The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
The Sweetheart of Prosper County is a nice, comfortable book about growing up in rural Texas. This book will appeal to fans of The Dairy Queen books by Catherine Murdock.
Fourteen year old Austin Gray is tired of being tormented by Dean Ottmer and vows to be someone special - specifically the Sweetheart of Prosper County who gets to ride in the annual Christmas parade. To accomplish her goal, she joins FFA and raises a bantam rooster named Charles Dickens for the fair. The book shows Austin taking every step toward her goal necessary, but also focuses on her relationship with her overprotective mother who still grieves over her husband's death six years ago. The book is full of colorful and interesting characters including Austin, her friends Maribel, Sundi, and Lewis, her mom, Mayor Nesmith and more.
I do have a few criticisms of the book. The pacing is problematic - sometimes months would pass between a single paragraph. It was quite confusing. Also, the supporting characters were rather one-dimensional. Dean Ottmer and the mayor are purely evil. Lewis Fortenberry is a purely weird Elvis impersonator (and unrealistic). Maribel is purely wise (too wise for a real teenager, in my opinion). Josh, the boyfriend, was so undeveloped that I barely realized he was there. Towards the end of the book, the author tries to emphasize the moral lessons a bit too much. She tells us what we should learn from the book rather than showing us through the characters' actions. It felt preachy.
Despite its flaws, the book is a highly enjoyable read. I loved learning more about the FFA and rural life. I enjoyed Austin's world and her friends. I look forward to seeing more from the author.
Rating: 3 / 5