Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens | How Faith and Queer Meet

The author was very kind to send me this book upon request so I could read it and review it prior to release. All opinions and thoughts are my own. All quotes are subject to change and will be updated after release if different.

Everyone has that one book that they relate to above all others. It's their book. It feels like somehow the author knows the inner-workings of all their relationships and the innermost thoughts they've never shared with anyone.

For me, that's this book.

Let me give you a quick rundown of the story. This is a slice-of-life, character-driven story following this group of friends called the Hexagon (because that's what everyone calls a group of six friends, obvs) in a small town in Kentucky, but our main character is the preacher's rebellious daughter Billie McCaffrey. (If that sounds kind of like Footloose, it's because it's kind of like Footloose.)

Before I get to the review, I do want to address this quickly. I've seen quite a few reviews that say Billie is genderfluid, which I would say is inaccurate. She is a tomboy, she does question gender and what that means and why certain genders have certain roles in society, she does have male friends and has traditionally masculine hobbies and interests, she does have maybe romantic feelings for a girl, but she doesn't specifically question her own gender and the fact that she is a girl. It's actually made quite a point of that she is a girl. So, if you're going into this expecting a main character that's genderfluid, I would say this story isn't that, but it is a great examination of gender roles and stereotypes that exist.

But on the note of diversity, I would like to say that there is a demisexual character in this book, and I really appreciate the way he was represented and how his story fits into the narrative.
He liked girls too. And boys. And anyone that made him feel deeply. [...] Most people want puddles to splash around in; Thom wants souls where scuba diving is encouraged.


I adored this book. I've never seen so much of myself and my life in every character and every place on every page. There was no one character that I saw and said That's me but there was a piece of me in every single character. So, for me, they're all "realistic" characters. They are all going through the things my friends and I went through our senior year in small town, church town, somewhere near Nashville, Tennessee. The Hexagon was my group of friends. The one that wanted more than anything to get out, the one that was only there by happenstance, the one that was born there and will die there, the one that wonders if they belong there.

There's not much plot to this book, but there is the ever-present fear that the Harvest Festival--the festival that's brought their town together for as long as all of them can remember--might be happening for the last time because it's main financial contributor just died.

Naturally, our main character and her friends want to save the Harvest Festival. On this journey, Billie tries to figure out who she is, who she loves, and how she fits into this town that is always judging her. She falls in love (??), kisses some friends, and figures out who she is.

One of my favorite thing about this book is its discussion on sexual fluidity. It's not always easy to figure out and it's not always a thing that makes sense to everyone. It's messy and it's okay if it takes a while to figure it out.
I think there's a place where love equals history and a place where love equals the a future and a place where love is just love and it doesn't go away no matter whether you get it back or not. Figuring out the difference--is impossible.
But my definite favorite thing about this book is the discussion of Christianity and queerness. It's never anything I've read before (and especially not in YA), and it was done so well. It discusses the difference between people's reactions and God's reaction and how they're not always the same thing. This book's existence means so much to me, and I hope it finds its way into so many queer, teen Christian hands so that they don't feel so alone.
I decided that church members would never tell me what to do again. (Jesus could have his say--I was a person of faith; I just wasn't a person of legalistic bullshit.) Those women threw stones over a football and a girl who girled differently from them. That's the real problem--not people leaving the church, not Christians acting like Pharisees, not making up rules that don't exist.

I've said this about a few books now, but expect to see this on a favorites list at the end of the year. I loved and adored this. So, go preorder it. Reserve and request it at your libraries, pick it up next week when it releases. Just go do it. You'll love it.

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
Other Novels: Faking Normal | The Lies About Truth
Published: 22 August 2017
Format - Length: ARC - 352 pages
Source: Author
Genre: YA Contemporary
Goodreads | My Goodreads Review
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository
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.


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