Theme: Small towns
Some people are itching to get out as soon as they can and some know it’d take nothing short of Armageddon to make them leave, but either way small towns leave a mark unlike anything else. So here’s four books set in small towns, with all the gossipy old biddies and local traditions that entails.
Run by Kody Keplinger : Agnes has felt her parents hovering her entire life. She may be legally blind, but that doesn’t make her wholly incapable. She gets to rebel a bit for the first time when she befriends Bo Dickinson, a girl who can’t wait to flee their small Kentucky town and leave the rumors and her drug addicted mother behind. Agnes is the only one willing to learn about the real Bo behind the stories, and they become the kind of friends that distance won’t really separate. I’ll start off by saying that Bo is a crucial character but doesn’t have a POV and Agnes, while a fantastic character and also some much needed disability representation, isn’t LGBT. Nonetheless this is a book I loved for showing friendship between two characters who archetypically are isolated in a lot of other media.
Idaho Code by Joan Opyr : What every small town needs is a dead body. Bil is only recently returned to her hometown college when Burt Wood is found dead in a jail cell with her brother. If that’s not enough, the last time Burt was seen was when he was skipping town with another man and $250,000 of the county’s money. While on the hunt to exonerate her brother (whose many priors for petty crimes have about exhausted his “get out of jail for having cancer” card) she uncovers a whole lot of secrets this town would probably have rather hidden. Bonus points for having a ridiculously extravagant town festival, complete with a dramatic rendition of its founding, and a sweet romance that grows against all odds. This book is funny, and it’s as much a family drama as it is a murder mystery with classic characters such as the grandma who’s up in everybody’s business and the mother who seems physically incapable of being anything other than crude and embarrassing in public scenarios.
Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens : Here we have more local eccentricities; Otters Holt, KY is known for its massive corn dolly statue, Molly the Corn Dolly, and the annual Harvest Festival that awards the dolly to one deserving woman. With the death of town benefactor Big T the festival seems to be in its last running. Enter Billie McCaffrey, preacher’s daughter who recently set the church on fire. Literally. She and her five closest friends, the Hexagon, are hell-bent on saving this piece of their town, although her father might not appreciate my language there. Billie’s also trying to work out her feelings for her friends, and what exactly that means for her sexuality. I will always have a soft spot for character(s) who everyone expects to be intolerant but are surprisingly supportive. Billie is devoted to her town, and her fears of rejection from it are heart-breaking and ultimately unfounded. It’s nice to see a book that celebrates rather than mocks some of unique cultures of small towns.
Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters : Like Billie, Mike is a tomboy who loves her small town, even as it might seem to doubt her. All she wants is to take over her father’s plumbing company, and feels betrayed to watch her older brother run it into the ground after their father’s suicide a year prior. Each family member is handling grief their own way, and part of Mike’s process is falling in love with glamorous new girl Xanadu, even though she knows her feelings won’t be returned. This book is a sweet one about grieving and finding who you are independent of the people you surround yourself with.