Welcome to the second in an indeterminate number of installments in the Librarilly Blonde Authorcrush Series. What constitutes an authorcrush? See this post.
Today's honoree: Tim Tharp
The attraction: Southern settings and first-person narration that will blow you away.
Knights of the Hill Country (Knopf, 2006). I didn't read this until it was nominated for a spot on Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, and then I couldn't shut up about it. I can take or leave sports books, generally. I figured this would be another football hero story, maybe with some girl angst. There is a football hero story and girl angst, but to label this book with only those words would do it a great injustice. Using slow pacing and subtle details, Tharp lays out the story of Hampton Green, whose greatest successes come on the football field. He's part of the five-time championship Kennisaw Knights and has a talent and instinct for the game. Everyone in town expects that Kennisaw will win another state championship, but Hampton knows something they don't: His best friend and fellow teammate, Blaine, is fighting an injury that could end his football career. This knowledge and the pain make Blaine increasingly bitter, to the point where he's not afraid to get in fights and engage in behavior unbecoming of a Knight. Blaine means the world to Hampton, who is also trying to deal with his mother's new boyfriend, but Hampton doesn't know how much longer he can rein Blaine in.
The Spectacular Now (Knopf, 2008) is...spectacular. I reviewed this last December and you can read my thoughts here.
What draws Tharp's books together, and what makes me squee in my authorcrush, is the way Tharp captures everyday emotions and the subtleties of boys who participate in seriously un-subtle behaviors. Hampton, for all he can do on the football field, is insecure in his academic and social abilities. Sutter tries to hide his insecurities in loud, drunken behavior. Both characters, however, think and feel deeply about their friends and families. These are the type of books I'm absolutely dying to see more of: Emotionally invested stories with male main characters. Tharp's books (somewhat like Christopher Krovatin's) understand that teenage boys, crude and stinky as they may be, also feel a range of emotions that deserve to appear in YA fiction. Emotions are not things to be afraid of in guy-centric YA, and Tharp understands that. He knows that for a book to make an impact and stay there, it has to hit the heart. So, basically, if I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I'd want to write like Tim Tharp.
Previous authors in the Authorcrush Series: