Monday, June 15, 2015

Why I'm totally devoted to DEVOTED by Jennifer Mathieu!

My friend Jennifer Mathieu is also one of my favorite writers. Actually favorite doesn't quite cover it. The woman can WRITE! She has this steady, understated style, simple yet layered, each moment building to the next, the character's emotions driving the action along with the external plot elements. And I think it comes not only from her understanding of the craft and her ability to mold it to her needs but also her understanding and thoughtfulness and endless curiosity and dark humor about the human condition, about the things we do and the things we want and the things we need. It is no surprise that she started as a journalist before she turned to the English classroom and the writing of young adult fiction. Just google Jennifer Mathieu and Houston Press and you can read her columns which are irreverent and funny as hell and make me adore her even more. Like this one, in which she discovers that Gwynnie Paltrow has a lifestyle website called Goop. (which in full disclosure, I must say that I subscribed to so that I could mock it and it's worked out swimmingly)

Jennifer occasionally asks me mentor-ish questions and I mumble some answer but in truth I need to be asking her because her career has rocketed off and she is handling it like a champ.

But to DEVOTED! It's her latest YA novel, out just a week or so from Roaring Brook, and it's a brilliant sophomore book, following the equally brilliant TRUTH ABOUT ALICE, which was on everyone's TBR list last year and which is important and gorgeous and moving and hits the nail about high school and girls and slut shaming and finding who you are even amidst people who would rather spread lies about who you are not.

DEVOTED is the story of Rachel Walker, who has been raised in what essentially is a Quiverfull family-- an ultra-fundamentalist Christian movement which places the man as the head of everything and women are raised to be helpmeets and modest above all else. (think the Duggar family--which Mathieu says inspired this novel, at least in part--but without the scripted cuteness, such as it is, and with whatever is actually under there that has been hinted at with the recent sexual abuse scandal) And then, of course, Rachel begins to have doubts. Not about faith in God, but about THIS faith and its effects on her and the life she is hoping to lead.

What I love more than anything about DEVOTED is the way Jennifer balances Rachel's journey. Rachel does not stop believing in God. She does not go all wild girl rebellious crazy. But she does move slowly, painfully, and in some cases with such frightening tension for the reader, toward a personal revelation that there are other ways to live, that they are not wrong, and that she will suffer more from staying than from escaping. (Seriously, I know no other author who could build such nail-biting tension into a scene where essentially the character is sitting and reading some emails!)

Jennifer just debuted the novel at Blue Willow Bookshop, one of our wonderful Houston indies, so here's the link to that page so you can get your own copy:

Want to find out more about Jennifer Mathieu and her books? Visit her here !

1 comment:

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