Monday, October 17, 2011

Small Town Sinners ~ Melissa Walker (ARC) review

Small Town Sinners
Bloomsbury USA Children's
July 19, 2011
288 pages

Lacey Anne Byer has spent her whole life as a member of the House of Enlightenment, an Evangelical church in her small Southern hometown. She's always been the good girl; wanting to please God, her father and mother and do what's right.

And now it's Lacey's junior year: she'll have her driver's license and the chance to try out for her church's annual Hell House (a haunted house of sin with scenes like Abortion Girl, Gay Marriage & Suicide).

With the appearance of a new boy, Ty Davis, will Lacey want to test some limits - for the first time ever? Will she start to question things, including her faith and just what will that mean?

Small Town Sinners isn't the kind of book where you fall in love with a relationship or a character, necessarily - not like Melissa Walker's previous book Lovestruck Summer, at least. It's one where you witness a character's growth and her acknowledgement and acceptance of that growth and her change.You can respect her as she grows and matures.

It can be hard to read at times - but that's a good thing. Walker doesn't take what could be the easy way out and make Lacey and her friends less intense in their beliefs or Hell House less intense in its practice. Nor does she mock them or belittle them. They are who they are and they do what hey do - and that's some of what makes certain parts hard to read, but also what makes Lacey's development and growth real and the story something you certainly won't be sorry you read.

This is a book with  religion but I dare to say it's not a book about religion - at least not only about religion., also, if not more so, about finding and accepting who you are as you grow up and distinguish yourself as an individual.

There are not a lot of YA novels written that involve religion (few in a non-mocking way, fewer still that treat the characters with understanding) much less to this extent and it was nice to see here because it really is a large part of a lot of teens' lives. Maybe not the kind of religion that the House of Enlightenment practices . . . but maybe that, too. (Small Town Sinners stemmed from/was inspired by a piece, "Hell House," Melissa wrote for ELLEgirl which is linked HERE on her website.)

The characters were each very enjoyable in the novel, bringing something unique and different to the story. I loved Starla Joy, Dean and Ty as her friends. It was also nice to see her parents. The glimpses we saw or her mother (we saw more of her father) were small, but fantastic.

Melissa Walker's novels seem to be quite different from each other, but always leave me eagerly awaiting whatever is coming next.


huge thank you to Kate at Bloomsbury for my review copy of this book

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