Monday, June 15, 2015

Review: Devoted

Jennifer Mathieu
Contemporary Young Adult
336 pages
Roaring Book Press
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.

This review is going to be a touch different from my standard review, mostly because Devoted is a story that pushed me well outside my comfort zone and proved to be more than a little uncomfortable for me at times, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm someone who likes to stay well clear of stories where religion plays a prominent role, especially when what we see of that religion is more extreme in nature. Ms. Mathieu takes us inside a fundamentally Christian family with rather fanatical beliefs about God and the roles men, women and children are to play in service to Him, but she handles the subject matter with care through protagonist Rachel as she comes to see that the world she grew up in is no longer the one to which she wants to belong.

The first half of this story is hard to read, every communication between the members of Rachel's family parroted snippets of their pastor's teachings or quotes of scripture, leaving very little room for creative or independent thought. Rules are to be adhered to, men are to work, women are to cook, clean and reproduce, and every thought or action is to be a direct result of the church's teachings. A sense of claustrophobia was nearly instantaneous, the parameters of Rachel's world so rigid and unyielding that I found myself needing frequent breaks just to escape and take comfort in a life where I'm free to be whatever I choose to be.

Once Rachel begins to question her worldview, thanks in large part to the blog of a young woman who left the community years prior under somewhat scandalous circumstances, I found my breathing started to come easier, and I couldn't help but root for her to keep pushing and see where her desire to be more than an ever-dutiful helpmeet takes her. Rachel doesn't immediately cut all ties to her family or her faith once she leaves home though, instead she continues to question and figure out how to have a relationship with God of her own making rather than one created for her by her father and pastor. Ms. Mathieu highlights a number of negative aspects to the radical nature of Rachel's family's beliefs, but she doesn't tear them apart and then try to nudge us as readers into a more "correct" way of thinking, instead she beautifully paints Rachel's journey as just that–a very personal exploration of not just faith but also of finding purpose in life as well.

Devoted was an impressively large step outside my paranormal romance reading bubble of happiness, one that pissed me off to no end, made me think, and ultimately brought a huge smile to my face as Rachel reached out and grabbed hold of her right to make her own choices. I can't wait to read more from Ms. Mathieu.

Rating: 4/5

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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.


  1. Sometimes it's interesting to read different things to see how we would feel about that and this one sounds really something else. I'm glad you sill had a good time with it.

  2. I am afraid I'd be too uncomfortable

  3. Stepping out of your comfort zone is always so hard but I love when it's a rewarding experience too. This book would definitely be outside my comfort zone as well so while I don't know if I'll pick it up soon, I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more by this author. Wonderful review, Jenny--thanks for putting this on my radar and kudos to you for stepping out of your comfort zone and really embracing this novel! :)

  4. I know that like you I'd be enraged but ultimately I feel like this is a book I need to give a try for sure!
    Brilliant review Jenny!

  5. Jenny, I'm so glad you stepped outside your comfort zone and found a book that you enjoyed so much. I think I'd be very uncomfortable with this book too, but seeing you praise this makes me want to read it. I think I'm going to root for Rachel too.
    Lovely review!

  6. I think you and I are a lot similar in that we like to stay well within our comfort zones. Escapists through and through, I'd say. But sometimes, when pushed, it really works out for the best. I've been thinking so much about religion and religious restrictions lately and I don't know how well I'd handle this one, but I guess I need to be pushed too. If it ends up being too much, I can always hide somewhere and eat gummy bears.

  7. I can't say that I'm a totally religious person (it's lessened a lot this year, which sort of sucks), but I actually enjoy reading books with a hint of religion in them. I love how this one sounds like the heroine is turning her religion into something of her OWN beliefs and not just the teachings of the church--I have a feeling I'll relate to her a lot. Awesome review, Jenny!

  8. I also think this book is outside my comfort zone, but I'm encouraged that you were able to enjoy reading it despite religion being so prominent in the story. I am glad Rachel has the courage to question the world around her, and I think it would be fascinating to read about her journey. Lovely review!

  9. I want to read this but I'm so nervous about it for some reason. I'm glad you did read this and enjoyed it Jenny, rough start and all.
    Beautiful review!

  10. Reviews have been quite good for this, and it seems like the author really captured what was happening. Lovely review Jenny, and go you for stepping out of that comfort zome

  11. I am so glad you read this one. I loved it and thougth it was beautifully written. I grew up on a very religious community, not as uptight as this one, but I could easily grasp the extreme. I have read both her books and have been most impressed. You need to read her first one.

  12. Wow, this one is definitely out of my comfort zone, but I admire you for sticking with it until the end, Jenny. Glad it was rewarding albeit uncomfortable to read.

  13. I'm exactly the same way as you, Jenny! I despise reading about religion because I always feel like the author is preaching - and partly because I'm agnostic and usually don't relate - but seeing that you liked Devoted, I'm pretty curious now. It looks like Mathieu skillfully develops a characters who is able to explore outside the confines of how religion is done in her family. I love that this book made you uncomfortable yet made you feel a lot of other emotions at the same time! I'll have to look into more reviews to see if I'll be picking this one up. Beautifully written review, as always!

  14. I'm with you and I do tend to shy away from this subject matter but you have made me curious. It really sounds like it is her story and what a coming of age story! To have to find yourself outside your family is hard enough without the pressure of the community. I'm still not sure if this one is for me, but I'm considering it!

  15. Wonderful review, Jenny! I’m not sure this book is for me, but I glad to hear you stepped out your usual reading zone and was able to enjoy it.

  16. Sometimes it's good to read different things! Great review.

  17. Beautiful review, Jenny! I was worried for a moment about the wrtiting and how you felt, but this just confirmed to me how talented Mathieu must be:

    "she doesn't tear them apart and then try to nudge us as readers into a more "correct" way of thinking, instead she beautifully paints Rachel's journey as just that–a very personal exploration of not just faith but also of finding purpose in life as well."

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I'm glad you enjoyed the story in the end :)

  18. Excellent review, Jenny! Sounds like a thought-provoking read.

  19. I've been so curious about this one but haven't decided to pick it up. I tend to avoid books with strong religious themes as well. So glad you stepped out of your comfort zone and enjoyed it.

  20. I pretty much agree completely with everything you said. One thing I hadn't thought about too much was the blog. She found that blog and the words really helped her. I think that's a reminder that what we say can change people's lives. Even if we think no one is reading it, it can make a difference.