Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns
By: Courtney C. Stevens
Published by: HarperTeen
Release date: August 22, 2017
Genre: YA contemporary
352 pages
Source: Galley kindly provided by publisher

The bottom line: I love this book. 

These characters are SO real. My favorite novels are ones that give me characters that, after 250 pages, I feel are old friends. This group of teens are so honestly and complexly portrayed that they could easily be walking the halls of the school where I work. 

This is one of the few YA books I have ever read that deals with the theme of modern organized religion in a way that feels authentic. The teen characters all belong to a church youth organization, and the main character's father is the pastor, so passages about the characters's responsibilities to the church and to God and to themselves make sense.

Gender identity and gender fluidity are major themes, and these ideas are explored in a way that doesn't feel like the book is wagging its finger at the reader. The topics are presented as a manifestation of living truthfully: being who you really are, rather than worrying about others' expectations. This kind of self-awareness is exactly what teens should be encouraged to strive for. The acceptance of the peer group is an excellent model to put into kids' hands, too.

This ending- well, it's just brilliant. Some will find that they don't get answers they are looking for, and that's okay. Because those answers aren't the point. The journey of self-discovery is what really matters. The realization that this group of friends is still just as close as they always were, despite the obstacles, is pretty wonderful, too.

I need a copy of this one for my shelf of autographed copies- it's that good. Today is its release day, so you can go ahead and click those order links and get a copy in your hands, too.

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Readers will be drawn to Billie as she comes to terms with the gray areas of love, gender, and friendship, in this John Hughes-esque exploration of sexual fluidity.