Review: Devoted by Jenifer Mathieu

Title: Devoted
Series: N/A
Author: Jennifer Mathieu
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: June 2nd, 2015
Page #: 336
ISBN: 1596439114
Aquisition: Library loan

Goodreads, Author's Website

Goodreads Description
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.

My obsession with young adult fiction with fundamentalist Christianity continues! This book was definitely easier to get through than some of the others in this category like The Chosen One or Sister Wives. Mathieu definitely did her research on this book, citing Kathryn Joyce’s “Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement” book, and one of my favorite reads last summer, so I requested this one from my library as fast as I could.

Maybe because I did read that book, and have been picked through the “No Longer Quivering” blog Mathieu also cites as a reference for a while, that this book didn’t hit me as hard as it will probably hit others. I’ve been around this block before, so nothing was particularly shocking or disturbing to me (i.e. women not being allowed to speak during prayer time, sanctioned teenage marriage and pregnancy, modest dressing methods, emotional suppression, etc.) That’s what’s keeping this book from hitting all five stars: I’ve seen the themes in YA fiction before, and Devoted didn’t really bust any barriers for me. Obviously this will be different for someone less “devoted” (haha) than I am to this sub-sub-sub-genre of fiction so I don’t want to penalize Mathieu.

But even though the “oh my gosh people actually do this” mentality was lost on me, Devoted still proved to be a sweet, heartfelt contemporary tale. Mathieu did a good job of spacing out Rachel’s growth in the story. When a girl leaves behind a community like this she doesn’t necessarily jump instantly into casual sex and booty shorts. Rachel is still uncertain of her place in her world once she’s out from under her parents’ (read: her father’s and pastor’s) thumbs and her adjustment to life outside of what she’s used to comes gradually over the course of the book, from her first unchaperoned conversation with a boy, to her first sleeveless shirt, to her first paycheck, and so on. Things don’t immediately click in to place when she first starts out, nor does she figure everything out by the end. The book is very light on the romance to reflect this, seamlessly avoiding another issue I’ve had with books of this kind.

The fact that Rachel kept her faith in God through the book was also nice. I wouldn’t really classify this book as “Christian fiction” but if there’s one aspect of her identity that Rachel is certain of it’s that she believes in God and wants to pray. Keeping that aspect of her personality and upbringing really helped round out her character without making her feel unrealistic. Likewise, with Lauren, who left the same Church under much more violent pretenses, has different feelings and reacts to things differently and sees the world differently. The same goes for the other women in Rachel’s life, like her mother and sisters. It’s refreshing that Mathieu understands that not every woman is going to feel the same about religion, or leaving it for that matter. No one is “othered” in this book, and none of the characters we meet are painted as 100% evil or wrong.

All in all, a lovely read with a heartfelt main character and a tasteful plot for inquisitive girls of all faiths.

Four Stars!


Serial Box #4: Bee and Puppycat #01

Welcome back to Serial Box, my (semi) regular discussions on comics I've recently read! This time...

Written by Natasha Allegri and Garrett Jackson
Artwork by Natasha Allegri

If you like pastel colors, fluffy animals, eating food (and watching people on TV eat food), fun costumes, and temp jobs then Bee and Puppycat, the fun YouTube show from Frederator, is probably already on your radar. If not, it should be!

Bee and Puppycat is a series of short episodes on YouTube about a girl named Bee who meets a strange creature named Puppycat. The two of them work for Tempbot who sends them on different ridiculous jobs around the galaxy. There’s only five episodes so far at about six minutes each so they’re perfect for when you’re eating lunch/ waiting for someone to pick you up/ avoiding finishing an essay/ etc.

This comic, understandably, is pretty lighthearted and fluffy. Not much happens, nor does it seem to be going in any certain direction or following a really strict plot. The creator, Natasha Allegheri, is responsible for Fiona and Cake of "Adventure Time" fame, so if you’re familiar with the art and silliness featured there then you already know what to expect.

I tend to like more serious works that follow a stricter plot line, but this makes for a nice read if you just need something to kick back to. It’s cute and funny and is great for kids or adults who love cute things. The art has beautiful pastel colors that fit perfectly with the mood of the comic. I’m glad I nabbed this one when I had the chance and if you like the Bee and Puppycat show then by all means pick it up too!


Review: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Title: The Sixth Extinction
Series: N/A
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Publication Date: February 11th, 2014
Page #: 319
ISBN: 0805092994
Acquisition: College interlibrary loan

I read this book for my Intro. to Sustainability class that I took this past spring. The paper I wrote on it was eight and a half pages long, so let's try and shorten that down for this review!

The Sixth Extinction is a non-fiction book about life, and death, on Earth. The title comes from the concept that there have been five mass extinctions, or mass deaths, encompassing most of life on Earth at the time of their occurrences. Most people are familiar with the K-T extinction, or the event that killed off the dinosaurs.

The fact that dinosaurs once walked the Earth but now no longer do is a topic that even very young children understand: we go to museums to see their bones, see fictional movies about bringing them back to life (with mixed results), and play with their toys. Non-dinosaurs, like mammoths and neanderthals, are other animals that we know are no longer with us. However, this is a relatively new idea: about two hundred years ago people figured that everything they saw was all that there was. It took scientific revolutions in biology and the emergence of paleontology for people to begin to understand that there was life before humans.

The Sixth Extinction, then, is about what happens while we're here. If the scientists, researchers, and conservationists that Kolbert interviews and visits are correct, then not only are we in the midst of the first mass extinctions for humans to witness but we are also the root of this problem.

Kolbert looks into many different intersecting topics for her book: ocean acidification, habitat fragmentation, invasive species, warming climates, and human intervention as well as the causes of all of these. Often intersecting with one another, these events are killing off different species, though not necessarily humans, at increasing rates.

Kolbert, however, approaches these bleak topics with humor and grace. She describes each new location and meeting with vibrant language that is easy to understand. The concepts in the book are explained thoroughly and without too much technical jargon. This isn't a book that you need an M.S. in paleontology, geology, or biology to understand. It's written to inform, not reiterate.

I think that reviewing non-fiction books is difficult. I'm still in school, so I can't confirm, back-up, defend, or "prove" anything that Kolbert is writing in her book. I can only recommend it on the grounds of what I think it is: well-thought out, well researched, and entertaining, if not a little bit morbid. When the stakes are as high as they are we need books like The Sixth Extinction more than ever; we need books that incite interest in topics like the ones presented here because, now or never, we need people who are educated. Voters, teachers, pastors, community leaders, politicians, everyone, really, should make an effort to educate themselves on the non-human consequences of certain actions, and reading The Sixth Extinction is a good place to start.

Five Stars!