking back on my teen years, I can say I miss a lot of things but would I want to go through all the hormones and changes again? Not likely.
If this had been a book about adults, Courtland would be in the running for TSTL honors for repeating mistakes far longer than I could tolerate. She yielded and gave in to Allen just to the point where I was rolling my eyes and muttering, “Oh, please. You’re not going to let him into the house, are you?” I mean, how many times does she have to not only be told but shown that her man isn’t being straight with her? However, the book’s not about adults who should know better but young adults who are learning. What happens to her seems so straight forward as it’s occurring but little by little, step by step we see her falling for the old lines and behavior men use to control people they think of as weaker than themselves. It’s not new but it’s new to her.
There’s a lot of truth in what she says at her “Worth the Wait” meeting. It’s easy to make plans and vows when there’s nothing to tempt you to break them but hard in the face of actual temptation. Yet the consequences of giving in are real and are not just the loss of her virtue or the risk of teen pregnancy but also diseases that can change her life or kill her.
I think the story has valuable lesson to explain to teens the why behind the rules set for them. It’s not just that saving yourself for marriage is honorable, it’s about respect for yourself and the dangers from sex – as Courtland and her friends learn the hard way from the group leader. But the message from the book isn’t preachy or strident even though it’s honest and blunt.
Courtland learns who her friends are and who just hung with her because of her boyfriend and the fact that she’s a cheerleader. Bree has her back – almost too much – while others were only there because of Courtland’s looks and status. I hope Courtland continues to value the ones who stuck with her and proved to be her true friends.
I did have a few questions and issues. How could Courtland be hidden at the park but close enough to hear what was whispered yet still miss the other hidden person there? And when she got the phone call about Dani in the hospital her parents were supposed to be out on a date yet suddenly her mother is in house and father is on patrol. WTF?
I must admit that I gulped when I saw the price of Kimani TRU books. It’s the main reason I’m not crazy about trade paperbacks. I realize you have no control over prices and this is my issue to deal with when deciding whether or not to buy a book but it does tend to cut down on my impulse buying of authors new to me.
Still the story reads so vividly and the characters were so true to life that I don’t regret picking the book to try. The issues facing Courtland are complex and ones we hear about all the time. Thank you for never glossing them over or giving Courtland an easy out. By the end of the book, it looks like she’s taken back control of her life and will be doing things she wants to do and not what she thinks others want her to do. My own niece will be facing this age soon and I only hope she comes out as well. B