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Dress Codes for Small Towns Hardcover – August 22, 2017
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“No one writes family and heart and the South like Courtney Stevens. Dress Codes for Small Towns is a poetic love letter to the complexities of teenage identity, and the frustrations of growing up in a place where everything fits in a box—except you. This book cannot be contained.” (David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite)
“Courtney Stevens has outdone herself capturing the complicated love of family, the sustaining love of friendship, and the most difficult love of all: the ability to love yourself for who you are. I dare you not to love this book.” (Stephanie Appell, Manager of Books for Young Readers, Parnassus Books)
“Courtney Stevens carries us into the best kind of mess: deep friendships, small town Southern gossip, unexpected garage art, and unfolding romantic identity. When I finished Dress Codes for Small Towns, you could hear my smile squeak from way across the room.” (Jaye Robin Brown, author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit)
“Courtney Stevens delivers a cherished gift for our middle grades and high school readers. The gift of friendship. The gift of safe places. The gift of love. And, most importantly, the gift of acceptance.” (Julie R. Stokes, Literacy Coordinator, Dalton Middle School)
“With Dress Codes for Small Towns, Courtney Stevens firmly reasserts herself as a master storyteller of young adult fiction; crafting stories bursting with humor, heart, and the deepest sort of empathy.” (Jeff Zentner, Morris Award Finalist for The Serpent King)
“Will be highly recommending!” (Teresa Steele of Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO))
“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.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Stevens moves the narrative beyond 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. [A] beautifully written exploration of human connection, self-discovery, and living to the fullest.” (Booklist (starred review))
“An instant classic. This is The Perks of Being a Wallflower without the angst, for a new generation. A good choice for every collection.” (School Library Journal)
“Small-town hijinks and the true-to-life interconnectedness of the characters bring warmth and humor to Stevens’s bighearted contemplation of love, family, and home. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
About the Author
Courtney “Court” Stevens grew up among rivers, cornfields, churches, and gossip in the small-town South. She is a former adjunct professor, youth minister, and Olympic torch bearer. She has a pet whale named Herman, a band saw named Rex, and several books with her name on the spine: Faking Normal, The Lies About Truth, and the e-novella The Blue-Haired Boy. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. You can visit her online at www.courtneycstevens.com.
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I'm not doing the best job describing the story, but trust me, this is wonderful. It's about discovering who you are and being brave enough to admit it to the world, something that is especially difficult to do in a small town. I can't recommend this book enough!
Have you ever read a book that's truly managed to surprise you? A book that you went into thinking okay I'll probably like this but ended up absolutely loving it - so much so in fact that you now have a new favorite character?
That's how Courtney Stevens' Dress Codes for Small Towns was for me. When I first started it, I wasn't sure if I was going to love it or hate it - it was different from my usual read but there was something that drew me to it. As it turns out, the more I read and the more I got to know Billie, our brazen, hilarious, and humble protagonist, the more I loved it. Simply put, Dress Codes for Small Towns is a compete and utter gem!
Dress Codes for Small Towns begins the story of Billie McCaffrey. Much to her town's utter dismay, Billie has never fit the stereotype of a preacher's daughter. Replacing dresses with boots and jeans, a gaggle of girlfriends with a loudmouthed, reckless boys, and shopping and tea parties with starting fires and accepting and giving dares, Billie has become the town's tomboy as well as the odd one out. However, with a friends as great as her "hexagon" and mostly forgiving, understanding parents, Billie is completely okay with this. Everything changes, though, the moments the Hexagon catches the youth room on fire. Suddenly, the town isn't okay with Billie's actions, and they aren't keeping their mouths shut about it. With Billie's father's job at risk, Billie knows she has to do something, and that something may just be rescuing the the Harvest Festival from ruin. Billie and the hexagon quickly hatch a plan, but the more the plan develops, the more Billie begins to have other dilemmas, especially regarding her complicated feelings towards her two best friends, Woods and Janie...and that's not even counting in Davey, the new boy in town. The one thing Billie does know? It's about to be one crazy month.
Billie is an amazing main character. She is fearless and strong. She is loving and loyal. She is an amazing friend and an even better partner-in-crime...basically, if Billie was a real person, I would definitely want her on my side!
From the first page, I loved her tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Billie's not afraid to speak her mind, and while that does get her in a fair amount of trouble at times, it doesn't mean she's afraid to do what she think is right.
At its core Dress Codes for Small Towns is about two things: friendship and finding yourself, no matter how messy and confusing the road may be.
I feel like books about friendship is rarely found in YA, and honestly, I don't know why that's the case. The friendships I had in high school were incredibly important to me and monumental to who I am today, so to see a book featuring a group of best friends like the Hexagon made me happy - so incredibly happy. I loved seeing how their dynamic worked. I especially enjoyed how each member brought something important to the table - no member was the same. More importantly, how each pushed the others to be the best person they could be, even if they did so in a rash manner at times.
As for finding yourself, a large portion of this book focus on Billie finding herself, especially in regards to her sexuality. I found it interesting to see Billie start the book not knowing who she actually liked - Woods, Janie Lee, or Davy. Over the course of the book, she tries out each option and soon discovers the good and bad to every possible relationship. Courtney did a fantastic job of presenting Billie's confusion over this, and I feel that anyone who's every been in Billie's shoes will be able to relate.
The writing in this was also on point. I liked the way Courtney divvied up the book, including looks at the past as well as the current time. I also enjoyed how she gave Davey a POV. It added greatly to the story and also made me come to love and understand him even more than I already did. The aspect I found interesting about the writing, however, was the fact that you could only read so much at a time...I'm usually a speed reader, but this was one book I took my time with, so much so it took me nearly four days to finish it. So my advice? Take your time with this one, it's well worth it in the end.
In all, Dress Codes for Small Towns is about friendship, growing up, making the right decisions along with the wrong decisions. Most importantly, it's about being yourself, no matter the constraints the people around you set. Billie McCaffrey is a kick a$$ character - an inspiration for all. You'll fall in love with her voice, her friends, and her passions... I promise you that.