Faith and Fiction Round Table: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Title: Small Town Sinners
Author: Melissa Walker
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
First line: “Take the wheel,” says Starla Joy, sticking the grape lollipop she’s been working on into her mouth.

Goodreads blurb: Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver’s license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin, Lacey’s junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn’t know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for Ty make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion.

Small Town Sinners was certainly a good pick for a round table discussion, as it deals with some prickly issues for Christians. The main character begins to experience doubt about the tenets of her faith that she has been taught by her parents and her church, and starts to seek out answers. Some of the round table participants were bothered by the fact that this is where the author left it: she was questioning, and that seemed to be the whole point the author was going for, insinuating that teens raised in the church need to question their faith.

As someone who was raised in the church, I know that I had to question my faith before it became my own, and not something I simply believed because my parents said so or the pastor said so. I don’t believe all people raised in the church would have that same experience, however, it simply depends on how they were raised and how personal their faith is. Mine was not a personal faith until long after I had left home.

It didn’t bother me that the main character started to have doubts and questions – what bothered me is the portrayal of the adults in the book. I would have liked there to be at least one adult character of faith who would have been a safe person for Lacey to turn to with her questions, even if only to say, “Yes, ask questions – but don’t leave them unanswered, don’t stay in a place of doubt. Find the answers!” Unfortunately, the adult characters of faith all seemed to be cardboard cutouts, judgmental and hypocritical, and definitely not a safe place for a teen with questions to go. In fact, I wish all of the characters – teens and adults alike – were more multi-dimensional, authentic people.

I found the idea of a Hell House truly horrifying – although from the comments of those who had actually attended something similar, I think the one portrayed in the book was truly extreme. I can not see a teen who was struggling in any area of their life being prompted to seek help or compassion from anyone taking part in something as extreme and graphic as Hell House. The whole thing comes across as very unloving toward people who have messed up and taken part in any of the sins portrayed. It makes me sad to know that, very often, that is exactly how Christians come across to those who do not believe.

Be sure to visit the other participants’ blogs to get their takes on Small Town Sinners.

Faith and Fiction Round Table Partcipants:
~ Heather at Book Addiction
~ Julie at Book Hooked Blog
~ Sheila at Book Journey
~ Jennifer at Crazy for Books
~ Ronnica at Ignorant Historian
~ Nicole at Linus’s Blanket
~ Amy at My Friend Amy (our gracious hostess)
~ Thomas at My Random Thoughts
~ Liz at Roving Reads
~ Sherry at Semicolon
~ Florinda at The 3 R’s Blog
~ Tina at Tina’s Book Reviews
~ Brooks at Victorious Cafe
~ Hannah at Word Lily

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13 Responses to Faith and Fiction Round Table: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

  1. Carrie- I had some of the same thoughts…

    I felt she stereotyped all the adults and made them all hypocrites, without giving Lacey any real guidance or true reasons for their faith. I thought the book was written well I just think it skirted around the issues and left the reader with a “well those people are crazy” feel

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Tina – I agree. I guess I had hoped that with more nuanced characters the book would have gone against the stereotype that all Christians are nuts, but instead it seemed to reinforce it.

  2. Heather @ Book Addiction
    Twitter: BookAddictHeath

    The Hell House stuff was crazy, wasn’t it? I just don’t “get” that kind of faith. It’s oppressive, scary to nonbelievers, and totally off-putting. I loved reading your thoughts on this as I did participating in the discussion with you, Carrie!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Heather – this one definitely had me thinking a lot – and provided some great discussion!

  3. Pam says:

    I don’t think that is how Christians come across to those that don’t believe, but definitely how fundamentalists come across to those who don’t believe. From research I have done I do not think the one depicted in the book is too far of a cry from the real ones. I, however don’t feel the need to read the book but it’s on my list of maybe someday.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Pam – I’m glad to know that we don’t all come across like that!

      • Pam says:

        Seriously. I love Christians, I give Christian charities my money always. It’s fundamentalists that have so much hate, and anyone from anywhere with any religion that has so much hate that I get iffy about.

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  5. Sheila (Bookjourney)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    I am running late on my review and I will post mine on Tuesday – I finished late last night. I am enjoying seeing what the rest of the group has to say.

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