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The Sweetheart of Prosper County Hardcover – September 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—Fifteen-year-old Austin Gray has not had an easy life. Her father died one rainy Christmas Eve when his car skidded off a bridge into a lake. Since then Austin's mother has kept her close, not allowing her to experience life for fear of another tragedy. Dean Ottmer has been Austin's worst nightmare since fourth grade, tormenting her mercilessly. So when Dean harasses her at the No-Jesus Christmas Parade about her flat chest ("Austin, Texas, the no-hill country"), she decides that now is the time to change her life or spend the rest of it as the butt of his jokes. As she sets her plan in motion, joining Future Farmers of America and making new friends, she realizes that it is not friends or popularity that will protect her from Dean, but the confidence to stand up for herself. Filled with quirky characters, including Charles Dickens, the rooster she decides to raise, this is a warm, humorous story that touches on bullying and politics in a small town. Austin is a study in contradiction. On the one hand she is strong-willed and goes after what she wants, and on the other she shows little confidence, allowing Dean to torment her time after time. But it's Austin's mother who quietly steals the show. She is a tough, no-nonsense woman who believes in her daughter but rarely shows her emotional side. A refreshing picture of teen angst, with realistic dialogue and memorable characters.—Kelley Siegrist, Farmington Community Library, MI END

Review

“A refreshing picture of teen angst, with realistic dialogue and memorable characters.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review

“First-time novelist Alexander offers a delightful, funny story about teenagers living in a West Texas farming community…Austin’s year of added responsibility and independence make for a substantive, enjoyable coming-of-age novel that will speak to rural and urban readers alike.”—Booklist

“Alexander’s debut is marked by a colorful supporting cast, fresh dialogue and Southern personality, which contribute to an entertainingly theatrical vision of smalltown life. The strong but precarious mother-daughter bond is well paired to the themes of finding inner strength and self-acceptance and letting go of the past.”—Publishers Weekly

 

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Feiwel & Friends; 1 edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312548567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312548568
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,787,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael D. Adams VINE VOICE on September 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here's the sweet thing about "The Sweetheart of Prosper County"... it is a "pure" book. It reminds me of what young adult (or now "tween") books were like before everyone got caught up writing about wizards and vampires and he-said/she-said tales that make kids grow up too fast.

Nope, Sweetheart is simply an enjoyable, refreshing tale of a young girl who is trying to discover her true self, among the things that would challenge any teen; the loss and absence of a parent, the struggles of "body image" issues, the first feelings for a boy, the realization that friends have seperate lives, the struggles to find a "group" with which to identify, coming to terms with winning and losing, how to handle bullies... it's all in this book.

Although the story will appeal greatly to rural and small-town kids who are involved with FFA & 4-H and will more readily identify with some of the themes, the fact is that any young teen would certainly find some truth and guidance in this book. The story unfolds at a decent pace, and there are enough "page turning" moments that it keeps you interested and engaged until the end.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anne-Marie G VINE VOICE on August 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Overall this book is really well done, I would have loved to have heard a bit more from a few of the more colorful characters (like the teenaged Elvis impersonator, Lewis and the local color of Lafitte). All of the characters are really well drawn and have their own voices. Austin Gray, as the narrator and main character is a fun girl to get to know. She is having to face the usual problems of a 15 year old, friends, boys and bullies and figuring out who she is. At the same time, she has an added burden of being too much like her dead father for her mother's comfort. Like him in ways she can't realize because her father and his death is a taboo subject.

I love that she decides being a hood ornament in the no Jesus Christmas parade is a step in the direction of solving her problems. Its the sort of solution a 15 year old would have. And in the end it isn't that actual outcome that helps her, its the journey of trying to become the Sweetheart.

I'd say a good age range for the book is 11-15, it doesn't have any objectionable material in it and I love that it isn't focused on romance, there is a potential romantic interest in the book but it isn't what the narrative is about.

It also has some wonderful turn of phrases in it some of which are in Spanish thanks to Austin's best friend Mirabel. It would be a great Christmastime read or gift as it is focused on that time of year though it spans a whole year of narration. It does touch on some serious issues (parent death, drug use, alcohol abuse, reckless driving...) but it never gets overly dark in its contemplation of these.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SZAA on November 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved the setting of this teen novel. I really think that we don't get enough books set in the "hicktowns" of America, featuring teens that love fishing, hunting, getting dirty, and taking care of animals. I grew up in one of these towns, where the first day of hunting season typically meant half the school took the day off and teachers just let it slide, and where we actually had an annual "drive your tractor to school day." Being "country" was the way life was and nobody knew any different. So, I really loved the Texas setting, the inclusion of the FFA, and the idea of the County Sweetheart riding on the hood of a pickup truck. My kinda people! I think author, Jill S. Alexander really got that part of our world.

I thought the plot was really cute and the different characters were certainly unique and interesting, though at times a bit over the top. I wasn't a huge fan of the Elvis impersonator, Lewis, I thought he was overly silly and not a bit believable. I also, unfortunately, wasn't a huge fan of the main character, Austin. I liked everyone else, but she and Lewis made were written by an adult and that was very apparent. I didn't feel Austin was a teen, I felt she was a fake teen and that's not good.

Overall, cute and funny. Teen girls will enjoy the the plot, with the tad bit of subtle romance and the heavy friendship elements.Oooh and I loved the cover. Definitely a great job there!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Megan VINE VOICE on February 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jill S. Alexander's THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY is a glimpse of life for Austin Gray, a teenage girl struggling with the grief she feels over her father's death and her desire to become something more than what she is: a quiet, almost-friendless loner who spends her time working at her mother's hardware shop or hanging out with Maribel, her best friend. Her rooster, a gift from a local Creole man, adds a new dimension to her otherwise sheltered existence -- and working toward entering Charles Dickens in the county fair gives her a goal.

While I liked Austin and wanted her journey toward happiness and self-esteem to go well, I can't say that I particularly connected with her or any of Alexander's characters. Austin's rationale for joining the FFA, raising her rooster and striving toward becoming sweetheart is all about finding acceptance, but I didn't feel like she really wanted to change... that she was actively striving to become a stronger person. Somehow, the plot felt thin -- and it didn't take long for me to become frustrated with Austin, who consistently did what her grieving mother asked her not to do.

The novel is fast-paced and a very quick read; I finished it in just a few hours. Fans of Southern fiction and small-town settings will find Big Wells, Texas, charming and quaint, and the setting helped keep my interest. Those love coming-of-age stories with a touch of romance will find something to enjoy here, too. But for me? Just didn't live up to my expectations, especially with such an adorable cover.
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