Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander
Release Date: September 1, 2009 from Feiwel and Friends
Almost-15-year-old Austin Gray is tired of standing at the curb and watching the parade pass her by. Literally. She decides this is the year she’ll ride on the hood of a shiny pickup truck in the annual parade, waving to the crowd and finally showing the town bully that she’s got what it takes to be the Sweetheart of Prosper County.
But far from simply being a beauty contest, becoming Sweetheart involves participation in the Future Farmers of America (FFA), raising an animal, and hunting or fishing. Austin will do almost anything to become Sweetheart, and has the support of her oldest friend, Maribel, her new FFA friends (including the reigning Sweetheart, and a quiet, cute cowboy), an evangelical Elvis impersonator, a mysterious Cajun outcast, and a rooster named Charles Dickens. If only her momma would stop overprotecting her, and start letting Austin live her own life. But Austin can’t move on until Momma moves on, too—and lets the grief of losing Austin’s daddy several years before out into the open.
Here is a bighearted story that will leave readers agreeing with Austin that sometimes, it’s not what you ride, it’s how you roll.
This book is made of heart. It's a great read that just made me feel really good from the inside out. I dare anyone to read this and not instantly fall in love with Austin and her ragtag group of friends from Maribel to her FFA pals, they are all just lovable and real characters.
One of the biggest stars of the show is the state of Texas itself. Here's one of my fave descriptions from the book, "Texas is a truly wide-open space with roads--paved and unpaved, red dirt and blacktop--spidering out from old downtown squares. Momma could just set out. Lose herself on the lost highways." (taken from ARC) I've spent quite a bit of time traveling in Texas and this book captures it perfectly. I love the small town feel that the writing portrays.
Austin and her mother are two lost souls. Since the death of her father, they are having a hard enough time keeping it together, but Austin must also deal with the ridicule of one very cruel bully at school. She yearns to be a part of that parade and to finally stand up and move on with her life, not only for herself, but for her mother as well. Much of that healing comes with help from a certain rooster named Charles Dickens, who is probably one of my favorite supporting animal characters of all time.
This is a great book about moving on with your life after a loss and about creating your own path along the way. Austin, and all of the inhabitants of Big Wells, will stick with me for a long time. It makes me yearn to wander through small-town Texas for awhile.
Visit Jill S. Alexander here.