Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
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.
17-year old Rachel Walker belongs to a family that is 100 percent dedicated to God, their church, while also being devoted to adhering to what their fathers and preachers tell them to do. Rachel and the women of the church truly believe that obeying males is their God given fate, and therefore, they have no time for boyfriends, or going to school in the real world, or questioning anything men tell them to do. They must keep themselves clean from sin, or risk re-education camp, or worse.
Rachel is supposed to be preparing herself to be an obedient wife and have children of her own. Even though she has limited access to the internet, she can access it since she is responsible for preparing bills, and schedules for the family's landscaping business. Rachel is also responsible for cleaning the house, picking up after her siblings, teaching them math and other subjects, while also being responsible for ensuring everyone gets fed. It also include regular attendance at church, bible school, and nightly prayers by her father.
When Rachel hears about Lauren Sullivan, a girl who walked away from the church and her family rather than being brain washed, she can't help but to dig deeper into why Rachel left, and what she is doing with her life now that she is free. Mathieu puts the question to readers. Is it wrong to want to know more about Lauren, the outside world, and what is actually happening around her? Is it a sin to want to do things her own way, and step away from the family unit?
Rachel, in my opinion, did the correct thing when she decides to explore and find out what is out there. Nobody should be forced to do anything against their will, no matter what the church, or pastor, or overbearing father says otherwise. It's hard for me to be critical of religions without exploring my own lapses over the years. I have never fully understood Mormonism, and have had friends who belong to the Southern Baptist church. Perhaps because my family was Catholic, we were never forced to go to church, or follow the laws the misogynistic male society who rather have women scrubbing floors, and bending over backwards for them, rather than having a mind and goals of their own.
I truly do believe that Jennifer Mathieu hits on an important topic. The topic of young girls stuck in an environment where they are treated as though they are only good for making babies, and staying home to take of the husband and home. I would dare say that those who despise religion entirely, will not enjoy this story. I dare say that they will most likely stand up and shout that they have been saying this for years now about the dangers of organized religion. I dare say that people SHOULD read this book, and have a bit of concern, and pray for the children who are stuck in this environment. Pray that their fathers aren't abusing them, or fathering children with more than one person.
I have one last thing to say about religion. Religion can be outright dangerous, see Jim Jones and the Ghana massacre of the 70's as an example of religion gone devastatingly badly. See the rape of young men by priests as another. However, religion has always been a way for people to have faith in themselves and a calling to do better for themselves and others. It makes people feel better, and yes, it has helped cure sickness. I prayed while my father suffered with cancer. I prayed when he died that there is, in fact, an afterlife so I can see him again. One should NOT make religion a focal point of their ranting and ravings and anger just because they don't believe in God, or Jesus.
In the end, Devoted is an emotional read about one girls journey to courage and a desire to do what is best for herself. It is a story that finds Rachel bravery walking away from everything that she's been taught, her family, and discovering the real world and what it has to offer if you are willing to work hard. I especially loved the ending. While most teenagers are eager to get out of school, Rachel can't wait to sign up and learn the things she's been lacking. This is why I adore Rachel.
Jennifer Mathieu is also the author of The Truth About Alice which I actually loved.
**I received this book for free from Roaring Brook Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**