Cover Image: The Pledge

The Pledge

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Member Reviews

I accessed a digital review copy of this book from the publisher.
Sam is attempting to start over. He has just started his freshman year of college, and he is even joining a frat. That is if he can get past the brutal murders he witnessed when he was 16. One thing that stops him from being able to move on is that his new brothers are being brutally murdered. Sam finds that it is up to him to find out who the murderer is.
The book is a quick read. It fits firmly in the slasher genre. If you are looking for a quick and easy read, this is a good book for that.
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I like the premise of this a lot, but I found the execution is only okay. The characters that die aren't really developed. Also, I found the ending unsatisfying. It was a quick read though.
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This was overall an entertaining thriller. There were enough twists and turns to keep me interested while reading, and the characters were a twist on the usual final girl trope. I would recommend this book to teen readers who enjoy thrillers and are looking for something a little different.
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This book has some serious issues. One of the biggest ones in my opinion was the pacing. People started dying so quickly that I found it hard to care about them which was a serious issue when part of the book hinges on Sam's connection with his "brothers." We barely got a glimpse of the frat boys before we lose one and the whole time I was trying to figure out which one he was. I can suspend belief that Sam would care about these boys he's barely met, but then every single kill fell flat. I wasn't scared. I wasn't tense. I was just resigned to the fact that another college student was about to die with barely even a struggle. I am fully willing to admit that I went into this book with inflated expectations. The use of "Clown in a Cornfield" meets "Scream" really gave me hope that I was about to see the B movie slasher novel of my dreams. Unfortunately, while I like Dietrich's writing (I loved "If This Gets Out") this book just didn't work for me.
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Sam is a college freshman who has survived being attacked by a crazed killer with a knife while in high school. He is looking forward to starting a new life in college. He even rushes a fraternity and becomes a pledge. Life seems good until his brothers start dying one by one and Sam begins receiving messages from the killer. Will Sam and his fraternity brothers survive or will they become victims of a masked killer?
This was a really fun fast read. I liked Sam and was rooting for him to survive. The book reminded me a lot of There’s Someone Inside Your House. If you’re a fan of slasher horror fiction like that, then you should absolutely give The Pledge a read.
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3.5 stars rounded up

The Pledge delivers on it's premise- a queer, upper YA slasher set on a college campus. Sam is a freshman recovering from the trauma of killing to defend himself and his boyfriend at the time from a masked attacker. He's finally ready to move forward from the past and joining a fraternity seems like a path into friendship and reconnecting with the world. It doesn't hurt that there's a hot boy in the frat wearing a rainbow bracelet... But when a masked killer begins targeting frat boys on campus and playing mind games with Sam, he must revisit his worst nightmares.

This is a very stabby book and it's fun to see this kind of take on a slasher centering a gay guy. It did a pretty good job of keeping me guessing, though I think some information was too obscured for my taste. There were a couple moments where I went- wait, who is that? For characters who should have been more clearly established. Some of the chapters from the perspectives of victims also felt a bit weak to me. I think doing that works better in a movie than in this sort of novel. But overall, I had a good time and think fans of the genre (or teens wanting to get into slashers) will enjoy it. I received a copy of this book for review via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.
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This was truly an exciting book to read. I'm a huge fan of horror, especially slashers, but they so rarely translate well to books. Slasher plots depend deeply on things happening quickly and Cale Dietrich makes sure that happens with The Pledge. It's such a quick read and when I started I found it very hard to stop. I loved the characters, even though I was suspicious of ALL of them! EVERYONE'S A SUSPECT!
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A queer slasher story, this is one scary read. Sam has survived one murder spree, and is now hoping college will give him a chance at a new and normal life-and maybe even some romance. But when his frat brothers start dying around him, Sam realizes evil has found him again. 

The author does not hold back with the scares, that’s for sure. The book does get gory at times too. Sam and the characters surrounding him are definitely ones I was rooting for, as was the romance. The reveal was really good as well.
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#NetGalley said would you like to review a gay horror book? and I couldn't say YES EFFING YES! fast enough. I thoroughly like this book and would recommend it to anyone looking for a new twist on college life. Fast paced and fun to read. It kept me entertained. 
The story follows rush week as a killer who likes to murder frat boys runs rampart on campus. This was soooooooo much fun! I love a good slasher vibe and this one was no exception and even better than I was expecting!!! 4/5 stars
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Unfortunately, this book just didn't do it for me. I don't think there's anything wrong with the story or with Cale Dietrich's writing, but I'm just apparently not into slashers. I should've seen this coming, given that my favorite kind of horror is horror that turns out to be sad (see also, Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House), and the fact that I've tried reading slashers before and they didn't work out for me, either. Still, I think this would be great for people who are totally unlike me and do enjoy slashers!
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As a fan of both of Cale's books that I've previously read (The Love Interest, and If This Gets Out), I was so excited when I was approved to review The Pledge. While this book is definitely a departure from Cale's other works, it still contains the heart I've come to expect from his works. The back half of this novel is a tightly-paced race to the finish, and the character growth from Sam shown throughout the book but best showcased in the epilogue is immensely satisfying.

I struggled a lot with the beginning of this book, and with the unmarked POV changes in the second half of the book. Jumping from a first-person perspective where everything was limited by Sam's perspective and awareness, to chapters in a third-person omniscient perspective in an attempt to give more personality to the side characters was jarring. While I found the portion of the book focused on Rush week to be the weaker portion, I also wish we'd gotten to know the rest of the cast a bit better before the action started.

Overall, it was a decently compelling horror novel, even if I didn't enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed Cale's other works.
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Real Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

It’s so unfair that I have to give this book (which is by all rights an entertaining slasher film romp where the frat boys are the ones in danger and not sorority girls for once) 3.5 stars. I would’ve loved to have rated it higher; but as it was, if it weren’t such a fun book to read (and I didn’t even manage to guess whodunit!) I would’ve rated it lower because this book has enough plot holes I felt like I might need to send for a work crew to come patch them all for author Cale Dietrich. 

Why didn’t I guess who did it? Well, because it didn’t make any sense. If anyone else who has read this book can look back at any point in the book and tell me there was any hint that made you realize in hindsight the murderer was at least slightly suspect, then I’d like to know, because it’s driving me nuts. 

And as for the leading suspect for the murders for the majority of the book: If Sam (our MC) was so skeptical, why didn’t he find a way to contact that person’s family and find out if they knew anything about where he was or what happened to him? Moreover, if said person had indeed disappeared suddenly, wouldn't law enforcement have contacted Sam as a matter of course, considering their shared history? I just felt like I kept stumbling into plot holes and if I was watching a horror film I’d be asking Sam out loud as I was watching the television, “Why don’t you make one simple phone call?”

I loved that this was a YA horror novel in the slasher genre with prominent LGBTQ representation and a LGBTQ main romantic relationship but that Dietrich never made this book about being queer. This wasn’t a slasher novel about being gay, this was a slasher novel that just happened to have a heavy amount of queer representation that was presented in a positive light. These young men are simply fresh meat in the college market, trying to find their people and their way in life. Yeah, they’re gay, but that’s never the point. And that’s not the motive for the murders, either. 

It really is an entertaining, diverting, fun, and slasher-iffic read that’s good for when you just want to take some time to sink into a book that has the feel of a 90’s slasher film. 

I was provided a copy of this book by NetGalley in conjunction with the author. All thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this review are mine and mine alone. Thank you. 

File Under: LGBTQ Romance/YA Romance/Contemporary Romance/YA Fiction/LGBTQ Friendly/Coming of Age/Horror/YA Horror/YA Thriller/Young Adult
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The Pledge is a horror thriller that hooks you from the very beginning. Centering around Sam as they are trying to recover from their terrible past after surviving a murder spree. This book is a wild ride from the very first page until the end.
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I received this book as part of a package of books from the publisher, and I was the most nervous about it of all the others in the set. I’m still pretty touch and go with horror, so it’s always hard to tell from the cover or cover copy whether something is going to be a good pick or end up being too much.

Ultimately, I didn’t think the horror elements were too much for me. In some ways, THE PLEDGE reminded me of some of the R. L. Stine or Christopher Pike stories that I used to read. I also enjoyed that it was a story centered around a gay character– something different from the romance or contemporary stories I often read with LGBTQ+ protagonists.

It’s definitely a slasher story– so expect lots of scenes showing a masked assailant with a knife overpowering their victims and stabbing them. I’m a bit of a wimp about that stuff, but I didn’t find the descriptions overly graphic or gross.

The part of the story that really hooked me, though was the mystery element. Some people suspect Sam of being the killer, and he ends up getting involved in trying to figure out who is hurting people. He works with the police, trying to stop the killer before they strike again. I definitely got wrapped up in trying to guess who it was and what their motive was. I didn’t guess either one.

The story also includes Sam’s relationships with his family, which drew me in. He has issues with his mom, and he has a younger brother he loves a lot. I liked both those relationships and the way they impacted the story.

All in all, a slasher book is never going to be my go-to, but I enjoyed checking this one out. I think fans of THE WHITE RABBIT by Caleb Roehrig will like the mystery elements and romance of THE PLEDGE.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.
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A quick and creepy page-turner well-suited to fans of classic slasher films, except this time the Final Girl os a Final Guy.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me thus book in exchange for an honest review.
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An LGBTQ, horror, thriller.  I agree with the comparison to "Scream meets Clown in a Cornfield".   

I was hooked from the very beginning! 

Sam is trying to recover from a very tragic past.  Doing the unthinkable, he survived a terrible murder spree.  Sam's coming to terms with past choices, while pledging to a fraternity. 

If you like wild rides, this is for you! 

(I received an advanced review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.)
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If you imagine a horror YA book, you've pretty much got The Pledge right there. That isn't to say that it is bad--it isn't! I enjoyed it!--it is just very typical. The queer love story is a nice addition and made it more original, which I appreciated. Overall, it would be a great addition to anyone wanting to include more queer stories in their collections.

**Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Thank so much for this review copy. I really had so much reading this new slasher book. I enjoyed the storyline and the characters so much in it. Looking forward to reading more by this aurthor and you guys.
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I was excited to receive an ARC of this book as Cale Dietrich is an author I have read before and enjoyed. This book was no exception, though I did feel that it fell short in a few places, so it gets 3.5/5 stars.

Let's start with what I loved:

1) I really liked the overall plot. It had lots of good spooky, thriller vibes while mixing in a good dash of every day life and even a bit of romance. It had a good balance of everything.

2) It had a good dash of queer happiness. That's not to say that it was all sunshine and roses (it is a book filled with murder after all) but there weren't large doses of trauma due to the characters being queer. It was nice to have a book with queer charters and a queer romance at the center without their queerness (and trauma attached to that queerness) being a major player. The queer charters were allowed to simply exist in this world. Also, it wasn't like many horror books where just the queer charters get killed out or attacked. In this story, everyone was fair game.

3) I liked the romance part. There was immediate attraction, but it wasn't an insta-love situation. The romance happened fairly quickly, or at least the two characters showed interest in each other early on, but the relationship itself developed at a fairly normal pace. They didn't just jump in and immediately fall in love. It was a "Hey, I like you. Wanna date?" type situation, which I appreciated.

4) The characters were relatable. The way they reacted to each other and the situations in the book seemed realistic, and I was able to easily connect with and understand why the characters did what they did.

Okay, so now for the things I wasn't a fan of:

1) When you read a murder mystery or thriller with a mystery at the center, you want to be constantly guessing "Who done it." That's part of the fun. And it's awesome when you get to the end and the murderer is revealed and you have that "Oh! I knew it it!" or "What?! Oh! I should have seen that coming!" moment. This book didn't deliver that. Sure, there were moments where you were left wondering who really did it, but when the big reveal came it was more of a "What? Huh? Are you sure?" moment. There wasn't any definite foreshadowing that you were made to forget by red herrings pointing to other characters. It felt like the author got to the end of the story and drew a random name from the characters who were still alive. Honestly, the reveal was disappointing. And while this wasn't necessary a plot hole, it felt like the master part was weak. It was almost as if the author spent all his time focussing on the romance aspects and simply forgot to add in the clues to solve the mystery. 

2) Every few chapters, the POV switched to the killer. While this worked in a way and I enjoyed seeing the murderer hunt down the victims, it was always a bit of jolt when it shifted because it wasn't always immediately obvious. The first time it happened was serval chapters in and I was thoroughly confused for several paragraphs. Some indication the POV was switching would have made these transitions smoother.

3) The writing style in this book switched between what felt like a middle-grade novel and a typical YA novel. I love reading middle-grade books, so I don't mean that as an insult in the slightest, but what bothered me was the inconsistency. Some parts were just so well done and appealed to an older YA audience whereas other parts felt overly simplistic and geared to the younger YA/middle-grade audience. 

4) The side characters were underdeveloped. There were a lot of side charters to keep track of, and while this choice does make sense since a lot of them are killed off or attacked, it made it hard to care about them or keep track of who was who. I simply didn't feel emotionally attached to any of the characters who got hurt or murdered. There were even a couple characters who I wasn't even sure who they were because they simply weren't memorable, but I guess its sad they got offed? I honestly just wasn't very invested in what happened to most of them.

Overall I did enjoy this book! It was a quick, easy read and I finished it in one sitting. If you're looking for a YA thriller/murder mystery with queer charters and a gay romance, this may very well be the book for you. I look forward to what this author will write next!
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Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. I wasn't really a fan of the writing style. It was a bit too choppy and the use of present tense throughout the story just didn't work for me. The writing also failed to create an atmosphere of suspense, which is kind of a necessity for a slasher story. Furthermore, the pace was a bit too fast. The entire story was a bloodbath, but I didn't really care that people were dying because the reader never really got the chance to know most of them. The whole thing just felt rushed and uneven with questionable quality. 

It didn't help that the entire premise of the story fell apart once the killer and their motivations were revealed. Sam decided to join the frat on a whim when his RA invited him after his arrival on campus. So, how does the killer know to start targeting the frat brothers right away, and where did this intricate plan come from if Sam only decided to join at the last minute? Why would the killer even target people Sam barely knows? The rationale and timeline behind it all doesn't really make a lot of sense. I'd be more specific about my critiques, but it would give the killer away. I think most people will likely see the plot hole(s) once they find out who did all the killing. I was just left shaking my head at the end. 

All that being said, I did enjoy Sam's personal journey. He suffered from pretty severe PTSD, and it was compelling to watch him overcome his guilt and fear while his worst nightmare was continuing to happen all around him. He showed incredible resilience, and I loved the change in his attitude from the beginning of the story to the end of the epilogue. The arc felt earned, and his character was well-rounded and three-dimensional. His relationship with Oren was cute, as well, and I enjoyed watching them grow together as a couple. 

Overall, this one just didn't work for me. I've liked some of Dietrich's other work, and I applaud him for trying something new. However, it really missed the mark and left me very underwhelmed. Maybe give it a shot if you are really craving a gay slasher story set at a frat. Otherwise, I'd recommend skipping this one. Therefore, I rate this book 2.75 out of 5 stars.
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