Small Town Sinners

Gr 9 Up—Lacey Anne Byer can't wait to participate in Hell House, her father's church's Halloween outreach event that she helps with every year. Selected this time to act the part of a doomed and remorseful patient at an abortion clinic, the 16-year-old wants to make an impression with her role. When Ty, a former classmate, returns to town, Lacey befriends him, noting both his good looks and his friendly but mysterious demeanor. Ty is quickly absorbed into Lacey's tight circle of friends, making what was once a threesome into a quartet. Soon after, however, the group struggles with the news of Lacey's friend Starla Joy's sister's unplanned pregnancy, as well as with local bad boy Geoff Parsons, who bullies Dean, the fourth member of their group, relentlessly. As Lacey considers the plight of Starla Joy's unmarried teenage sister, Ty gently leads her to question the black-and-white system of morals associated with the church in which she was raised. Small Town Sinners is distinctly nonjudgmental, but, as it includes some circumspect questioning of the tenets of Lacey's faith, cannot be considered an example of Christian fiction. Walker depicts small-town Southern life with respectful realism, highlighting the place of the church as a religious and social center of the community. This characterization allows Lacey's internal conflict-between her father and his church's ideals and the new frame of reference that Ty provides—help to achieve a complex believability that lingers through the novel's conclusion.—Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
Lacey is eager to participate in her church's "Hell House" and to make her father--the children's pastor--proud. However, some unexpected developments (including a cute new boy) conspire to undermine Lacey's faith. Walker handles her characters' religious convictions with respect, depicting Hell House without condescension or judgment. However, Lacey's naiveté may make it difficult for readers to connect with her.

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