Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners

4.4 14
by Melissa Walker

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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

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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.

Melissa Walker has crafted the perfect balance of engrossing, thought-provoking topics and relatable, likable characters. Set against the backdrop of extreme religion, Small Town Sinners is foremost a universal story of first love and finding yourself, and it will stay with readers long after the last page.

Editorial Reviews

Carlene Bauer
Walker has written a credible and tender evocation of the moment when a young person's beliefs begin to emerge and potentially diverge from the teachings of a family's religion…by stressing the importance of forgiveness and honesty, Walker proves that her heart is in the right place, and readers will sense this.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Both tender and provocative, this coming-of-age story takes place in a small evangelical town famous for a graphic, terrifying Hell House staged every Halloween by the House of Enlightenment. Sixteen-year-old narrator Lacey, a pastor's daughter, wins the coveted role of "Abortion Girl" after the previously cast girl gets sent away to a residence for pregnant teens. Sharing her father's belief that "You got to shake 'em to wake 'em," Lacey embraces her responsibility to show others "what the consequences are if you don't accept Jesus into your heart." Disrupting her certainty in literal biblical interpretations is gorgeous Ty Davis, returning to town after a decade-long absence, rekindling first-grade friendships and asking thoughtful questions that challenge Lacey's convictions. While the combined sincerity and extremism of the Hell House production is viscerally shocking, Walker (Lovestruck Summer) creates an astutely balanced portrait of a conservative congregation's in-your-face response to perennial issues of domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, and suicide, as well as of those who struggle to fit the prescribed Christian mold. (July)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Lacey Anne Byer can't wait to participate in Hell House, her father's church's Halloween outreach event that she helps with every year. Selected this time to act the part of a doomed and remorseful patient at an abortion clinic, the 16-year-old wants to make an impression with her role. When Ty, a former classmate, returns to town, Lacey befriends him, noting both his good looks and his friendly but mysterious demeanor. Ty is quickly absorbed into Lacey's tight circle of friends, making what was once a threesome into a quartet. Soon after, however, the group struggles with the news of Lacey's friend Starla Joy's sister's unplanned pregnancy, as well as with local bad boy Geoff Parsons, who bullies Dean, the fourth member of their group, relentlessly. As Lacey considers the plight of Starla Joy's unmarried teenage sister, Ty gently leads her to question the black-and-white system of morals associated with the church in which she was raised. Small Town Sinners is distinctly nonjudgmental, but, as it includes some circumspect questioning of the tenets of Lacey's faith, cannot be considered an example of Christian fiction. Walker depicts small-town Southern life with respectful realism, highlighting the place of the church as a religious and social center of the community. This characterization allows Lacey's internal conflict-between her father and his church's ideals and the new frame of reference that Ty provides—help to achieve a complex believability that lingers through the novel's conclusion.—Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews

Lacey Anne Byer makes being a Preacher's Kid look easy: She's happy to honor her curfew, proud of her purity ring and keen to perform her heart out in the plum role of Abortion Girl at her evangelical church's annual Hell House.

Each shocking scene in Hell House—an abortion gone tragically wrong, a fatal drunk-driving incident, a gay marriage cut short when one man dies of AIDS—aims to touch attendees' hearts, bringing them closer to God, and Lacey is absolutely on board with this mission. But when adorable Ty Davis returns to tiny West River after years away, Lacey's previously unshakeable beliefs start to wobble. Ty brings out the questioning young theologian in Lacey, encouraging her to wonder if small sins are as bad as big ones and if sins are always, well,sinful. The issue of unplanned pregnancy moves from hypothetical to real when Lacey's friend Tessa gets pregnant; Lacey chafes at Tessa's being shipped off to a home for unwed mothers while the baby's father remains at home, apparently consequence-free. Lacey's questioning of beliefs she's always held so firmly (and, OK, sneaking off to hang out, ever-so-chastely, with Ty) yields the first serious conflict she's ever had with her doting parents.

This secular story about religious people could easily devolve into camp mockery, but because Walker takes her character's crisis of faith seriously and sensitively, readers will, too. (Fiction.14 & up)

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
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Barnes & Noble
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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Small Town Sinners 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
FuzzyCoffeeBooks More than 1 year ago
Overall thoughts: This book stunned me. I've been thinking about it with alarming consistency ever since I finished it. It's very thought-provoking. I loved absolutely everything about it, so much so that I've had a hard time putting my thoughts into words. One of the highest compliments I can pay to a book is that I want to talk to people about it. Not just tell them to read it, but have lengthy conversations about what it is, what it means. In the way that scholars discuss Dickens, Shakespeare or Proust. And this book is one of those rarities. *ruined for all other books for now* Thank you, Melissa Walker, for writing this novel that displays truth in fiction.
NicAwesomeOle More than 1 year ago
As someone fascinated by Hell Houses and Evangelical Christian (I watch/read everything I can get my hands on in regards to these topics), I was excited when I heard about the concept of this book. And once I found out it was released, I snapped it up on my Nook. Thank GOODNESS for instant gratification. I liked that the question of one of the character's sexuality is never really answered because, in the eyes of the characters closest to this one, it doesn't matter. The cast of characters, as an ensemble, is very strong and very distinct--yet none of the characters overpowered one another. If I had to pick one problem with the novel , I would say that Lacey's parents were a bit unpredictable. One minute is was a sort of 'fire and brimstone' and then the next it seemed 'gentle as a lamb.' I understand that they were un-used to punishing her, but I think a grounding might have been something that might have been tried. It wasn't bothersome, again because I enjoyed the book and the depth to which Lacey could grow and expand to find herself. This book also brought up questions about double standards, and I really enjoyed the fact that it was questioned by the characters. Lacey earned my respect and kept it. If only everyone could be as dedicated to conscious thought and being in touch with their mind. The Abortion Girl line was a little odd. While an important topic, it was weird to see how much this girl wanted to be the character. It was almost perverse and, if you've seen the documentaries 'Hell House' and 'Jesus Camp' you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's clear that author Melissa Walker not only did her research, but she kept characters real and believeable. I bought this for my Nook and I LOVE it. I can't wait to read it again.
ChelseaW More than 1 year ago
Lacey Byer has always been a good girl and perfect Christian. She also just turned sixteen, which not only means she gets her driver's license, but also makes her old enough to try out for a lead role in this year's Hell House. Lacey's father is the Children's Pastor at the local community church in her small town, so the Hell House production has always been a "movie moment" goal for her. And this year's show promises to be the best ever. But then things begin to happen in the lives of her best friends around her, and she begins to doubt the words her father preaches. Add to that the new boy in town, and things are getting rather confusing in the once simple life of Lacey. Small Town Sinners is an enthralling book. Predictable, yes, but it doesn't pretend to want to surprise you with its actions. I had not heard of the phenomena of Hell Houses before this books, and found myself fascinated with the whole experience. Lacey was an unbelievably raw character. As the reader is pulled along through her doubt and re-invention of herself, Lacey remains unflinching honest. Melissa Walker wants to tell an authentic, open story, bold and without apology. Teen readers will have characters to identify with and are sure to find similarities in their own rebellion against their parents. I also think this is an important book for teens to read, not just for the lesson in thinking for yourself, but also for the beautiful love story that is equally as much the point of Lacey's journey. This is the first book of Walker's I have read, but I will definitely pick up her others to give them a whirl!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not usually into this kind of books but I was dying to read this book. In the book you can see how faith is put into test and how other people faith can be overbeearing. There's a bit of romance but the book is mainly about faith. I loved the book and it reflected a lot how I feel sometimes, since I go to a private Christian school and even thought I believe in God sometimes I think my teachers are wrong but they use God word to make it right, which honestly makes me mad. So I definitely recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Loved it! I have never read anything with the Hell House topic and I found it and this book very interesting! Very well written and enjoyable!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The characters are very well developed, making them very likable. Two thumbs up.
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Summer res 1