Review of Dress Codes for Small Towns


Dress Codes for Small Towns

Courtney Stevens


August 22, 2017

Blurb from Goodreads: 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.


This book is a mess, and I mean that in the best possible way. In fact, I believe that  Courtney Stevens has written a book that exemplifies the teenage experience with its myriad of confusions and emotional turmoils and conflicts between having fun, doing the right thing, testing boundaries and understanding sometimes where to draw the line.

Billie is a lovable character with all of her uncertainties and insights and self-revelations. She is searching for the right answers, perhaps not the right answers, but answers of any kind, and it all feels very authentic. The relationship with her parents, her artistic liberal mother from Canada and her conservative minister father from Kentucky, also feels real. She pinpoints the age when her relationship with her father began to flounder and how it seems to have this move forward, fall behind feel to it, how he was once her hero, her favorite person, and now how it’s sometimes difficult for them to see eye-to-eye on anything. Her parents are obviously very different and have very different expectations for her, and all of that feels real too.

The narration also has a messy feel to it, being told in a vernacular-style, but it’s in keeping with the story being told. There were a few hiccups where I stumbled over words, but I don’t believe that hindered my enjoyment of the novel at all.

Dress Codes for Small Towns had lots of funny moments, goofy moments, in which the teenagers do teenager-things like testing the limits of a microwave to a somewhat destructive effect. There’s visceral humor and geekiness, but most of all there is a lot of humanity that leaves a feel-good feeling.

This is the kind of book that you read far too late into the night when you know you really shouldn’t.

Honestly, Dress Codes for Small Towns isn’t for everyone. I wish that I could say it was, but we’re not quite in a world where someone won’t go ballistic regarding the topic of sexual fluidity. While Billie is a believer in God and Jesus, she is also struggling with her orientation; although, as the narration points out, for teenagers these days there’s more fluidity in sexuality so pigeon-holing and labeling orientation may not actually be what Billie is doing. We’ll just call her a seeker of knowledge.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

From AmazonDress Codes for Small Towns

rating: 4-and-a-half


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