June 16, 2015

Review: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received ARC from publisher (Thanks!)
Summary: Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul. (greads.com)


The good
Within the first few pages of the book, I realized that I had a lot in common with Rachel Walker. We’re both named after Rachel in the Bible. We both love Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time. She belongs to Calvary Christian Church and years ago when I was curious about Christian churches (I was raised and still am Catholic), I would occasionally attend sermons at Calvary Baptist. Talk about a coincidence right? But that’s where the similarities in our lives end. The religious denomination Rachel and her family belong to is very strict, to put it mildly. It’s not just that they’re devoted to God and attend sermons every Sunday. Their entire way of living and thinking is defined. Women just prepare to be future wives and mothers. They have to dress modestly. Men, and only men, are the heads of the household. They’re homeschooled and shun modern technologies and contemporary literature as much as possible. I mean, they basically live in a bubble. To an outsider, this sounds like a cult but to someone in that way of life, it’s obviously a very different perspective. It was fascinating to step into that someone’s shoes and get a glimpse.

We’re introduced to Rachel and what a typical day is for her. She’s homeschooled but surpassed any lessons her mother could teach her. She cares for her five younger siblings. She’s constantly mindful of what she says and does. But even as we see her day-to-day, we immediately see that there’s this spark of independent thinking in her. She’s curious about the world. She loves books. She knows she’s fast at math and loves having the Internet at her fingertips (when she’s allowed to use it). But it’s these very same things that make her feel like the black sheep of her family. While everyone is secure in the life dictated to them and quick with prayer or a Scripture to recite, it doesn’t come quite as easily to Rachel. It was frustrating to listen to the way her sisters, father, mother and entire community spoke in general and especially to her. Again, I come from a religiously devoted family but these people were at a whole other extreme that definitely had me bristling with indignation. And that’s part of what made the book so good. It was realistic, eye-opening and absolutely thought-provoking. I’ve described this book to friends as being quietly powerful and it’s a description I stand by. Especially as the book progresses and Rachel begins to take her life into her own hands.

(No) reservations
None!

Do I recommend?
I do! My review really just touches the surface of the book and the journey Rachel is on. I want to say so much more but that would spoil it for you! So read it, love it and then tweet me so we can discuss!

1 comment:

  1. You've basically convinced me that I need to give Devoted a shot! I'm always interested in portrayals of religion in YA. It sounds like a really good read from a unique perspective, so I'm definitely considering reading it.

    ReplyDelete