Published by Roaring Book Press on June 2, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Religion, Coming of Age
Goodreads: ★★★★ 1/2
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.
I’ve been wanting to read Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu ever since I had the opportunity to hear the author speak at BookCon in 2015. As soon as I heard the premise of the book, I knew I would love it. Devoted follows 17-year-old Rachel Walker, whose family is a part of the Quiverfull movement. This is a fundamentalist Christian sect in which children are seen as blessings and procreation is very much promoted. Rachel is one of ten children and her mother is pregnant with another. While Rachel loves her family dearly, she becomes curious about the world outside her own, and begins to explore how ‘worldly’ people live.
I really enjoyed Devoted, and I knew I would because I am fascinated with different religions and how people live their lives in a way that is different from my own. Rachel is a great first-person narrator because she is instantly likable and I was rooting for her from the start. Similarly, Mathieu has a great writing style. It is quite relaxed, and that made Devoted a really quick read.
My main critique of Devoted is that nothing big happens in the story. Perhaps I’ve just been reading more science fiction and fantasy lately, but I didn’t find any sort of climax in the story. Nonetheless, I do appreciate that Devoted focuses on a young woman growing up and making her own choices. The book is truly about her growth, and it’s refreshing to read a young adult novel that praises a young woman’s personal autonomy. While I would have liked a bit more excitement, or even some romance thrown in, looking back I can see how Rachel’s journey is an important one.
Moreover, I also would have liked to learn more about Rachel’s family. Maybe I’m just a bit obsessed with learning about people who practice fundamentalist religions (one of my all-time favorite television shows is Big Love, for example), but I needed more about Rachel’s parents, older sister, and even her older brothers. This is a small critique, but one I want to mention nonetheless.
Overall, I really enjoyed Devoted and am so glad I finally got the opportunity to read it. I highly recommend this book, especially to those who are interested in different religions. If you are looking for a young adult contemporary that isn’t all about romance, this is also a perfect choice. I can’t wait to read more of Mathieu’s work in the future!
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