Review: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

I was anxious to read this book since I loved Mathieu’s The Truth About Alice. Devoted is another amazing book about a girl in a difficult situation. Mathieu handles the topic of extreme Christianity almost without judgment. It is the backdrop for Rachel’s existential, coming of age tale.

Told in the first person by Rachel herself, this book is compelling and fascinating. Mathieu definitely did her research. Rachel’s world is so scary but so true. I instantly felt for Rachel. The amount of work she was made to do at just 17 years old: homeschooling her siblings, cooking dinner every night, putting her siblings to bed, never being able to leave the house alone, not even being able to read the books she wanted to read.

The book portrays several strong female characters: Rachel, Lauren (another former Calvary Christian young woman who helps Rachel escape her parents’ house), and Diane (a friend of Lauren’s who offers Rachel a job helping with her real estate business). These three women are such a great contrast to the other women within the cult-like church: Rachel’s mother, Rachel’s older sister Faith, and Lauren’s mother.

I enjoyed how Mathieu created two similar young women with very different reactions to their oppression. Lauren left her parents’ home out of anger, and six years later she still cannot pray or go to church because of the anger bottled up inside her. Rachel leaves more out of curiosity. She wants to learn, and she cannot understand a God that would give her a brain and not want her to use it. It’s only when she is free from her father and her pastor that she is able to pray again. She still loves God and her family even if she cannot follow Pastor Garrett’s rules anymore.

Rachel’s adaptation to wordly things is very realistic. She slowly becomes comfortable with TV, starts reading Lauren’s mystery books, and develops a friendship with Diane’s son, Mark. I appreciate Mathieu’s avoidance of anything romantic between Rachel and Mark. That would have been unbelievable.

Since I just started this blog, I especially liked that Rachel gets in touch with Lauren after discovering her blog about escaping her “Fundie, Homeschooling, Woman-Hating Past”.

Rating: 4 Stars

Check out this great interview with Jennifer Mathieu over at Me, My Shelf and I.

This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.

Jennifer Mathieu
Young Adult Fiction
Roaring Brook Press
June 2, 2015

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.

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