Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
July 19th, 2011 from Bloomsbury
Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.
What a refreshing book! I honestly don't think I've read anything like this story. I know of a few recent YAs that have religious undertones, but this is the first (for me) where the overall theme is faith and sin. This story reminds me a lot of my own childhood. I grew up in a strict Christian home and I found myself wanting to rebel the second I turned 14. I was just like Lacey, I wanted to find my own way and start to make decisions based on what I believed, and not necessarily what was drilled into my head since the day I was born. I must say that Lacey has a great head on her shoulders. She knows when she reaches a crossroad and takes time to weigh out the choices. Me? I dove right in and thought of the consequences later. Lacey is much smarter than I was. When Ty, a boy who questions everything and has a secret past, comes along she starts to realize that maybe not everything is black and white, so cut and dry. There may be shades of gray and decisions need to be made based on the surrounding circumstances.
By the synopsis, you might think this book is all about Ty and Lacey and the temptations of sex. While that does come up a few times, the Hell House (a church production of sinful horrors that shows devastating consequences - read HERE for an example) setting explores a variety of "sins" that young adults face every day -pre-marital sex, alcohol, drugs, and porn. Some of these issues come close to home for Lacey and her friends, and while we aren't too surprised of which way the opinion meter goes here, Walker does balance things with the help of Ty and his ideas about faith. He doesn't exactly stand behind the church on every topic and we see Ty and Lacey have some really deep and meaningful conversations. It is during these times in the park where I love the characters most. They are vulnerable and open to each others differing thoughts and they have intelligent discussions on some pretty heavy stuff. Walker gives these characters depth and presented them as complex and bright individuals. The alone time in the dark could have easily turned into sexy time, but Walker stayed true to Lacey's character and kept her integrity in tact. It just made me love Ty even more...
We watch Lacey basically grow up in the year that we know her. She is the perfect obedient child at day one and disregards her own individual thoughts while being guided by her overprotective father. When we part with Lacey a year later, we watch her navigate her own way with the help of what she knows to be true and the welcome advice of her father.
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You can find Melissa on her website, blog, and Twitter.
I have an extra review copy up for grabs! Melissa will be at the Austin Teen Book Festival this year! I'll be there along with about 100 other TX bloggers...hope to see you there!
UPDATE! Melissa is kind enough to send a SIGNED bookplate to the winner! *cheers*