I waited a long time to read Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners; faith and religion can be incendiary topics, and I worried about how a YA author wo...more I waited a long time to read Melissa Walker’s Small Town Sinners; faith and religion can be incendiary topics, and I worried about how a YA author would handle such divisive topics. Glowing reviews from authors I respect and admire (and a sharply discounted price for the ebook) finally convinced me to take a chance.
Lacey Anne Byer is a parson’s daughter, nearly sixteen. With her best friends Starla Joy and Dean, she is eagerly awaiting her church’s annual Hell House, a haunted-house like event that dramatizes a different sin in each room. Lacey is secretly hoping that this year, the first in which she is eligible to play a part, she will be cast in the important role of Abortion Girl.
Two events change Lacey’s thinking: Starla Joy’s sister, Tessa, is sent away after getting pregnant but her boyfriend gets to remain in school, and a bully is allowed to keep his place in the Hell House production after he repeatedly harasses Dean. Lacey’s beliefs are also challenged by her new friend, Ty, a boy who rejoins her church but does not support the Hell House. Lacy begins to question her relationship with both her parents and with her church, and even her very faith.
Lacey was sometimes difficult to like, especially at the beginning when she doesn’t think for herself, but she grew on this reader when she started to value her personal faith rather than the sometimes contradictory teachings of her church.
Small Town Sinners is a brave book, and unlike anything else I have read recently. Reading this book requires an open mind; readers who can focus on Lacey’s journey, regardless of political or religious beliefs, will enjoy this thoughtful novel on a rarely-discussed topic in young adult literature.
Note: There are several graphic depictions of scenes in the Hell House, so sensitive readers should beware. (less)