Yikes, I am realizing that I am getting very behind on blogging! I have over a dozen started posts that I just need to sit down and focus on. Many of the upcoming posts will be reviews on books I read a while ago, and I still have stuff I want to write about the Kidlit Conference.
The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander: Read in September 2009, ARC received from the author via a giveaway (Thank you so much, Ms. Alexander! I feel terrible this is so late in getting posted.)
Description from Good Reads:
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.
I adored this book! It has a great setting – the small Texas town – and Ms. Alexander does a nice job of letting the town be a character of the book on its own without ever letting it become a stereotype. All the characters in the book are darling. Austin is a strong teenage girl who makes mistakes and learns from them, and is able to be compassionate and independent. Charles Dickens is adorable – he made me want my own rooster. Every time I see the cover of this book, I fall in love with him all over again.
I appreciated the way Ms. Alexander let the reader see that there is a divide between the white and Hispanic members of the town without beating you over the head with it. I love that throughout the book, Austin grows and develops new friendships, but she never lets go of her best friend Maribel, despite the cultural differences. While I know that growing apart is a big teenage issue and many books focus on it, it’s good to see someone address the idea that it is healthy to maintain a friendship with someone as you both grow and change. You may not have every little thing in common, bu it doesn’t mean you love each other any less. I love that this just happens in the book, and it’s not a big deal.
I think that that idea can be applied to the whole book – there are a lot of things in the book that in other hands would be THE BIG ISSUE that is written with a heavy hand, but Ms. Alexander writes about the characters, and everything is just accepted as how they are. One of the characters is an Evangelical, and the books doesn’t beat you over the head with his religious beliefs and it doesn’t make him look like a buffoon, which is often the two extremes a book will go to to prove a point.
There is a little romance, but it is not the focus of the story. Austin and how she grows is the focus.
I truly cannot say enough to express how delightful this book is. I think readers of many ages will find enjoyment in it. I purchased it for our high school library, and I think middle schoolers and even upper elementary can enjoy it. Jill S. Alexander can be found at her blog and her website.
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