Thursday, June 4, 2015

Devoted ~ Jennifer Mathieu (earc) review [@jenmathieu @MacKidsBooks]

Roaring Brook Press
June 2, 2015
336 pags
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

A godly girl keeps a cheerful countenance.
A godly girl never tempts a boy.
A godly girl always keeps sweet.

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. What is she to make of the boy recently returned from camp Journey of Faith with newfound piety? Or of her mother’s miscarriage and resulting depression? And how should she respond to Lauren, the girl who left the church several years ago and who has recently returned to town?

Rachel knows she should find solace in her beliefs, but she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul.

I very much enjoyed Jennifer Mathieu's debut novel The Truth About Alice so I was excited when I saw Devoted. Not only was I looking forward to reading more from the author, I loved what the books was about. I definitely loved the actual book even more.

Rachel Walker has grown up in a large, conservative Christian family (think the Duggars with a few less kids). Her life has been all about her family, her church and God, the way Rachel believed it should be.

Yet, Rachel has always been a curious girl, one who loves reading and knowledge. They aren't pursuits that fit into the life - of wife and mother - that is planned for her.

There was really so much I loved about Devoted. I thought the beginning gave readers a great look at Rachel, at her thoughts and feelings and at Calvary Christian Church. I loved seeing the boy's return to church, their community, through Rachel and then both her family's reaction to his return and how she saw their reaction. It does a fantastic job establishing how the church is, how her family is and Rachel's questions.

I like how we see what Rachel's daily life is like, what is expected of her (from helping with her siblings' school work, household help, how she should dress) but also how much she really loves her family. She isn't someone that resents being part of this large family or helping out. She may question if it's all she wants, but her love for them is never in doubt.

Jennifer Mathieu did a superb job with Rachel's questions, her internal struggle with possibly not wanting the life set out for her and what that meant about her faith, her soul. I (very, very much) appreciated how Rachel's doubt and questions - as well as events later on in the novel - questioned her church, her family's interpretation of religion and the Bible. This was not a book of 'God and religion bad. The end.' and I loved it that much more because it wasn't. It was their type of religion, what it meant for Rachel - and other women, especially - that was called into question.

Without being spoilery (because the story developed so well), there are parts of the latter half of the novel, interactions, that are so sweet. I adore them. They fit the characters and what has happened up to that point. It is just enough without being too much. It will put a smile on your face, for sure.

The ending was great. It wraps enough things up to conclude (at least this first part of) the character's journey but leaves open/unresolved those things that shouldn't or couldn't be done with, yet.

Other Books You Might Also Enjoy:  Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan (really, if you loved this one read Devoted if you read and love Devoted, read Apple and Rain) and The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

digital galley received, for review, from publisher via NetGalley

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