I read this book for my first Random Read, a monthly meme hosted by I’m Loving Books. At the rate that I add to my TBR list, making a point to read one book a month from the list is like trying to save the Titanic by tossing all the paperclips overboard. I guess you have to start somewhere…Anyway. The book.
Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
January 19, 2011
Hardcover, 259 pgs.
Sixteen-year old Lacey Anne Byers is a small town girl and daughter of an Evangelical Pastor. As a junior, she is finally able to audition for the star role in her church’s annual Hell House, a haunted house showcasing a variety of sins and their consequences. Of course, if she doesn’t land the part of Abortion Girl, she’ll still be thrilled to participate in any way she can. Souls are at stake, after all. As preparations for the annual event begin, two shocking events shatter the security that Lacey has always known and she finds herself questioning her church, her parents, and her faith for the first time in her life.
When I first picked this book up, I could not figure out why I even had it on my TBR list. At first I thought that maybe I added it after reading and enjoying Unbreak My Heart by the same author, but the timeline doesn’t work. I suppose it really doesn’t matter, but I do find it interesting that I thought I should read about Evangelical Christian teens. I found the entire idea of Hell House to be fascinating and disturbing all at once. I really struggled with the first part of the book, where everything is black and white with Lacey and many of her ideas conflicted with my own beliefs. While I was never able to fully connect with most of the characters, I really appreciated the way Ty gently challenges Lacey to think for herself. I also felt that Lacey’s growth was quite realistic. While she had doubts and questions, she did not fully abandon her faith. Instead, she went in search of ways to make it more meaningful for her. This book thoughtfully and respectfully discusses the sensitive issues of religion. Teens struggling with their own doubts may find comfort in Lacey’s story, but in the end this was not a favorite of mine. And I could have continued to live blissfully unaware of Hell Houses…
I enjoyed Anna Jarzab’s debut novel, All Unquiet Things, so I was excited for the opportunity to read her second novel. Jarzab departs from the mystery format and offers readers a work of contemporary fictions.
The Opposite of Hallelujah
October 9, 2012
Random House Children’s Books
Caro Mitchell was a just young girl when her older sister, Hannah, left home to join a cloistered convent. Hannah never really explained her reasons for becoming a nun and now, eight years later, she is not offering an explanation for her sudden arrival back home. Caro has gone from feeling like an only child to sharing her home with a stranger. The sisters’ relationship is strained and awkward, to say the least. Caro’s inability to cope with and understand her sister causes her to lie to her friends and new boyfriend. When her lies are revealed her carefully compartmentalized worlds collide and things really fall apart. It is not until Caro inadvertently uncovers the secret Hannah has been keeping that true healing begins. Caro seeks solace in an unexpected source and this person helps to not only restore Caro’s own faith, but also help her to understand Hannah’s loss of faith.
I have not come across many YA novels that tackle the issue of religion and faith and Anna Jarzab does so with grace. The story is as much about loss, grief, and family as it is about faith, religion, and god. There are so many things that I liked about this story. I am a big fan of a flawed character who grows and develops over the course of a book. Caro and Hannah both fit the bill perfectly. Caro is pretty bratty and even unreasonable in the beginning, not that I can really blame her. Meek and passive Hannah has single-handedly destroyed the comfortable family unit Caro is accustomed to and now no is happy. As for Hannah, she is so broken and closed down that she can not function. Both sisters have a lot of work to do. I love the romance between Caro and Pawel. The work required to make their romance possible is refreshingly realistic, especially when so many teen books are riddled with couples who instantly fall head-over-heels in love and overcome all obstacles together. I also found Caro’s love of science and the discussions of the relationships between religion and science interesting. Teens will be able to relate to any number of issues addressed in this novel. The religious aspect is not heavy-handed, preachy, or off-putting. Teens looking for books about faith will welcome this novel. Teens who enjoy books featuring family conflict and drama will also enjoy this book. Readers should be aware that there is underaged drinking involved, though the teens are responsible about not driving after drinking.
This book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.com