Answer: The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander
Fourteen-year old Austin Gray has decided that it is high time she quit allowing life to pass her by. Since her father’s death six years ago, she and her mother have been frozen in a life that revolves around living day to day in Big Wells, Texas, running the local hardware store, and NOT talking about anything. She knows that everything in her life would change if only she could be elected a “Sweetheart” and ride in the annual Christmas parade. However, there is a lot more to becoming a “Sweetheart” than just a beauty pageant. In order to qualify, she has to join the Future Farmers of America (FFA) Club, raise an animal, AND win a blue ribbon in the local fair. This may sound easy, but for Austin who has become stifled by her mother’s over protectiveness, it is anything but.
On the surface, I thought this was going to be just another sweet “coming-of-age” story, but it was much deeper and I found it utterly (no offense to any cows out there) refreshing. I loved watching Austin go out of her comfort zone and make new friends (especially with Josh, the sooo cute, quiet and sweet cowboy) yet keep her old friends as well. The dynamic of Austin’s relationship with her mother was very complex and realistic. The descriptions of small town life were quaint but also filled with biases and discriminations giving it a true feel—and as the author is from East, Texas, I think she knows what she is talking about. And while the story has my prerequisite “happy ending”; it was not the ending I expected. Plus, it has one of the best “Momisms” I have ever heard:
“Sweet boys are like candy. They’re best kept out of arms’ reach or a girl will wind up wanting a little every hour of the day.”
Amen, sister! You can bet I will be sharing this advice with my own daughter. This is Jill Alexander’s first book and is on the 2010 Lone Star Reading List.
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