Book Review: Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – HarperTeen – Published 22 August 2017




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.

My thoughts

There was one reason I chose to pick up this book – it was written by Courtney C. Stevens. I have been hugely impressed with her books so far, I love sharing them with our readers and our readers love reading her books.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a magnificent book. It is so heartfelt, honest, and true to itself, just like its main character. And Billie truly is the star of this show. It is her story and she won over my heart almost instantly.

Billie McCaffrey is the preacher’s daughter in a small town in Western Kentucky most famous for its harvest festival and annual Corn Dolly competition. Despite the many rude comments and judgemental looks, Billie dresses and acts in a way that is true to who she is. An artist. An adventurer. A member of the Hexagon, her group of friends who she has collected over the years. But as her feelings for two of her best friends grow and change into something unexpected and her relationship with another friend brings new experiences and freedom into her life, who Billie is and what she thinks about herself collides with her father’s (and the town’s), expectations.

I enjoyed this book from the start and only fell more in love along the way. The whole thing just made me smile (when it wasn’t making me surprise, snort laugh). There was something so authentic about Billie’s character. Why am I surprised? It’s Courtney C. Stevens. Duh! Anyway. This isn’t just another tick-the-boxes, diverse-character book. Billie lives and breathes her uniqueness, but also her similarities to all teenagers. She is real and totally likeable, honest, upfront. She is unafraid to have a little crazy, blow-up-a-microwave fun. She loves her friends. She has many questions about her sexuality, how she is viewed by the people around her, and how she wants to view herself. She effortlessly combines her faith with who she is. While the Church might have different ideas about who she should be and how she should dress, this never shakes her faith in God, nor does she confuse the Church with God, which I thought was fantastic. The reader is so in her head. I didn’t even notice something until a short chapter in another character’s perspective enabled me to step away from Billie for a second and get an outside perspective and totally changed how I saw the story. Powerful stuff. 

Basically, this book is awesome. Whatever your beliefs. However you view the world. It is a book about people, self identify and discovery, family, and friendship. The friendship in this book, the Hexagon, is so awesome. While this is Billie’s story, it is her friendships that shine in this book. I too, fell in love with each of her friends and their strong personalities.

Dress Codes For Small Towns is a book that is comfortable in its skin and its roots, and a very beautiful way to address important themes. There are no labels, just the honest, confusing process of Billie trying to discover who she is, who she likes, who she wants to be and how much she can compromise to please the people around her.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Young adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Sexuality, friendship, LGBT, small towns, family, parents, faith, expectations.

Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.

Advisory: Sex scene (in a dream) with some details, and sexual references. Coarse language, f*** (6), sh** (32), assh*** (11), dyk* (5), di** (5). Underage alcohol use.

Published:  22 August 2017 by HarperTeen.

Format: Hardcover, ebook. 352 pages.

ISBN: 9780062398512

Find it on Goodreads


  1. kozbisa

    I have had my eye on this one, and am so glad you liked it. I got a little tear in my eye reading your review. I love stories like this!

    • Madison's Library

      Oh, thank you, Sam! I love everything Courtney has written so far and Dress Codes was such a surprising and delightful book. Definitely get your hands on it, I’m sure you will love it.

Leave a Reply

© 2024 Madison's Library

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑