Lacey Anne Byer makes being a Preacher’s Kid look easy: She's happy to honor her curfew, proud of her purity ring and keen to perform her heart out in the plum role of Abortion Girl at her evangelical church’s annual Hell House.
Each shocking scene in Hell House—an abortion gone tragically wrong, a fatal drunk-driving incident, a gay marriage cut short when one man dies of AIDS—aims to touch attendees’ hearts, bringing them closer to God, and Lacey is absolutely on board with this mission. But when adorable Ty Davis returns to tiny West River after years away, Lacey’s previously unshakeable beliefs start to wobble. Ty brings out the questioning young theologian in Lacey, encouraging her to wonder if small sins are as bad as big ones and if sins are always, well, sinful. The issue of unplanned pregnancy moves from hypothetical to real when Lacey’s friend Tessa gets pregnant; Lacey chafes at Tessa’s being shipped off to a home for unwed mothers while the baby’s father remains at home, apparently consequence-free. Lacey’s questioning of beliefs she’s always held so firmly (and, OK, sneaking off to hang out, ever-so-chastely, with Ty) yields the first serious conflict she’s ever had with her doting parents.This secular story about religious people could easily devolve into camp mockery, but because Walker takes her character’s crisis of faith seriously and sensitively, readers will, too. (Fiction. 14 & up)