Thursday, April 26, 2007

Knights of the Hill Country

Knights of the Hill Country, by Tim Tharp
$11.53 at ISBN: 0375836535
Very easy to read and very short, which has placed this book in the "Teen" section of most bookstores. The story revolves around two boys who are best friends and football teammates in rural Oklahoma. This region, for those of you not familiar, is remote and desolate, which means there are very few opportunities for advancement. Many high schoolers consider a scholarship to play college football their only way to avoid a life of working at Walmart or pumping gasoline at the local filling station. It is with two such boys, friends since early childhood, that our story begins.
Hampton's father died when he was young. His mother is a total loser, and he probably would've wound up as a juvenile delinquent had his friend's father not introduced him to football. As he gets closer to graduation, however, he's begun to look outside the world of field goals and touchdowns to try to succeed in other areas. He's begun dating a girl who's not a cheerleader, who's interested in reading and encourages him to study hard and get good grades in school. All this is great, except that is alienates him from his childhood pals to whom he feels he owes so much.
Blaine, his best friend, is determined to get an athletic scholarship, but a recent sports injury has been troubling him more than he's letting on. Football is all he knows, and the only thing he's ever been good at. His excessively strict father keeps pushing him harder as it becomes more apparent that, with his wounded knee, any route he takes to success won't involve running through the end zone.
This is one of those situations where two people are determined to remain good friends even though their lives are taking them in different directions. There's a touching scene where Hampton learns to use a book's index to answer questions on a homework assignment, his former method involved flipping through the book at random. We can often succeed in areas we didn't think ourselves capable of once we're shown how to go about it.
This is an outstanding choice for an athletic teenage boy who's not into reading. Most of the story takes place during games, and the camaraderie between teammates should strike a familiar chord with sports fans. But there's a life outside the locker room as well. Friendship, loyalty, and the drive to excel in all parts of life, not just athletics, is what turns these two boys into men. Lots of fun and a breeze to get into, this book is a treat for all ages.
Props to my good friend Mary for suggesting it to me.

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