Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens released today and I was lucky enough to receive an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from Jamie on Twitter, so shout out to Jamie for being the best! I am so excited to write this review for you all because this book was incredible. There are so many lines in here that just hit me in the heart, so I really hope you’ll pick up a copy for yourselves and have a similar experience. I will be picking up my copy (along with The Duchess Deal) after work today because I NEEDS THEM.
Billie McCaffrey has a group of five best friends that call themselves the Hexagon and they live in a small town in Kentucky, called Otters Holt. Billie also thinks she’s in love with two of her best friends, Janie Lee and Woods. As she and Davey, the newest arrival to their group, become closer, Billie really begins to examine her feelings for the two people closest to her, her sexuality, and her gender identity. This is complicated by the fact that Billie is the daughter of a preacher and the congregation is beginning to turn on her dad, partially because of her. Her dad pressures her to behave in a more conventionally feminine way, a bit, and the book explores the chasm that can exist between Jesus and the Church.
I cannot pick out a favorite part of this book because I loved so much about it. I love exploring friendship/love because I think that sometimes the line between your love for your friends and romantic love can be blurry and you may think it’s romantic when it isn’t. But sometimes (in many of my favorite romances), friendship love transitions to romantic love and it’s natural and warm and lovely. I think for so many people the fear of risking a friendship that’s so important to you can be really scary and I just loved everything about how this was handled.
I also really appreciated this book because of how it conveyed the relationship between God vs. church and an individual. Wherever you fall on the sexuality spectrum or the gender identity spectrum, there are always going to be people who tell you that you’re doing it wrong. I think this is true whether those people are from the Church or if it’s just some jerk in your school or workplace. And sometimes we just need a book that looks at identity and let’s you feel like it’s all going to be okay. That somewhere in the world, you have people who will support you and who will love you regardless of how you identify. And for those who want Him to be alongside you, God is here for you. This book is not about religion, but it explores religion in a way that felt very real to me as someone who grew up in a church where there were certain gendered expectations growing up. When I came home and women could suddenly wear pants to church, it was a big deal. So I really appreciated this aspect of the book from that standpoint. And in case it isn’t clear, this book includes several characters who fall along the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, including Billie.
I hope that you all pick up a copy of this book! I know I’ll be picking up a finished copy today so that I can include some of my favorite quotes in another post for you all soon! My words in this review do not do this book justice, but this book is just so important and I hope you all read it and love it as much as I do.