Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Title: Small Town Sinners
Author: Melissa Walker
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: 2011

It's difficult to have expectations of a book, because when they're not met, it may not be a matter of the quality of the book but more of personal hang-ups. The premise of Small Town Sinners immediately caught my interest after reading a blog review (plus the cover is great). Lacey, a teen raised in small town Christian evangelical culture, begins to examine her faith when a former schoolmate moves back to town and questions her involvment in the church's Hell House, a haunted house with realistic "sin" situations acted out by a teen cast. For weeks, the two have long coversations in their favorite park about God, faith, religion and family. These questions are important and I'm glad there's a YA book exploring these themes.

Hell Houses are real, there's even a documentary by the same name. The film takes a rather uneven look at the southern evangelical culture that supports scare tactics as a means of reaching out to the unchurched. While it gives a glimpse into this subculture, it veers into strange tangents the longer you watch. A YA story with a Hell House backdrop is enticing, and I appreciated the examination of faith in an open way rather than demonizing one set of beliefs. I see enough of that on TV/online from American political parties.

Overall, I wanted an edgier voice, an angrier Lacey, but those are my expectations which may be unfair to hang on someone else's book. Lacey is a good girl trying to do the right thing, and I know plenty of similar girls from my life in the church. In that respect, it's realistic. I respect the author for taking on this topic in a book that isn't Christian market, but also does not intentionally slam those who profess Christian faith. I see this appealing to younger teens who've grown up in evangelical culture. This is an approachable book that is probably a good first step at examining issues of faith for those who never have.


  1. I'm glad there are books out there like this, but I think I'd be like you. I'd expect more anger from the MC. Mostly because that's how I seem to react to situations like this.

  2. Wow, what a unique theme to explore! Sounds like a worthy read- thanks for the review! Glad to have discovered your blog!:)


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