A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a writers’ conference where I met YA authors Donna Freitas, Sara Zarr, and Jenny Han. Zarr and Freitas write fiction with religious emphases. (Freitas actually has a review on the back of this book!)
Melissa Walker also writes in this vein, with her characters participating in a Hell House, a type of religious haunted house that shows how sinning means a trip to Hell, but one that can be stopped if one repents and gets saved. In the Hell House, actors depict various serious sins as a method for winning people to the church. Main character Lacey Anne has always been a good girl, a dependable girl. Her father is the children’s pastor and her mother is very quiet. When Ty comes into town, he brings her into finding out that she has doubts, about her family, about her faith, and about the way people are treated because of their sins. Lacey Anne must work through her beliefs for herself and find out what she believes is the truth.
For teens with faith issues or who are interested in a realistic depiction of religious self-doubt, this is a wonderful book. I’ve never been to a Hell House (or Judgment House as they’re commonly called), but I do know that they are certainly popular in some areas, particularly southern rural areas. I found it gripping and I very much liked Lacey Anne and Ty, even if I didn’t like her parents at all…too controlling for a responsible seventeen-year-old, in my opinion!