The story of Lacey Anne Byer, a small town girl who is excited to star in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin, until a childhood friend reappears and makes her question her faith.
On my radar for several months due to the YA Contemps Challenge, Small Town Sinners is one that got into my head so much that I bought it ebook style so I could read it immediately.
The main focus of Melissa Walker’s novel are Hell Houses – in particular, the one Lacey Anne Byers wants to star in. I had never heard of Hell Houses before, and was surprised to learn that they are in fact a real occurrence and not just something Walker made up. If you, like me, have never heard of them before, allow me to share with you what I learned from Wikipedia:
Hell houses are haunted attractions typically run by American, fundamentalist Christian churches or parachurch groups. These depict sin, the torments of the damned in Hell, and usually conclude with a depiction of heaven. They are most typically operated in the days preceding Halloween.
A hell house, like a conventional haunted-house attraction, is a space set aside for actors attempting to frighten patrons with gruesome exhibits and scenes, presented as a series of short vignettes with a narrated guide. Unlike haunted houses, hell houses focus on occasions and effects of sin or the fate of unrepentant sinners in the afterlife. They occur during the month of October to capitalize on the similarities between hell houses and haunted attractions.
The exhibits at a hell house often have a theme focusing on issues of concern to evangelicals in the United States. Hell houses frequently feature exhibits depicting sin and its consequences. Common examples include abortion, suicide,use of alcoholic beverage and other recreational drugs, adultery and pre-marital sex, occultism, homosexuality, and Satanic ritual abuse. Hell houses typically emphasize the belief that anyone who does not accept Christ as their personal savior is condemned to Hell.
Sounds intense, yeah? Also sounds like a topic that would rile up individuals from both sides of the religious fence – and 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.
Because Lacey struggles with her own beliefs (mainly due to Ty, a new boy in town), many readers will relate to her. 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.