We know not to judge a book by its cover but we all do it, right? Alas, even librarians are not immune to a well played dust-jacket. When SMALL TOWN SINNERS by Melissa Walker crossed my desk I immediately slid it on over to the TBR pile. Glad I did.
Lacey Anne Byer is a good girl. Only child of the youth minister of the Church of Enlightement, Lacey wears a promise ring and has never thought twice about some of the heavy handed practices of her congregation - like the annual Hell House held on Halloween Weekend.
Designed to save souls by portraying sins that will lead the sinner to damnation, Hell House is a big deal in her small hometown. Such a big deal that the much coveted role of Abortion Girl is usually reserved exclusively for seniors. Lacey is only a junior, but she gets the role when the girl originally cast has to drop out - because she's pregnant.
Scuttled away to have her child in a home where the babies are given up for adoption, the teen mother simply ceases to exist in their hometown, and is never spoken of. Yet the father is still in their midst, walking the halls, playing sports... even participating in Hell House. The double standard festers in Lacey's mind, and the independent seed of thought is fertilized by Ty - a childhood friend who returns to West River in an effort to escape a dark secret of his own.
SMALL TOWN SINNERS is deftly done, portraying a teen not questioning the existence of God, but rather some of the harsher elements of the faith she's been raised in. Equally impressive is Ty's character serving not as a bad influence but rather an opening in the box that Lacey has been existing inside of, and their talks at night in the park - which Lacey sneaks out of her house to have - question right and wrong, black and white, while the romantic tension runs strongly underneath their every word.