Thursday, August 25, 2011

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Lacey Anne Byers is a junior in high school, has always listened to her parents, and never doubted her faith. As her church's annual Hell House approaches, Lacey Anne brims with excitement over the prospect of bringing people into the church with this outreach. What she doesn't expect, however, is to meet a boy whose very presence in her town causes her to question every belief she's ever had about her faith.

Small Town Sinners was not a book I was expecting to love. The premise and subject-matter had the potential to get a little too preachy for me. Matters of faith and religion in books and conversation are always met with trepidation and this book was no different.

But something extraordinary happened. I actually found this an insanely page-turning story. I became so invested in the main character's faith-journey that I couldn't stop reading. Lacey Anne showed such maturity and poise for her age and through her struggle.

Melissa Walker did a masterful job of proving her point in this novel, which is that people aren't all good or all bad. As much as we don't like to admit it, life is full of gray areas. Despite the fact that there were some characters in this novel that you wanted to think of as pure antagonism (like Lacey Anne's father for one), you can't help but be pulled in different emotional directions in how you feel about them.

The most fascinating aspect of this novel was that it introduced me to the concept of Hell Houses which I had never heard of before. The inspiration for this book was this article that Melissa Walker wrote for Elle Girl back  when she was the features editor.

Despite the fact that this is a contemporary work of fiction, in some ways it read like a dissertation on faith. I felt like this book could be an argument for why doubt and not having all answers is actually good for the health of your relationship with God. I've always thought that certainty in any religion is what breeds intolerance. Being humble enough to say, "I am only human and I don't have all the answers but I believe in your plan for me Lord," is what helps us to empathize rather than judge each other. Despite the fact that this story is fictional, it was a great thesis on how doubt is actually helpful in faith, as contradictory as that sounds.

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Published: July 19, 2011 by Bloomsbury
Pages: 259
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult


  1. I really want to read this one- I keep hearing good things! Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. An "insanely page-turning story" sounds great - I'm adding this one too, to my list to request from the library!