Rachel Walker is one of 10 children in her Texas family. As the oldest daughter at home, she is expected to help run the house—cooking and cleaning as well as helping her younger siblings with their homeschooling. Their family is a part of a very conservative, patriarchical Christian church (based on the Quiverfull movement) that lives rigidly by a very literal interpretation of the Bible, with no engagement of the world around them, emphasizing modesty and strict gender roles.
Rachel loves her family and God, but she is starting to question the rules and the lifestyle. She has many questions, wondering why, for example, God gave her the talent to help run the family business if a woman is not supposed to be engaged in such things? Why does she hunger to read novels if the only book that matters is the Bible? And why doesn’t she feel the same closeness to God that her other family members apparently do?
When she makes contact with Lauren, a young woman who left their church community years before, Lauren’s words strike a chord with Rachel. Lauren’s life is completely different now, but Rachel’s not sure that life is the right one for her either. Rachel’s exploration of the outside world is both bewildering and exciting, and often only raises more questions for her.
This young adult novel, closely observed and respectful of the beliefs of everyone involved, raises questions of faith and identity that are sometimes so prominent and urgent in the life of a teen. I couldn’t put it down, wondering what Rachel would choose for herself and what direction her life would go. Parents may want to use discretion with the age of the reader; Lauren’s choices and language are true to a girl in her state of rebellion, but they might be a little much for younger teens.
Mathieu was a speaker at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College last spring. She is a questioner herself, and she talked about the way she drew on some of her feelings as she grew up in a conservative Catholic family. Her beautiful writing and fully developed characters bring the important themes of Devoted to life. Ages 14 and up. (Roaring Brook Press)