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Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
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Small Town Sinners (edition 2011)

by Melissa Walker

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1251096,356 (3.65)3
Member:stephxsu
Title:Small Town Sinners
Authors:Melissa Walker
Info:Bloomsbury USA Childrens (2011), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:young adult, contemporary, religion, evangelism

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Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Heavier than Donut Days, but a good read. ( )
1 vote keindi | Jan 23, 2016 |
Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker was all right but not great. It's a fairly standard storyline: there's a Good Girl in a small town, and Complicated, Handsome Stranger shows up and makes her question all of her small-town beliefs.

Good girl Lacey Byer wants nothing more than a fun junior year with her friends, and a starring role in her church's Hell House -- a Halloween production that the church puts on to dramatize the dreadful effects of sin. Enter Ty, a new boy in town with a slightly mysterious past. He attends church, but he's not a fan of the whole Hell House concept, and he questions a lot of the things that Lacey takes for granted as truth. As he and Lacey spend more time together, talking about all kinds of subjects, she starts to question things as well, especially when a scandal rocks their church community and not everyone responds in what Lacey would call a Christ-like manner.

First off, I thought the author's handling of evangelical Christians was fairly sensitive -- a bit of a rarity, in mainstream YA fiction. The ending is not conclusive, Lacey doesn't throw off all restraint and completely turn her back on her faith, nor does she convert Ty to all of her childhood beliefs. I could see recommending this to evangelical teens, as well as to those who find that lifestyle completely alien but are a little curious about it. On the down-side, I found the writing utilitarian -- it was not riddled with errors, but there was nothing that elevated it out of the common run. Also, the big reveal about Ty's history was tamer than I expected, from all of the hype. I also had trouble with the size of the town as compared to the size of the church -- if it's a small enough town that everybody knows everybody, but the church is large enough to put on this huge production every year . . . it just took me out of the story a bit. ( )
  foggidawn | Feb 27, 2012 |
Good-girl Lacey Anne Byer is the darling of her town’s steadfastly evangelical church. Lacey can’t wait to star in a leading role in Hell House, an annual event her church puts on in order to illustrate dangerous sins and encourage visitors to devote themselves to Christ. However, as unexpected events take place—members of the church are discovered to have performed the very sins they condemn—Lacey is forced to reexamine her faith and her beliefs, in order to carve out the best future for herself.

YA contemporary fiction just gets more and more stunning in their nuanced, relatable, and thought-provoking treatments of difficult subjects. Melissa Walker’s latest novel, SMALL TOWN SINNERS, is arguably the best examination of religious evangelism that I have read in YA fiction. Its sympathetic cast of characters and the careful way it treads the middle ground between black and white make it a superb literary accomplishment.

Religion is, as ever, a sensitive topic, one that is often difficult to talk about due to its highly personal and subjective manner. Which is why what Melissa Walker does in SMALL TOWN SINNERS is so impressive. Virtually all of the characters in this novel support rather unpopular and subjectively archaic positions on today’s controversial hot topics like abortion and gay marriage. However, rather than simply demonizing religious evangelists, Walker deftly makes all of her characters likeable, or at the very least sympathetic. It’s easy to hate issues and take solid stances on them when they are distant. However, when the issues hit home—when they become personal—is what SMALL TOWN SINNERS does so well. Walker shows that things such as faith and beliefs are individual and personal. This is a lesson that everyone could care to learn and promote.

The theme of SMALL TOWN SINNERS is a wonderful one, which makes up for the fact that sometimes, I felt like the characters were a little…mild. Lacey is a great protagonist in that she really captures the ambiguity of questioning her church-based faith, but there are times when I wanted her to be more than simply a mind-churning, tears-swallowing, does-he-like-me-or-not girlie-girl. Lacey’s best friend Starla Joy is said to be this more gregarious and outspoken girl, but she doesn’t very often display that. Ty, the supposed love interest, is, in my opinion, blown a bit out of proportion in the book’s synopsis. In SMALL TOWN SINNERS, romance definitely takes a backseat to the more compelling plotline of characters questioning their former beliefs. In fact, one may even think that the romance is a little lacking, a little too contrived.

But these minor qualms of mine regarding the characters don’t really matter in light of the book’s larger message. I love that the characters of SMALL TOWN SINNERS change over the course of the story—but in a way that stays true to who they are, and the way they were brought up. Needless to say, this is probably one of the most skilled and nuanced portrayals of extreme religion I’ve read in YA literature. All sorts of readers, I think, find this book compelling and eye-opening. ( )
  stephxsu | Feb 12, 2012 |
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. ( )
  BookSpot | Nov 13, 2011 |
I didn’t know if I was going to like this book. I don’t generally do well with anything that’s one extreme or another. However, I did find that I really did enjoy this book. It was nice to see a different kind of character represented as well. Not much swearing and not much sex in this book and it was nice to see a more innocent side of teens and in today’s world to boot. Ms. Walker’s characters are very endearing. A group of friends whose bonds are as strong as steel, but willing to add another to their ranks was wonderful. It was also nice to see parents who were present, not clueless and not portrayed as the villains. Are Lacey's values strong enough to withstand a challenge? Will her family understand if Lacey's values aren't the same as theirs? The love story between Lacey and Ty was great and built slowly, which I liked. He respected her and was not the typical bad boy. I thought Ms. Walker's characters were unique and I liked them all. This book is yet another in the Contemps Challenge. I’m giving it 4 ½ sweet innocent kisses! ( )
  lisagibson | Oct 3, 2011 |
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For Dave, who is always asking questions (like, "Shouldn't this book have paranormal beings and action sequences in it?")
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"Take the wheel," says Starla Joy, sticking the grape lollipop she's been working on into her mouth.
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High school junior Lacey finds herself questioning the evangelical Christian values she has been raised with when a new boy arrives in her small town.

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