Dress Codes for Small Towns
by Stevens, Courtney

Rebelling against the role others believe she should conform to, Billie McCaffrey struggles with her feelings for two of her friends.

*Starred Review* Stevens' (The Lies about Truth, 2015) poignant new novel tells the story of a memorable summer in Otters Holt, Kentucky, fraught with big mistakes, small lies, and copious misunderstandings. Billie McCaffrey-artist, preacher's daughter, and general troublemaker-finds herself in an awkward position when she and her four best friends, known collectively as the Hexagon, accidentally burn down a section of their church on the same night that one of the pillars of the community passes away, leaving the future of the all-important Harvest Festival in jeopardy. The Hexagon, and Billie in particular, find themselves in the spotlight as they work to save the festival and stay out of trouble. Stevens moves the narrative beyond mere small-town drama by building in-depth characters; examining boundaries between friendship and romance, and different generational approaches to religion; and confronting gender and sexual assumptions head-on. The lack of didacticism and a decision not to focus on demonizing religion in the face of sexual exploration (and vice versa) makes this novel stand out in exemplary fashion. This is a beautifully written, quiet, and nuanced exploration of human connection, self-discovery, and living to the fullest no matter what others might think. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

A gender-nonconforming 17-year-old and her crew explore desire in a small town. The only daughter of a preacher and an artist, Elizabeth "Billie" McCaffrey likes to buck convention and is warmly loved in return by members of the Hexagon, the tightknit group of four boys and one other girl she hangs with in largely white Otters Holt, Kentucky. Ever the instigator, Billie encourages the Hexagon to experiment with an aging microwave that results in nearly burning down the youth room of her father's church. Brought even closer to the boys she's been collecting "like baseball cards since third grade" and her beloved friend, Janie Lee, as they perform community service to atone for their transgressions, Billie soon realizes their high jinks barely mask awakening desire as the friends begin to explore new dimensions of their relationship. "I do not know what type of love we are—history, future, or infinity—but we are love all the same," says Billie, wanting nothing of her group's emotional intimacy to change while she questions her sexual orientation and tests the uncharted waters of physical attraction. With singing prose and a rollicking plot, Stevens presents a rich palette of characters daring to brave familial and societal expectations to become what they're meant to be. A spirited, timeless tale of teen self-discovery in those tense, formative high school moments, captured with grace, lyricism, and insight. (Fiction. 14-adult) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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