Devoted and Delicate Monsters Blog Tour

I'm so excited today to be part of Raincoast's blog tour for Jennifer Mathieu's Devoted and Stephanie Kuehn's Delicate Monsters. I've previously read each of these authors' debuts so I was thrilled to get the chance to be part of the tour for Jennifer's follow-up and Stephanie's third book.

To start off, here's a little bit about the books:

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Published June 2, 2015 by Roaring Brook Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
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. 

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Published June 9th, 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past. 

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

I got to ask each of the authors one question about their books.


I asked: How do you approach writing about a topic such as religion, like in Devoted, or the toxicity of slut-shaming rumors, like in The Truth About Alice, without turning your story into an "issue book"? How do you manage to help keep these complex topics so grounded, real, and non-"preachy" in your novels?

Jennifer said: Great question! Honestly, I can't stand issue books mostly because I hated them as a teenager, too. Teenagers are so much smarter than we give them credit for, and they roll their eyes when they read a book that's so obviously trying to Teach A Lesson. I think I try to avoid issue books or being preachy by creating fully formed characters.  Alice in The Truth About Alice isn't just a stand in for any bad girl. She has a distinct personality (I hope!). The bullies in Alice are archetypal, but I don't think they're stereotypical. I try to create characters who don't fit a mold. I also try to acknowledge nuance. It would have been very easy to make the bullies in Alice all awful and bad or only show negative images of religious people in Devoted, but I consciously chose not to do that. By showing the bullies' motivations for their behavior or having Rachel attend a new church where people are more welcoming and moderate than her childhood church, I'm trying to add layers to the reader's experience. Hopefully it's working.

Delicate Monsters

I asked: You clearly don't shy away from deep subject matter and tough scenes in your books. How difficult is it to write that material and what, for you, makes these hard topics so naturally integral to your storytelling despite how tough they may be?

Stephanie said: I think every teen’s story deserves to be told, no matter how hard or uncomfortable
that story may be. That’s my perspective when I’m writing: to reflect the realities we don’t always want to see, and to reflect them with the utmost honesty and empathy. I try and remember this when writing really difficult scenes or ones that make me sad or upset.

I plan on writing up full reviews for both of these books once I'm home and settled from vacation but here are some quick thoughts on each book:

I actually found myself getting a lot more out of this book than I'd thought I would. As someone who doesn't really connect with religion, and hasn't in a long time, I didn't anticipate connecting with the book. However, Mathieu's storytelling and the way she presented the main character, Rachel, made it so easy for me to understand her and become invested in the story and in Rachel's life and choices. Rachel is presented as a very sympathetic character but that doesn't leave everyone else in her life as "evil" or "wrong" Christians. Mathieu does a great job at portraying the way different kinds of faith are right for different kinds of people as well as showing that everyone is struggling with something - with the average person, we're not just "good" or "bad" people based on any part of our lives, including what we believe in. This is a great examination of faith and humanity and discovering yourself and how those all intersect in one young girl's life. 

Delicate Monsters:
I have to start by saying that Stephanie Kuehn has such a specific writing style that works incredibly well for the way she tells the stories she tells. It's very crisp and really captures a lot of the starkness present in her stories and characters. In Delicate Monsters specifically, the three main characters, Sadie, Emerson, and Miles, are each struggling with something inside them that seems to really be beyond them completely - emotions that seem like they should so far beyond the realm of teenagerdom that it's crazy that these three are each dealing with them they way they do. However, these things are indeed emotions and struggles that teens deal with and Kuehn brings them forward through her characters in such striking and real ways that you really get sucked in. While there isn't a ton of action throughout the story, the narrative from the characters and the build-up towards what could be the breaking point for one or all of them is where the tension and sense of gripping discomfort I often felt came from. If, as per her answer to my question above, Kuehn was trying to portray an uncomfortable truth with "honesty and empathy," I'd say she's done well with this one.

If you're familiar with the books by either of these authors, I have a feeling their newest releases won't disappoint you. I think Mathieu has done an even greater job this time around with creating that emotional connection to the main character, and Kuehn has written another book filled with uncomfortable but gripping tensions. Both are well worth a read, especially for previous fans of their respective works!

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