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A-Small Town SinnersMelissa Walker previously worked as an editor for ELLEgirl and Seventeen and is the author of the Violet on the Runway series.

The Story: Sixteen-year-old Lacey Anne Byer is the quintessential good girl, the daughter of the children's pastor at the House of Enlightenment, an Evangelical church in her small Southern hometown. Devoted to her faith, she decides to try out for the star role of "Abortion Girl" in her church's annual production of Hell House, which depicts the fate of unrepentant sinners. Then the arrival of Ty Davis, a cute new boy, changes everything. Soon, Lacey starts to question her religion, her faith, her ideas of marriage, and even her purity as she becomes closer to Ty and begins to clash with her parents--all the while embarking on a path toward a better understanding of herself.
Bloomsbury. 276 pages. $16.99. ISBN: 9781599905273

Candace's Book Blog 4 of 5 Stars
"Although religion is very heavy through the book it's not pro religion nor against it. ... In my opinion the author did a brilliant job in creating a story that many can relate to even if their own experience is actually quite different." Candace

Chick Loves Lit 4 of 5 Stars
"The scenes in the Hell House will shock you, particularly if you have never heard of them before, and you will become engrossed in the story. Small Town Sinners is an excellent contemporary, and not one with the usual contemporary themes."

Linus's Blanket 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Walker is balanced in her storytelling and I liked that Lacy was such a lovable and relatable character even when she is being judgmental and infuriating. ... Walker has written a quick but thoughtful read that delves into complex issues, and with engaging characters who make realistic progress in solving the problems they face. Recommended." Nicole

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Ty feels more like an import from the Department of Wish Fulfillment than a real character in the scope of this story. This makes Small Town Sinners read somewhat more like a standard teenage romance than the quietly astute story about religious growing pains it otherwise is." Carlene Bauer

Critical Summary

"While the topics covered in Small Town Sinners will have you questioning what you think your morals are, in no way does Melissa Walker force or try to coerce you into thinking one way or another," writes the Chick Loves Lit critic. Indeed, Walker's novel presents different sides of complex moral and religious issues while depicting one teenager's difficult struggle with her conservative, evangelical upbringing. Yet though reviewers praised Walker's handling of issues, the New York Times Book Review felt that Lacey's "blind faith may not be entirely understandable to those who have never believed as she does"--nor is Ty a plausible character. But if parts of the novel belie credibility (though the convincing scenes of Hell House will scare many), most readers, religious or not, will find a touching, provoking, and hot-button-issue coming-of-age story.