Saturday, January 30

Jennifer Mathieu - Devoted

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

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 had my fair share of disappointments involving books with religious main characters, so to say that I was scared to pick up Devoted would be an understatement. As an atheist, I usually find it hard to form a connection with religious characters, but NOT in Devoted. This book outlived all my expectations and it had EVERYTHING I want in a Contemporary novel. Like...

A STORY THAT WAS CAPTIVATING BUT NOT TOO INFURIATING
Rachel lived in a closed-off, Christian community where women had little to no rights - they were not allowed to state their honest opinion, cut their hair or dress up as they would have liked. They were to produce as many children as possible and be obedient housewives. They were treated as objects, no more, and the saddest thing was that they accepted that because that was what they had been taught. Or, perhaps, some of them thought that it was what they deserved. 

"...helping the boys and the young men in their struggle to remain spiritually pure. Just, you know, recommitting to that idea of biblical femininity."

Being unfair to women and not treating them as equals was not the community's only terrible act. They also made sure to kill every ounce of rebellion out of their teenagers by sending those who violated the rules - e.g. a guy read pornographic magazines - to a Christian camp that was equal to brainwashing. I don't think I have to tell you that those who got back weren't exactly themselves anymore.

I'm guessing you're getting pretty worked up over all these horrendously unfair things that Rachel had to endure from day to day, and I'm glad to say that reading the novel was NO WAY near as much of an anger filled experience as I expected. Of course, there were parts where I was FURIOUS, but Rachel's journey toward her freedom was incredibly empowering and inspiring. The fact that this novel has less than 500 ratings makes me unbelievably sad. Frankly, upon finishing the book I wanted nothing more than ordering a bunch of copies and giving them to all my friends, family and even random strangers. 
DON'T FORGET: NOT ALL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE ARE THE SAME
I mean, I'm quite positive this is clear to everyone, but I do think it is needed to be stated somehow in a novel that portrays such an extreme example of Christianity, and it was! Rachel questioned a lot of things in the community, but never her belief in God, so it was a given that she would stay true to her beliefs even after she fled. The fact that she gathered her courage and went to another church later in the novel truly showed how strong and open-minded she was. 
WONDERFULLY MADE CHARACTERS
From the books I've read this year Devoted, without doubt, had the most realistic, yet unique characters. I especially liked how even the 'villains' (e.g. Rachel's parents) were well-crafted, instead of cardboard cutouts, like the bad guys are in many other books. The only problem I had was that we didn't have the chance to get to know most of Rachel's siblings, but it's not like that took away a lot from the story. 

Now onto the more important characters, namely Mark, Lauren and Rachel. THEY WERE ALL SO FREAKING WELL-MADE. Mark was the goofiest, cutest person ever, and his family was wonderful, as well. Oh, and he was a reader who LOANED BOOKS TO RACHEL. Now if that is not your perfect guy, IDK who is.

"Hey, just wanted to give you a book {The Hobbit} I thought you might like. There’s books by the same guy that come after too so if you like it tell me and I’ll loan you the other ones."

Lauren was... where should I start with her? Terrible things were done to her in the community, yet she escaped and started to live the life she's always desired. She also helped Rachel WITHOUT A SINGLE COMPLAINT, despite that I'm sure it brought up unwelcomed memories of the community. Lauren was a truly remarkable human being, and I loved the way these two girls supported each other, but more on that later.

And finally, Rachel... jeez, I'm not sure when was the last time I had the chance to read from such a well-crafted character's point of view. She was curious, strong, loving and her journey toward finding herself gave me all the emotions. 

To be honest, I'm not really surprised by the awesome characters, because Jennifer's debut, The Truth About Alice, had them, as well. Seriously, pick it up, because that book was marvelous, too.
A ROMANCE THAT WAS BARELY THERE
It is a common YA trope to put romance in every single novel, even when it isn't necessary, and that usually works for me, because I could kill for a good ship. However, in this case, the book simply didn't need romance, and I'm glad the author didn't force it into the story. Sure, there was a guy who Rachel liked, (and who seemingly liked her back) but they remained friends. And I was SO FREAKING HAPPY ABOUT THAT. In my opinion, Rachel was no way ready for a relationship, but I loved that the promise of a future relationship was there. 
ALL THE GIRL POWER 
The relationship between Rachel and Lauren was the most beautiful thing in the novel. My favorite thing about it is that it was not at all perfect - they argued, could not agree, saw some MAJOR things differently - and that was precisely what made it all so real. They were the family to each other that they either lost or didn't have the chance to have before. Their support and love towards each other was what really made this book shine.

"The truth is, returning to Lauren’s apartment felt more like coming home than driving up to my house this afternoon. I’ve found a new home with Lauren. And I know that I don’t want to ever leave it."

The story idea: 5/5
The realization of the story: 5/5
The characters: 5/5
The cover: 5/5
Enjoy factor: 5/5

        


4 comments:

  1. I'm glad you liked this one! I've been seeing it around quite a lot. :)
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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    1. You should totally give it a chance, as it was AH-MA-ZING. Seriously. :)

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  2. Like you, I read some books where religion was a theme and ended up having big issues with them. Not always, but a lot. It's great to hear that wasn't the case here and that it made such a impact with you! Nice to see that it *can* be done right. Wonderful review, Veronika!

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

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    1. Same, thank god greatly written books about religion like Devoted still exist. Thanks! :)

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