Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend. Today I’m reviewing The Pledge by Cale Dietrich, which will be published on February 14, 2023.
Scream meets Clown in a Cornfield in this young adult horror novel by bestselling Cale Dietrich featuring a masked killer who targets frat boys.
Freshman Sam believes that joining a fraternity is the best way to form a friend group as he begins his college journey – and his best chance of moving on from his past. He is the survivor of a horrific, and world-famous, murder spree, where a masked killer hunted down Sam and his friends.
Sam had to do the unthinkable to survive that night, and it completely derailed his life. He sees college, and his new identity as a frat boy, as his best shot at living a life not defined by the killings. He starts to flirt with one of the brothers, who Sam finds is surprisingly accepting of Sam’s past, and begins to think a fresh start truly is possible.
And then… one of his new frat brothers is found dead. A new masked murderer, one clearly inspired by the original, emerges, and starts stalking, and slaying, the frat boys of Munroe University. Now Sam will have to race against the clock to figure out who the new killer is – and why they are killing – before Sam loses his second chance – or the lives of any more of his friends.
Elements of horror, mystery, and a gay romance make this a story readers won’t want to miss.
***Thank you to Feiwel & Friends for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
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.