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About The Book

A “gripping dystopian fantasy” (Kirkus Reviews) that brims with romance and suspense, from the author of The Body Finder.

In the violent country of Ludania, the language you speak determines your class, and there are harsh punishments if you forget your place—looking a member of a higher class in the eye can result in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina (Charlie for short) can understand all languages, a dangerous ability she’s been hiding her whole life. The only reprieve from oppression is within the drug-filled underground club scene. There, she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy who speaks a language she’s never heard, and her secret is almost exposed. As the violent clashes between the totalitarian monarchy and the rebel forces escalate, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country’s only chance for freedom from the terrible grip of a deadly regime.
Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder series, writes powerfully and movingly of a girl with dangerous powers in an unusual and expertly crafted setting.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Pledge
By Kimberly Derting

About the book

Seventeen-year-old Charlaina, “Charlie,” lives in Ludania, a country ruled by a cruel monarch and strictly stratified by a caste system divided by language. The smallest transgression results in immediate death. But Charlie has lived her life with a secret so dangerous that if anyone ever found out, she’d be killed. Charlie can instinctively understand the languages of every caste, including the strange new language spoken by Max, a beautiful and mysterious boy whom Charlie meets one night at an underground club. Though Charlie is intensely drawn to Max, she isn’t sure where his loyalties lie.

As the violent clashes between the totalitarian monarchy and the rebel forces escalate, 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.

Common Core Curriculum Standards:

Reading Standards for Literature

Key Ideas and Details
RL 1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
RL 2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
RL 3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Craft and Structure
RL 5. Analyze the structure of a text, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text relate to each other and the whole.
RL 6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration
SL 1. Prepare for and participate in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Note: these are the anchor standards for reading and speaking and listening. You may want to visit the Common Core Standards website ( to locate the specific standard for your grade-level equivalent.

Prereading Questions

1. If you were to make a pledge to protect someone or something above everyone and everything else, who or what would you choose? Why?

2. How does loyalty develop between friends and family?

3. How is loyalty instilled in the citizens of a country?

Discussion Questions

1. Describe Charlaina’s world—her friends, school, and work. How does it compare to your own? What are the similarities? The differences? What are the most compelling aspects of Charlaina’s world?

2. Charlie’s two best friends seem to compete for her attention. Find an example from this in the text. Is this always the case with three friends, or is it a gender issue? Who do you think has Charlie’s best interests in mind—Aron or Brooklyn? Why?

3. If you had to choose three words to describe Queen Sabara, what would they be? How is her cruelty revealed to the reader? Do you think all people with power are corrupted by it or not? Explain.

4. Explain how one slip of her secret, one mistake, could ruin or even end Charlie’s life. How is language a source of power and control in the realm? What is the penalty for ignoring the rules?

5. Charlie’s gift often seems like a curse. Why? Do you wish you had a special talent, such as having the ability to read people’s minds? How do you think it would change your relationships? Do you think Charlie would give away her gift if she could?

6. What has Charlie’s father done to protect his daughters? Why is the family especially protective of their youngest daughter, Angelina? What type of life is she expected to have in Ludania? Why?

7. Describe the clubs that Brooklyn and Charlie visit. Would you be willing to go with the added risk of the hand stamp or not? How does Brooklyn act at these places?

8. Compare the male characters in the novel—Aron, Max, and Xander. Which one is your favorite? Can you relate to any of them? Explain. What qualities make a great male lead character and possible love interest?

9. Despite the fact that it’s against the law, Max speaks to Charlie in a language that she shouldn’t understand. Why? How do you know when you can trust someone with your secrets? How about with your heart?

10. How did the caste system develop in Ludania? Do you think there is any type of caste or class system in our own society? Why do you think castes exist at all in human societies? Even without a formal system, people like to put themselves above or at least compare themselves to others. Why do you think that is?

11. What pledge did Max make to Charlie? How is it tested the night of the “rallie”? Would you have helped Sydney or not? Why?

12. When the bombing starts, Charlie has one goal, and only one person to save. Who would you most want to protect in the world? Who would most want to protect you?

13. What does Charlie finally realize about the true identity of Max? What clues did she miss along the way? Does this make him more or less desirable to her? Why? What about to you?

14. What is Xander’s true role? Why does Charlie doubt him? Would you doubt or believe him? What are the important facts that Charlie learns about the resistance?

15. How does the Queen treat those she wants information from? What are her powers and limitations? Who did the author make you believe was the Queen’s captive at first? Who was it really? How did this add suspense to the story?

16. Who is the most surprising soldier of the resistance? Have you ever been surprised by a friend, similar to how Brooklyn shocked Charlie? Why didn’t they share their secrets? How did Brooklyn get involved in the resistance? Why didn’t she trust her own father? Is there anyone you should trust, but you don’t?

17. What clues are revealed of Charlie’s and Angelina’s birthrights? What does Charlie find and how is she able to interpret its meaning? What artifacts are important in your family? In other words, what would you save first in a fire?

18. What must Charlie know about the Queen in order to protect herself? Who do you have to protect yourself from? How do you do it?

19. Describe Max and Xander’s attempt to save Charlie. How does it backfire? Can you imagine learning that you are a royal? How would it shift everything you knew or believed?

20. How does the Queen manipulate Charlie into accepting her essence? In the end, what happens? Were you surprised? What makes a compelling ending to a story? What do you think will happen next between these characters and in the country of Ludania?


Create a movie poster or collage that will inspire others to read the book. Use a large format, bold fonts, color, and an interesting design to entice the readers.

Create a playlist for the soundtrack of the movie. Choose which scenes you’d add music to and then decide on the music itself. In at least one sentence, explain why you chose each piece of music.

Research the caste systems in various parts of the world. How did they develop? Do they still exist today? What are the rules of the system and what happens to people who break the written and unwritten rules of their caste?

Write a brand-new scene that was not included in the novel between two characters, or rewrite a scene that did occur. What would you change? You could also write a journal entry as if you were one of the characters in the book and explain an event through their point of view.

About the Author

Kimberly Derting is the author of The Pledge and its sequel, The Essence. She has also written several other teen novels, including The Body Finder series. She lives in Western Washington with her husband and three children. Visit her online at

Guide written by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, author and English teacher.

This guide, written to align with the Common Core State Standards ( has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Credit: Celeste Morrison

Kimberly Derting is the author of The Pledge series and the Body Finder series. She lives in Washington State. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 15, 2011)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781442422032
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Awards and Honors

  • ALA Best Books For Young Adults

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Kimberly Derting

More books in this series: The Pledge Trilogy