Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book Review: Knights of the Hill Country

Title: Knights of the Hill Country
Author: Tim Tharp
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: A

Abbreviated Summary (from "In a small Oklahoma town, one star linebacker must decide what kind of man he wants to be--both on and off the field. Welcome to Kennisaw--where Friday night high school football ranks right up there with God and country, and sometimes even comes in first. This year, the Kennisaw Knights are going for their fifth straight undefeated season, and if they succeed, they'll be more than the best high school team in the eastern Oklahoma hill country--they'll be legends... This unforgettable novel is the story of a boy whose choices will decide the kind of man he becomes, and raises powerful questions about sportsmanship, loyalty, and the deceptiveness of legends."

Review: I read this story over the weekend, and I found it to be really good--very Friday Night Lights (and I LOVE Friday Night Lights). Hampton Green, the afore-mentioned star linebacker is a likeable character (if you can get around his bad grammar and southern dialect and affinity for idioms like "He doesn't give a day-old donut" and "Boy Howdy!")

Also, the girls in Hampton's life (the not-so-cut-out-to-be-a-football-player's-girlfriend Sara, and the way-too-typical-football-player's-girlfriend Misty) are really well done. There's scene in which Sara and Hampton are riding with two of Hampton's friend and she puts herself out there, inviting him to do something with her family (because she eschews high school pecking orders), but his friend is blatantly rude. I felt super bad for her and felt her character really come out at this point. Plus, Misty should be a charicature, but she gets some redeeming play in the end of the book.

You want to not like Hampton's best friend, Blaine, but you have to. (Or you at least have to feel pity for him.) Either way, all the characters are well-developed. Another benefit to this book was that the conflict, albeit on a high school, still felt genuine to me. I got it.

The only drawback, what brought this from an A+ down to an A was the dialect. I understand the hill country of Oklahoma probably has a strong sense of language (use of "hisself" rather than "himself"), but it made for herky-jerky reading in my particular case. If that could have been dialed back just a touch, it would have been completely spot-on for me as a Midwestern reader. I think I'll be picking up some more of Tharp's books.

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