cover image I Pledge Allegiance

I Pledge Allegiance

Chris Lynch. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-545-27029-8

Lynch (Inexcusable) has trouble finding the emotional core of his Vietnam War novel, first in a planned series, making the story’s outcome feel both inevitable and pointless. When Rudi—one in a group of four tight-knit 18- and 19-year-old friends in Boston—gets drafted, the rest of the boys honor their pledge to enlist, each joining a different branch of the armed forces. While this all-for-one commitment isn’t beyond belief, Rudi is portrayed as mentally incompetent and is unlikely to have been accepted for service, undercutting the premise. Issues like the morality of the war and the protests are glossed over as the book thrusts the narrator, Morris, into his new life in the U.S. Navy. This is a fairly ordinary war tale, as new soldiers are introduced (with the usual archetypes, from the scared kid pressured into enlisting by his family to the token tough black man, an awkwardly handled character, especially in light of racial unrest in the Navy during Vietnam), followed by the expected battles, tragedies, and inability to explain the horrors of war. Ages 9–12. (Nov.)