Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wordcraft -- Channeling Austen on the football field


by Kay Honeyman

As 2017 approaches, this blog site will metamorphose into a book review site. Not that I’ve ever been reluctant to share space with current authors, especially when, like Kay Honeyman, they’re fellow Texans. The following review of her YA novel, Interference, has also appeared at Goodreads and Amazon.


Honeyman and daughter
Jane Austen fans can have Elizabeth Bennet – my favorite  Austen heroine is Emma Woodhouse. Yes, that Emma, the insufferable know-it-all who tries to fit her friends into incongruous romances while blind to her own admirer, her almost equally know-it-all brother-in-law George Knightley. So I was delighted to find the Emma-Knightley trope still alive and well on the plains of West Texas in Kay Honeyman’s YA romance, Interference. But there are no bonnets or maidenly blushes in Honeyman’s version. This time around, it’s congressman’s daughter Kate Hamilton who’s channeling Emma. After a vengeful ex-boyfriend posts disgraceful photos of Kate online, her family retreats to her father’s hometown of Red Dirt, Texas.

But is the move to spare Kate the notoriety of scandal at her D.C. school, as she broods, “. . .what pushed Mom and Dad into this three-day, five-state road trip was that the pictures made them look bad, like they were neglectful parents,” Kate broods. “Part of me wished that for once they’d spent some of their political capital to defend me. . . Instead, we packed up and drove to Texas.”

Or, as she also suspects – and doesn’t sit well with a teen – is the move really to reboot her father’s flagging political career, as he is down 15 points in his bid for reelection in his East Coast district?

Not that her family’s problems weigh heavily on Kate’s mind. She’s more worried about her standing at her new high school in the tiny town of Red Dirt, Texas. The photo-scandal at her former school has ruined any chance for the teachers’ recommendations. She’ll need great photographs in her own portfolio to qualify for admission to the art college she has her heart set on. Not to mention a long string of volunteer hour credits

Red Dirt High School offers no classes in photography and its only darkroom belongs to the school’s yearbook sponsor. Can Kate take pictures for a yearbook, especially of the high school football team that is the town’s pride and joy? She swallows her pride in exchange for a chance to use the darkroom.

And those volunteer hours? Her only chance to add them to her resume is a local animal shelter, where Kate is quickly introduced to the realities of ranch life. And to the other volunteer – enigmatic fellow Red Dirt student Hunter Price, who scorns Kate’s big city pretensions.

Adding to her horror, she finds herself immersed in politics both inside and out of high school, yet another political campaign, when her father files as a surprise candidate for Congress from Red Dirt’s district – with an opponent whose son Kyle is the star quarterback of the high school football team. Still, Kate decides, handsome Kyle would make the perfect boyfriend for her new friend, fellow yearbook photographer Ana Gomez. Or would the annoying Hunter, who mysteriously quit the football team himself, make a better match for best friend Ana?

As Kate’s matchmaking brings turmoil to all around her, she finds herself actually beginning to enjoy Red Dirt, enjoy using her political skills to help her father – and finally realize where her own heart is leading her.

I’ll admit, I had to let some of the turmoil of this year’s election campaigns cool off before I could bear to read a story about another election. Honeyman's Texas -- and its politics -- are of a kinder, gentler strain than those most adults would recognize. But her sprightly dialogue, the gritty, gutsy teen characters – slightly smoothed over for younger readers -- and the genuineness of the Texas setting and the state’s mania for football make Interference worth my vote. 

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