Title: The Sweetheart of Prosper County
Author: Jill S. Alexander
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Pub. Date: September 1st 2009
Main Themes: Friendship, Bullying, Self-Esteem, Love, Family, Identity
Plot (from back of ARC):
"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."
This novel is absolutely adorable! That makes it sound a bit like a middle grade book so something, but it really isn't. Austin is young, only fourteen actually, but she really seems older. Everytime that attention was drawn to her age and I remembered she was only 14 I was a bit startled actually. While she isn't the most mature character, she definitely didn't seem that young.
I was never in FFA, but I'm from a small town where FFA is a bit of tradition, and in ways a lifestyle, for many families and kids. Reading about Austin's adventures in chicken-raising made me wonder if a missed out a little!
I was pleasantly surprised by the references to noodling and Matthew McConaughey! I know what you're thinking, "that is such a random comment to have in a review!" But it is true. One of the best parts about The Sweetheart of Prosper County was that it was so well rounded. There were all sorts of references: FFA, southern, current/pop culture references all blended together to make Austin's world believeable.
Austin was definitely the star of this novel, but the minor characters helped it shine! Charles Dickens the Rooster, Maribel, Lewis, Josh, and Sundi all were amazing characters, no matter how big or small their part in the novel.
I thought Austin's friendships and budding romance were believable and well written. There was even a subtle sexual reference that I thought was tastefully done and reflected Austin's age and personality well...
Ratings (Out of 10):
Writing style: 10
Total: 50/50 (A!)
I loved Austin and her quest to become a Sweetheart - even though I think she was a Sweetheart all along! Jill S. Alexander is an author to watch - I can't wait for her next novel!