I had never heard of Hell Houses before reading this book, and even now it is hard for me to fathom. Apparently, Hell Houses are sort of like an evangelical Christian answer to haunted houses. They are put on around Halloween, and every room in represents a different sin. At the end of the tour, visitors are encouraged to pledge/re-pledge their lives to Jesus. It is, for all intents and purposes, intended to literally scare the Hell out of people. Now that I have explained what a Hell House is, I’ll get on with the review (and you will be able to understand what I am talking about).
Even though Lacey is only a junior, she is determined to try out for the part of “Abortion Girl” in her church’s annual Hell House production. She is confident that she will do a good job and that, in doing so, will bring more people to God. She and the rest of her friends are very excited about Hell House, but Lacey begins to see things a little differently when a new kid moves to town. Ty doesn’t think things are as “black and white” as most people in town, and he dares Lacey to think about WHY she believes the things she does. Ty doesn’t tell her that she is wrong or crazy for being religious and for believing in the things she does, but he makes it pretty clear that he is not interested in thoughtless regurgitations of what she’s been taught. Pretty soon, Lacey starts to question what she actually believes and to form independent opinions instead of simply “believing” what she has been told to believe her whole life.
I was pleased to see that the whole think for yourself instead of just believing what you are told theme applied to the way Walker wrote the entire book. It’s difficult for authors to write books on topics like religion without coming off as judgmental, but Walker did a great job standing back, telling the story, and letting readers interpret the facts of the story for themselves. In fact, her lack of judgment actually reminded me a bit of a surprisingly unbiased non-fiction book I read a while back — The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. Reading a book like this usually leaves me with more questions than when I began, but I appreciate books that make me think!