Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
Release date: June 2, 2015
This e-galley was provided by Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review.
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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I'm always leery how Christianity will be treated in books. Often, I don't find that it's viewed positively or portrayed correctly. So going into Devoted, I was nervous but hopeful. The Quiverful movement is at an extreme end of the spectrum, and I knew it would need to be handled carefully but addressed full-on. Devoted was an eye-opening book that was surprisingly pleasing. Rachel is a wonderful character. She isn't super naive but she does realize how wrong certain beliefs can be. I loved how she found a balance between extreme Christianity and atheism. To escape her controlling family and cult, she befriends Lauren, a girl who previously left the Calvary Christian Church group. Lauren is about 24 and a vet tech who has recently moved back from Houston to the small town of Clayton. It warmed my heart to see how she took Rachel under her wing. She's not perfect; she's made mistakes and my heart went out to her since she feels she can no longer believe in God or pray. It made my heart ache that she couldn't disassociate a loving God with a father who was so blind. Because of the Quiverful cult, Lauren is an atheist but I think she came to respect why Rachel could still believe. When the escape from Calvary Christian happened about halfway through the book, I worried the rest of the plot wouldn't carry smoothly. But it did! I read Devoted in one day and enjoyed every minute of it. The whole book felt very real with sincere emotions and realistic outcomes. None of the endings were happily ever afters, but there wasn't overwhelming sadness or dismal results - just hope for the future and a sense of freedom and strength. I appreciated that there wasn't much of a romance (hints of one, but nothing big). I liked that there was no forced marriage for Rachel but the reform camps were touched upon. Overall, I was just very impressed and touched by Devoted. (And more importantly, I was glad that Christianity wasn't vilified. Homeschooling wasn't viewed completely positively, perhaps, but I think it can be excused, given the circumstances.)
Some foul language - mostly on Lauren's part - and talk of physical abuse, sleeping together, and drugs and drinking.
The Verdict: Do yourself a favor and read this book. Wow.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: I think so. I'd like to.