by melissa walker — published july 19, 2011 — bloomsbury
lacey anne byer is a perennial good girl. but with her driver’s license in hand, lacey’s ready for a “movie moment” this year — something that will make her stand out. as a junior, she’s finally eligible to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church’s annual haunted house of sin. but it turns out lacey doesn’t need to play a role to have her moment. what she needs is ty davis, the smart, cute, new guy in town. ty doesn’t know sweet, shy, good girl lacey anne. with ty, lacey could reinvent herself and maybe get her first boyfriend. as lacey’s feelings for ty grow and conflicts surrounding Hell House intensify, lacey finds a reason to test her own boundaries — to question the faith she’s always known to be absolute.
i’m not going to lie — it was rough going at first. i was so taken aback at so many things, i cannot even begin to describe them. first, i had no idea Hell Houses were a thing, and i was SHOCKED. these are horrible, unrealistic depictions of life as a giant bowl of sin and terribleness. i disagree with so much that was in it. in addition, i HATED lacey anne at the beginning. she was irritating, arrogant, snobby, and she hated everything and everyone and judged people way too quickly. i was just so angry that she didn’t have her own opinions, but spit out everyone else’s.
it’s a wonder i finished the book actually, but i’m VERY glad i did. lacey morphs starting about halfway through, and once she and her friends began to see more sides of things than just the black and white, it began to get real, and it began to get good.
lacey began to bring up very real questions in her faith. ty began to discuss real-life situations, and how he dealt with things he’d done. each of the characters had their own battles, and i really began to enjoy reading about how they dealt with their personal situations in this small religious town.
i had a hard time believing the characters were realistic, but now i think it’s because this sort of belief system is so far from what i believe that i never thought anyone could possibly think these things. and i’m religious. but i’m a jesus-loves-anyone-and-everyone-even-raccoons sort of religious person. not a Hell House person. and i loved tessa, lacey’s best friend’s sister. there is a major event that takes place in her life, and she starts to change her beliefs, too. she struggled with thoughts that i, myself, have had, and decided she became anti-abortion, but pro-choice. which i was so glad happened. because so many people think there are only two sides to that argument, and i — though my life is VASTLY different, and you’ll see why — identified very well with tessa.
by the end, i was so astounded by what melissa walker has done. she has taken very real, pertinent subjects to our time period, arguments of our generation, and has actually talked about them. she didn’t skirt around the ideas so they were vaguely there. she made them the focus of the novel, and i loved this book for that. it wasn’t a wondrous read, but it was definitely worth my time, just to have faith that the world is changing, and that people, one day, might be able to accept that everyone is human, and no matter what, we all deserve to be respected and treated equally.
i hated everything at the beginning, but it’s supposed to be that way. turns out, it worked extremely well. so thank you, madame walker, for bringing these subjects much more in the spotlight in the world of YA books.