Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

Summary/Cover Image from Publisher's Website
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.


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. 

Grade: A 

Dress Codes for Small Towns is now out!

Source: ARC provided by publicist/publisher - thanks Brandi at Flutter Communications & HarperTeen!

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  1. This is one that I've been really curious and excited about since I first saw it on Goodreads. The cover is what caught my eye but I really love the synopsis too. So glad to hear that you enjoyed this one. I've been seeing a lot of positive reviews for it so far. I love books that feature strong friendships. Great review, Lauren!

  2. I'm really glad to see that you enjoyed this book Lauren, I read and loved Stevens' Faking Normal, but hadn't heard about this latest book! So thank you for putting it on my radar! Great review! :)

  3. I read one of her other books and really liked it, so I do want to try this one! Glad it surprised you and you loved it!
    Jen Ryland

  4. I loved this book. To me, it was about identity in general, and it was thoughtful and had a beautiful focus on friends and family. Wonderful review!

  5. I'm so glad to hear this was awesome! The summary on Goodreads intrigued me and I so want to read it! Yay for all the diversity and focus on friendship and family! Also I love seeing certain parts of the book from a different PoV :) Great review Lauren!

  6. I probably wouldn't have given this book much notice but now that I see how much you enjoyed it, I will be checking my library for it. So glad you loved it. Great review!


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