Thursday, January 19, 2012

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

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 past 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.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)


  1. Bummer that this one didn't fly but I'm glad to hear that it dealt well with the faith issues presented.

    (Love the new blog by the way!!)

  2. It did handle the faith issues pretty well. I thought at times that the parents were presented as a little too controlling or overprotective, but then again, fighting with one's parents is pretty much a staple in the YA genre, no matter what the main character's beliefs are!