Knights of the Hill Country

Knights of the Hill Country - Tim Tharp So different than all of the vampire/angel/werewolf books or the spoiled brat city kid dramas out there. I really enjoyed this book.

Hampton Green is the star of his high school football team. Not that Hampton feels like a star or even believes he deserves to be a star. Sure, he's a fantastic linebacker who has garnered the attention of college football scouts. But it's Hampton's best friend, Blaine, who is the real star. Until Blaine injured his knee during a game, he'd been the one everyone had cheered for. And it was Blaine and Blaine's father who taught Hampton all about football in the first place, after Hampton's own father abandoned Hampton and his mother years ago. So naturally Hampton feels a deep sense of loyalty to his friend.

However, Blaine's life is unraveling at a scary pace, and Hampton is starting to question things that had not so long ago seemed so simple. For example, why is it so wrong for him to want to date Sarah, a girl who might not look like the typical cheerleader/jock trophy girlfriend but seems to understand Hampton like nobody ever before. As Blaine loses his grip, Hampton has to figure out the difference between loyalty and blind obedience before his own world falls apart.

Tim Tharpe does an amazing job capturing Hampton's authentic voice. With a combination of Oklahoma dialect and Hampton's simple way of looking at things, he comes across as a real kid whose perception of himself is faulty and far too self-deprecating.

One aspect of this story that came as some surprise for me was the amount of suspense it contained. As an adult, I watched as Blaine's story unfolded through Hampton's innocent eyes - it was so clear to me what was happening and how Blaine was close to imploding while Hampton couldn't see it. I was terrified that Blaine would drag Hampton down with him and destroy Hampton's limited chances for a good future.

As a character, Blaine was hard to like. His motivations for acting the way he did are very clear and understandable, and I can totally believe his spiral out of control. However, the way he treated Hampton was hard to bear, especially given the amount of blind loyalty Hampton felt for his best friend. Many times I wanted to reach into the pages and give Hampton a good shake and tell him to ditch Blaine, that the guy was bad news and not a good friend at all. Hampton deserved so much better.

This is a great story for both boys and girls. There are some fairly descriptive passages about football games and plays, but these work fairly well and are easy to understand even for a non-football geek like me. Mostly, Hampton is an immensely likable character, and you just want so badly for things to turn out well for him.