Austin longs to be a part of the No-Jesus Christmas Parade. She wants to ride on the front of a truck just like Sundi Knutt, the current sweetheart of the FFA for Big Wells High School. There are only a few stumbling blocks in her way. But Austin is determined. She tells her mother she wants a chicken for Christmas. Behold, Charles Dickens, a beautiful black bantam rooster that will be Austin's claim to fame or so she hopes. There are some other obstacles, most notably the arrogant and irritating Dean Ottmer, fellow student and son of the town's car dealer. And Austin's mother can sometimes cause problems.
Austin is a fully fleshed (well, except for an appalling lack of chest) character who is trying hard to put her past behind her while not letting go of the things and people who are important to her. She is controlled by her fears but is slowly learning how to face them down. Pluck, not quite. Determination, you bet. And heart and brains and so much more. I am, of course, just a tad partial to a story set in my now home state. However, there is little here that would fail to translate into any place where a teenaged girl longs to be a PART of the world around her, wishes to wave from the crowd with self-confidence, wants to face down her demons and move on.
Alas, no cover yet. Here's hoping that will come soon. (Feiwel and Friends, September 2009)