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Dress Codes for Small Towns
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Dress Codes for Small Towns
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A Golden Kite Honor Book of 2018 * A Kirkus Best Book of 2017"A poetic love letter to the complexities of teenage identity, and the frustrations of growing up in a place where everything fits in a...
A Golden Kite Honor Book of 2018 * A Kirkus Best Book of 2017"A poetic love letter to the complexities of teenage identity, and the frustrations of growing up in a place where everything fits in a...
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  • A Golden Kite Honor Book of 2018 * A Kirkus Best Book of 2017

    "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."—David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite

    "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, 2017 Morris Award Winner for The Serpent King

    "Courtney Stevens carries us into the best kind of mess: deep friendships, small town Southern gossip, unexpected garage art, and unfolding romantic identity."—Jaye Robin Brown, author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

    As the tomboy daughter of the town's preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She'd rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

    But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she's in love with Woods, Billie's filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods...and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

    Always considered "one of the guys," Billie doesn't want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic.

    Except it's not just about keeping the peace, it's about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it's not that simple.

    Readers will be drawn to Billie as she comes to terms with the gray areas of love, gender, and friendship, in this John Hughes-esque exploration of sexual fluidity.

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, Golden Kite Award Honor Book Dress Codes for Small Towns, and the e-novella The Blue-Haired Boy. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. You can visit her online at www.courtneycstevens.com.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 31, 2017
    Otters Holt, Ky., is home to the Harvest Festival, a giant “Corn Dolly” statue, and Billie McCaffrey, daughter of the local preacher—and a girl no one expects to ever win a (much smaller) Corn Dolly, a cornhusk doll awarded annually to a woman who best exemplifies femininity and grace. The summer before senior year, tomboyish Billie begins to fall for her two best friends, Woods and Janie Lee, just as those same two friends start having feelings for each other. With the Harvest Festival in peril of cancellation, Billie and her five closest pals, aka the Hexagon, rally to save it. Billie’s shifting relationships with her friends, father, and small town are poignant, as is her evolving friendship with Hexagon member Davey, who introduces her to a world outside of Otters Holt, where she feels freer to question and explore her sexuality. 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. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kelly Sonnack, Andrea Brown Literary.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 15, 2017
    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(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    June 1, 2017

    Gr 9 Up-Billie McCaffrey likes making epitaphs for herself. Though she's not always sure what her gravestone will say, she's certain that it will be in Otters Holt, KY, and she's proud of that. Another thing she's proud of? Her group of friends. Lovingly dubbed the Hexagon, they are all joined at the hip. After a prank gone wrong, Billie has to examine her identity as her friends begin to look closer at the oddities that they had previously dismissed. Navigating gender expression and sexuality, this is a book about love-the kind you find in friendships and romantic relationships-and how confusing it can be to understand the difference between the two. The book has a large cast, and two of the six friends unfortunately fall to the wayside, not getting quite the depth that Billie, Woods, Davey, and Janie Lee receive. However, these less developed characters never become tropes, and the narrator's fondness for them is evident. Billie provides a refreshing look at the ways faith and the church as an organization can clash. This story also celebrates experimentation with identity: Billie tries out quite a few throughout. As she finds herself, readers will be rooting for her until the very end. VERDICT An instant classic. This is The Perks of Being a Wallflower without the angst, for a new generation. A good choice for every collection.-Kathryn Kania, Goodwin Memorial Library, Hadley, MA

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2017
    Grades 9-12 *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 McCaffreyartist, preacher's daughter, and general troublemakerfinds 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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

  • David Arnold, New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite "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."
  • Stephanie Appell, Manager of Books for Young Readers, Parnassus Books "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."
  • Jaye Robin Brown, author of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit "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."
  • Julie R. Stokes, Literacy Coordinator, Dalton Middle School "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."
  • Jeff Zentner, Morris Award Finalist for The Serpent King "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."
  • Teresa Steele of Old Firehouse Books (Fort Collins, CO) "Will be highly recommending!"
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "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."
  • Booklist (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."
  • School Library Journal "An instant classic. This is The Perks of Being a Wallflower without the angst, for a new generation. A good choice for every collection."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "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.
  • Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) "Stevens shows the courage it often takes to find oneself and then to be true to that. This story could contribute to open discussions about gender and sexuality."

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