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Devoted

Review

Devoted

What do you get if you cross Ally Condie's MATCHED with Sara Zarr's SWEETHEARTS? (And no, this isn't a cringe-worthy pun). You get DEVOTED, Jennifer Mathieu's tender novel of lost innocence and found identity; you get an almost-dystopian glimpse into extremist Christianity; and last, but certainly not least, you get Rachel Walker, Mathieu's kindhearted, deeply introspective protagonist, preparing for her future as a godly housewife while dreaming of freedom. As much as Rachel longs for independence, however, she also craves the affection of her haggard mother and the approval of her stern, punitive father. When she meets Lauren Sullivan, Calvary Christian's infamous "bad girl" and former teenage runaway, Rachel must weigh her thirst for freedom against the restrictive safety of her childhood.
 
[O]f all the reasons to read DEVOTED, this is perhaps the most convincing: I can think of no one I'd rather spend 336 pages with than Rachel Walker.
 
Though the congregation of Calvary Christian might not qualify as a true dystopia, Mathieu's well-researched depiction of extremist Christianity will unnerve you just as much as THE GLASS ARROW's female trafficking or THE HUNGER GAMES's wealth-gap-gone-wild. But while the HUNGER GAMES portrayed Katniss' village as a moral haven, quarantined from the corruption and self-centered decadence of the Capital, Mathieu's modern day dystopia allows for moral ambiguity --- Rachel's parents may deny her a "worldly" education, instead centering her homeschool curriculum around the wishes of her future husband, but they also have family dinners and pray for their children's happiness. Similarly, Lauren's hard-partying lifestyle may free her from Calvary's mandate of modesty, chastity and obedience, but it can't heal the heartbreaks of a hard-partying boyfriend.
 
As much as I enjoyed DEVOTED's complex worldview, Rachel's just-as-complex narration outshined even Mathieu's adept merging of Calvary's extremist Christianity and Lauren's zeal for all things countercultural. Throughout the novel, Rachel undergoes nothing short of a metamorphosis, yet her profound emotional growth felt both gradual and organic. 
Read DEVOTED for the lost innocence of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the dystopia of MATCHED, the heartfelt narration of JANE EYRE or the breeziness of a beach read. But of all the reasons to read DEVOTED, this is perhaps the most convincing: I can think of no one I'd rather spend 336 pages with than Rachel Walker.

Reviewed by Alison S., Teen Board Member on June 5, 2015

Devoted
by Jennifer Mathieu