Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Sweetheart of Prosper County: Do the funky chicken

Back in June, I went to a panel at BEA where editors talked about their lead YA titles for Fall 2009. During a panel that mostly focused on speculative fiction (including the fourth YA book about the Knights Templar published in a year...publishing trends are so interesting!), Liz Szbala of Feiwel and Friends mentioned a book I couldn't wait to get my hands on: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander. Lucky for me, Feiwel had extra copies of the book and gave them out after the panel.

About the book: There's a rooster on the cover. What's not to love?

Kidding. There's more to it. During the annual No-Jesus Christmas Parade, Austin Gray, almost fifteen, decides that she's tired of being a parade watcher. She wants to be a parade participant. Specifically, she wants to be a hood ornament, a local Sweetheart elected by a club like the Rodeo Club or, in Austin's case, the Future Farmers of America. To be a part of the FFA and have the chance to be sweetheart, she'll have to raise a farm animal and learn to hunt or fish. Her farm animal of choice? Poultry. Specifically, a black Bantam Rosecomb rooster who she names Charles Dickens. Austin is convinced that Charles Dickens will help make her into the person she wants to be: popular, beautiful, and independent. When she's sweetheart and riding on top of the car in the parade, bully Dean Ottmer will stop making fun of her and her mother will stop being so strict. Only, you and I know it doesn't always work out that way.

Why you'll love it: Except for a few trips to Disney World, I have never traveled anywhere south of Maryland. Yes, Teri Lesesne, that means I've never been to Texas. But? That didn't matter. Alexander did a wonderful job of describing Austin's small eastern Texas town and the characters who live there. The big theme of this book is independence, which comes in a few forms: Austin's rearing of Charles Dickens, participating in her best friend Maribel's quincineara, figuring out what to do about Dean Ottmer, and getting her mother to finally talk about her father's death. On a personal level, I liked the general lack of romance as a plot. There's some goo-goo eyes and hand-holding with a cute boy, but Austin, her family, and her goals are always the focal point. It is, for want of better words, a sweet book about a girl who is a sister doing it for herself. (Sorry, Annie Lennox.)


melissa said...

Actually, hon, you have been to Texas. ALA in San Antonio? :-)

Great review! I will have to try and track this down, as my high school had FFA and was in a semi-rural environment, so I bet I'll recognize some of the characters in the book from my HS years.

Marie said...

Sounds like a pretty unusual book!