Monday, October 17, 2011

'Cause Ya Gotta Have Faith; Ya Gotta Have Faith; Ya Gotta Have Faith-a-Faith-a-Faith

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The House of Enlightenment stands at the center of life in the small, Southern town of West River. It's a conservative, evangelical church that preaches traditional family values, decrying sin in ways that are sometimes very ... colorful. Like the annual Hell House production. The religious carnival vividly dramatizes the dangers of indulging in licentious behavior, like drunk driving, sleeping around, and homosexuality. Members of the church aren't exactly zealots, but they're certainly dedicated.

Perennial good girl Lacy Ann Byer counts herself among the believers. The 16-year-old obeys her parents, refrains from swearing, even wears a purity ring to announce her commitment to wait for sex until marriage. Her one vainglorious ambition? To play Abortion Girl in this year's Hell House performance. The role's usually given to a high school senior, but Lacy thinks she has a shot at it even though she's only a junior. She can't tell anyone she's trying out - What would people think? - so she's keeping her secret longing to herself. At least until she knows if she got the part.

Lacy's intense focus on Hell House shatters when she spots a handsome newcomer in town. She's not supposed to lust after guys, even really hot ones like Ty Davis, but his attention is making her hormones spin out of control. Her parents don't approve, especially since Ty seems less than committed to the House of Enlightenment. When Ty's skepticism starts making Lacy question her own faith, everyone's concerned. Especially Lacy. As she begins to see her church's doctrines in a less forgiving light, Lacy must decide for herself what she believes. And, like all major decisions, this one's more than a little complicated.

Small Town Sinners, a new YA novel by Melissa Walker, is an honest, but sensitive look at faith - how it's gained, how it's lost, how it's influenced by those around us. Every good girl will identify with Lacy's plight, empathizing with her desire to be both discerning and accepting. While I found the book's message a little too obvious (it's kind of preachy in a backwards sort of way), I also thought it was compelling and, ultimately, hopeful. Small Town Sinners didn't shake my faith in my own conservative Christian religion, but it definitely offered some food for thought. And I'm always up for that.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a lot of Angela Morrison's YA trilogy [Taken By Storm, Unbroken Connection, Cayman Summer] about a Mormon girl who questions her faith when she falls for a non-Mormon boy and a little of Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), sexual innuendo and mature subject matter

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

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