Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
DJ Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, is not having the greatest summer of her life. She is pretty much running her dairy farm full of cows named after football players alone. She has an English class to make up. Her family is its own brand of strange: her younger brother is borderline mute, her dad has a bum leg so stays in the kitchen and cooks, and her two older college football playing brothers haven’t spoken to the rest of the fam in months. And on top of it all, she gets roped into helping train Brian Nelson - the arch-rival high school football quarterback.
I really truly adore this book. I have been listening to it on my iPod, courtesy of the audio cds from the library, and I remembered just how delightful DJ is. She’s definitely not your ordinary Mary Sue characterization; she has this fresh voice with plenty of simple musings about her own quirks, her family and life in general. Her insecurities with being “built like a draft horse,” having a wacktacular family that doesn’t communicate, not being super smart or popular, and Brian being way out of her league, are all legitimate and relatable worries. She has a slew of admirable traits that I find to be less common in YA “heroines”. She works hard without complaining, she’s humble and quick to forgive, listens more than she speaks, and puts effort into improving her relationships. And of course, you have to give the girl kudos for the gusto it takes to try out for the football team.
I also love that Brian Nelson is so flawed and simultaneously so endearing. He provides a good balance to DJ. He brings out a fun side of her, and teaches her how to talk to solve problems all Oprah Winfrey style, as she would say.
Categorically I’m not sure where to put this. YA, obviously, but a chick book? A jock book? Jick? Chock? I think guys might like it, since it’s not really romantical and DJ’s not uber girly, but certainly not all dudes.
This, along with the two follow-ups The Off Season and Front and Center, is one of my favorite YA series that I’ll continue to read throughout the years. It’s a pleasure to watch DJ gain emotional depth and perspective as she gets older. It’s certainly a coming-of-age book, but not in a Serious And Heavy way. Also, there’s a lot of football in it. Maybe not a selling point for some, but I was eating it up.
Two thumbs way, way up.Book source: My bookshelf.