Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
Feiwel and Friends, 2011
One of my favorite books of 2009 (and I use "favorite" kind of loosely sometimes) but in this case I mean favorite books, was The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander. I fell in love with 15-year-old Austin Gray who wanted more than anything to be a hood ornament in the annual no-Jesus Christmas parade, and joined the Future Farmers of America and raised a rooster named Charles Dickens. She is a strong, likeable character, and Alexander's Texan voice captured me from the start.
Needless to say, I was beyond excited to read her second book, Paradise, when it came out early in July, and it didn't disappoint. Paisley Tillery dreams of becoming a drummer in a band, of making it big and leaving her small-town life behind. Her mother, however, is not exactly supportive, and Paisley hides the fact that not only is she in a band, but that said band is going to play in Austin at Texapalooza, which she hopes will be her big break. Life gets a little more complicated when a cute boy joins the band as lead singer and accordion player, and soon Paisley is realizing she wants her family's support and that she must stand strong and tell them, especially her mother, of her plans for the future.
The characters and the dialogue and the challenges they face are realistic. The secondary characters are well-developed; interspersed throughout the book, between chapters, are lyrics written by Cal, one of the other band members. I think it was a great way for Alexander to share his voice and story.
POSSIBLE, SLIGHT SPOILER - I know some people haven't been happy with the ending. And all I can say is that while I didn't see it coming, I didn't have a problem with it - I don't think it lessened the story in any way - and, you know, sometimes that's the way life happens.
Have I mentioned the writing? I love when we get sentences like the following:
"Despite a dark cloud drifting southward, the sun set west of Austin and left in its wake a striking afterglow of dusty pink, lavender, and orange. The most beautiful part of the day isn't always the brightest." (p. 222)
Reviewed from purchased copy
*A shout out to one of the best t.v. shows, which doesn't have much to do with this post, except that both the show and this book capture the voice and feel and dreams of small-town Texas...I watched the last season of Friday Night Lights on dvd, so my ending came in between the endings of those who watched it on DIRECTV and those who watched it on NBC, but I got caught up in the ending all over again after the last episode aired, which was about the time I was reading this book...and listening to a little Pat Green and having Texas On My Mind.