Summary: Annie’s best friend Mo is the most important person in her life. Their entrance into each others’ lives in grade school is a saving grace for both with Mo being a new immigrant to the United States and Annie losing her sister. So when Mo’s father loses his job and his family must move back to Jordan from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, the idea is unthinkable. Annie and Mo need each other, and to prevent their separation, Annie comes up with an idea to keep him in the United States. But neither of them truly realises what is involved in what Annie is proposing, and what seems like a simple decision becomes increasingly more difficult for both. In the end, true friendship prevails with unique results.
Number of Pages: 424
Age Range: 14-16
Review: In a story about friendship between the sexes, The Vow by Jessica Martinez explores how far a couple of teens are willing to go to stay in each others’ lives. Both with families they don’t connect with, Annie and Mo decide to solve their problem by getting married and keeping their platonic relationship.
There’s something about Annie that just makes my heart break. It wasn’t that she was the sister of Lena, a teen who had been raped and murdered, it was her reaction to Lena’s disappearance. This book is about two vows, the one Annie makes to Mo, yes, but also the one she made to God as a child not to eat until her sister was found alive. Annie’s backstory informs her present life as she cannot bear to lose another person she is close to and she feels personally responsible for preventing it. But like her vow to God as a child, she learns painfully that some things are out of her control.
Mo’s story developed more slowly for me. By the end of the novel I did have more empathy for him with his growing attraction to Annie and his own feelings of powerlessness when it came to his sister’s experience in Jordan, but it wasn’t till he heard Annie out and responded to her despair that I admired him. When it came down to it, he was willing to put the needs of his best friend before his own.
Annie and Mo are obviously naive and driven by teen angst when they decide the only way to solve the problem of Mo having to leave the country is to get married, but Martinez is a kind writer as she details how their ‘brilliant’ plan falls apart without judgement. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision or the most realistic, but the story is about good intentions and mistakes that are learned from. As a result, I like the underlying message that marriage is more complicated than it appears. Annie and Mo may have wandered into it thinking it was an easy fix, but quickly find out their decision has complications they couldn’t have forseen.
The Vow is a book my mid-teen self would have loved. The angst, strong declarations and actions concerning friendship, slightly over-the-top plot and heart-pounding, respectful romance aspect are all draw factors, and I would recommend this book for other mid-teen readers.
I’ve now read three of Martinez’s four books, and this one is my favourite so far, although I realise I’m behind because Kill, Kiss, Vanish recently came out. Looking forward to getting around to reading it.
“I was too young to be told what nothing really meant and too stupid to guess. Mo calls it naive, but he wasn’t there. It was trickier than that. It was wanting to know, being on the edge of understanding, then backing away intentionally.” – Annie from The Vow by Jessica Martinez, page 57
“I have to close my eyes as the flavors burst in my mouth – gentle heat from the pepper, salty tang of the pork, sweetness of pomegranate, the velvety-rich walnut sauce. He’s waiting, but I don’t know what to say. ‘I love you; can I have you babies’ might scare him, but it’s my most sincere thought.” – Annie from The Vow by Jessica Martinez, page 226
“I had to do it. It had to be done. I repeat it over and over so repetition can either make it true or numb me. Hurting Reed was the price for saving Mo. I had to do it. It had to be done. I had to do it. It had to be done.
But if I’d have imagined that his eyes could ache like that, I don’t know. I don’t know.” – Annie from The Vow by Jessica Martinez, page 290
“‘If you loved her,’ he spits, ‘you wouldn’t have married her without her family’s permission. You wouldn’t want to take her away from the people who love her most. You wouldn’t want her all for yourself. Maybe that’s what you Muslims do, but here in America we don’t need to isolate our women just to force them into loving us.’
‘No, of course not. You just isolate them from yourself and from everyone else as they don’t feel any love at all. So they’re looking for the first opportunity to escape and find someone who won’t hold them at arm’s length, someone who’ll actually love them.’ I look at Mrs. Bernier. Then Annie. ‘Isn’t that right?'” – Conversation between Mr. Bernier and Mo after Annie and Mo announce their news from The Vow by Jessica Martinez, page 325
“‘I just never thought you’d hurt us this way,’ she says bitterly.
‘That’s the problem!’ I hear myself yell, but it doesn’t even feel like me. It’s some other girl, some other explosion. ‘There isn’t a maximum amount of pain you can feel. It’s not like you can use it all up on Lena and expect to be done. I can’t hide in my room the rest of my life because your heart is already too broken. It’s not my fault that you let what happened to her crush you.’
She pulls in her chin and lifts her shoulders like she’s bracing, but it’s too late. I’ve already said it. We’re both too shocked to do anything but stare at each other.” – Confrontation between Annie’s mother and Annie over her sister Lena’s death from The Vow by Jessica Martinez, page 345