“Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays everyday, 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.”
Jennifer Mathieu’s sophomore novel is an exemplary display of the power of Quiet YA. Devoted tells the story of Rachel Walker, who is raised in a Quiverfull community – a fundamental Christian movement that focuses on the subservience of women to men, and places great importance on having a large family. (The Duggars, for example, are part of this movement.) I was hesitant to read this at first, because I largely do not enjoy Christian lit, especially not books that glorify the “Christian Patriarchy.” I was pleasantly surprised by Devoted, because it provides an honest portrayal of what it’s like to question everything you’ve been raised to believe, and how to make your own way.
I want to make it clear that Mathieu did her research for this book: she interviewed girls who grew up in Quiverfull communities, so that she could accurately represent their beliefs and customs. Knowing that Rachel’s family was based on facts and similar families made it difficult to read the first half of this book, because I knew it was all true. That girls are being raised in that environment, and taught that their only worth is derived from being a wife and having children. There were scenes that broke my heart for Rachel, and for every other girl in her situation who had questions she would be punished and shunned to ask, dreams she would be persecuted for wanting.
Ultimately, Rachel wants to know about the world outside of her church, of her potential outside the home. Seeing Rachel struggle with herself and her situation, which was wonderfully written, made me root for her so much. I wanted Rachel to make whatever decision was right for her – to stay or go.
There is a bit of a romance in this book, and I could take it or leave it. It didn’t really add much to the story for me, but I could appreciate how it gave another facet to Rachel’s experiences in the “real world.” I enjoyed her relationship with Lauren, a girl who escaped their church years previously. But ultimately, Rachel made this book for me. I adored her character, and her strength, and I can’t remember the last time I rooted so hard for a character to rise above.
Rating: 4 stars