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Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens - Review

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it last year and it's been sitting on my LGBTQ shelf ever since, so when perusing recently I thought I'd pick it up 

What's it about? It's set in a very small town in Kentucky, USA. Billie McCaffrey is seventeen and the daughter of the local preacher, Scott. She drives him crazy by constantly doing things that are considered scandalous in the small town. She has five friends and the six of them call themselves The Hexagon; they are friends of old and are really tight with each other. Right at the beginning of the book they cook a sock in the microwave in the youth room at church and end up setting fire to it. The church deacons are immediately incensed and as penance the Hexagon have to do service for the older people in town. 

Meanwhile, Billie is trying to work herself out. She thinks she's in love with Woods, who is like the charismatic leader of the Hexagon, and always full of good ideas. She has feelings for her best friend Janie Lee, but knows her dad would never approve of a same sex relationship and is scared of finding out what exactly is between her and Janie Lee. She isn't sure how she feels about Davey, who's new to town and who is the grandson of one of the town elders, Tyson Vilmer. 

This is a book about everything - faith, love, friendship, fallibility, belonging, growing up, all of that stuff. I loved it, I thought it just touched on so much stuff and you really loved Billie and the rest of the Hexagon by the end. It made me cry at the end, which almost never happens for me.

I loved Billie - she is spunky, she's sassy, and she's also really lovely and full of faith in her god. I loved the way her faith was portrayed and I loved how she prayed. I liked her parents' characters, even though I didn't agree with them all the time. I liked certain moments she had with each of them a lot.

I like Davey best of her friends, I think. I wanted to know more about his story and his background, so I was glad we got occasional chapters of his point of view. I liked Janie Lee even though she annoyed me at times, and ditto for Woods. Fifty and Mash were the two we got to see the least, and they were kind of the comic relief, but I still liked them and I still understood the friendships they had with Billie. At times, I think all the teenagers acted badly, and I was chewing on this thinking "Oh, they're so bad!" and then I realised they're just flawed like all humans and like all teenagers especially. And that just made me like them more! 

I actually can't gush about this book enough because I really liked it and I think it is an excellent addition to my LGBTQ+ shelf

What age range is it for? I'm going to say from 13/14 onwards, depending on your 13/14 year old 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes and no. Sexuality is discussed often in the book and we see Billie struggle with her own. I'm labelling it as such

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Mash is mixed race

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, but it isn't very graphic 

Are there swear words? Very very few

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. This is one of those books that I wish I'd written; it made me think about how you would write something similar set in Britain. Like I say, nearly all the characters did things I didn't like, but for the most part I understood why they'd done them, and that just adds to the plot anywa

Would I recommend the book? One hundred prcent

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was just in the mood for it!

What other books is it like? I think it has a real feel of The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness about it. It's got that small town feel to it, and the teens are definitely Doing Things throughout the whole thing. I also think the friendships between the Hexagon reminded me of the Raven Boys and Blue. Which I obviously love

How many stars? Five out of five, I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Where is the book going now? I will most definitely be keeping it. 

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