Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Release Date: 7/19/2011
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About the Book: Lacey Anne Byers has always been a good girl. She's grown up in the church, followed the rules, and she's never questioned anything. Lacey is excited to try out for a lead role in her church's Hell House production. When Ty Davis moves to town, Lacey befriends him. He's smart, funny, and Lacey likes him-a lot. Lacey can talk to Ty about her faith, something her friends have never discussed much. Ty asks questions that Lacey has never asked and she begins to doubt if everything is as black and white, right and wrong as she once believed.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I have been a longtime fan of Melissa Walker's and I think that Small Town Sinners is Melissa's standout book. She writes a story about faith, first love, and searching in a wonderfully realistic way.
As a Christian myself, I'm often hesitant to read portrayals of faith and Christians in fiction. Christian fiction is too corny and unrealistic to me whereas secular fiction often portrays Christian's as crazy nut jobs. Small Town Sinners does neither. The story is non-judgmental and it's up to the readers to answer their own questions and decide what they think. While the adults aren't always the best and they do things that I didn't agree with, no one was over the top, and I found this to be more realistic.
Instead of taking one side or another, Small Town Sinners has a wonderful balance. Hell House's aren't shown in a way that's extreme good or extreme bad. I'm personally not a fan of the Hell House idea, but I liked the explanations that Lacey gave about the reason and how they can be effective. This worked for me and I didn't feel like the book was preaching to me one way or the other. There is scripture used, which so often I feel is corny in books, but for some reason I liked it here. Maybe because I knew this wasn't really labeled "Christian Fiction" so I didn't feel like I was supposed to be getting a message from the book. Instead of just being thrown in there just because it needed to be, I felt it fit Lacey's character as she struggled with her faith.
What I loved most about the novel is that Lacey is a relatable, real, character. She understands that her faith cannot just be what her parents believe, but it has to become her own. In order to make it her own, she must ask questions and discover what she believes-and that's not a bad thing. So often we're told, especially in Christian fiction, that doubt is a bad thing. But in Small Town Sinners, doubt is part of life and it's needed to better understand your faith. This is a message that very often gets lots and I think it added a wonderful depth to the story. There are never easy answers and Lacey isn't left knowing the answers to everything-and that's OK.
The supporting cast adds a layer to the story. This isn't just a story about faith, but it's a story of first love, teen pregnancy, searching for answers, friendship, loyalty, and forgiveness. It all wraps up into a fantastic package that I highly recommend to all readers.
Book Pairings: Sorta Like a Rockstar by Matthew Quick, The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Frietas
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from ARC I picked up at ALA Midwinter