Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens | Christian Book Review

I think it would be safe to say that this book wasn’t what I was expecting. I went into this novel anticipating a read about friendship, with some discussion of sexuality. However, I never saw the Christian element coming.

I’ve seen so many people rave about this book, but I have yet to come across a review that talks about this book’s place in a Christian context, so today (as respectfully as I can) I’m going to try and not only review this book, but also give you my own view of its treatment of sexuality and faith.

Before we get into what will surely be the true controversy of this post, I think it’s important to say that I largely enjoyed this novel. Courtney Stevens has a really lovely writing style that had me flying through the pages. Plus, the setting in the deep south was one I really enjoyed – I’m pretty sure this is the first novel I’ve read about the south that wasn’t a slave narrative, so it was a refreshing change.

Plus, I really enjoyed seeing the friendship between the Hexagon, and all the different ways that it manifested. It was nice to see them all so knitted together, despite their obvious differences. It was also a new thing, to me at least, for a YA novel to have such a small cast of young adult characters… aside from the Hexagon, almost all the other characters in this novel were adults, which really helped the plot get away from being totally angst-driven.

However, I know what you’re here for, and that’s to talk about the true message of this book. Looking at it broadly, this is a story of acceptance, and I think it dealt with that well. It addressed the conflict between tradition and modernity and showed how both sides need to be accepting of both.

However, I’m not entirely sure I’m comfortable with the rest of this novel’s message.

To avoid messing it up myself, I’ll leave a link here to a full article which discusses what the Bible has to say about sexuality, but in summary, there are two main things to remember:

  1. We must love everyone the way Jesus loves us – regardless of faith, sexuality, age or circumstance, everyone is worthy.
  2. Although we aren’t supposed to judge people for their decisions, we must also be aware that in the eyes of the Bible, homosexuality goes against God.

I suppose really what I’m saying is that I think the relationship between the sexual and the Christian elements of this novel should have been further separated.

For example, if Billie had not herself claimed to have a faith, and still experienced sexual insecurity, that would have left the Christian perspective to be represented mainly by her father (and his acceptance of her) and her mother (and her unconditional love for Billie).

I’m afraid that this book may be in the business of muddying the waters and contributing to our world’s growing theory that you can pick and choose which bits of the Bible you want to live by and still call yourself a Christian.

Overall I gave this novel 4/5 stars. I really did like this book, and I’m always happy when Christianity is normalised in non-religious texts. However, I do worry that it almost took that a little too far, diluting the principles of Christianity to appease a secular audience.

I’d love to hear what you guys thought of this book in the comments down below, I know everyone I’ve spoken to has loved it. I would ask that you please keep your comments friendly, whether you agree or disagree with this review, I’d like to chat about it… not shout!

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