I’ve heard Dairy Queen bounced around the kidlitosphere for about a year now, and never got around to reading it. When I saw the paperback edition at Borders, I decided to pick it up. I just finished reading it and very much enjoyed it! Catherine Gilbert Murdock has created a memorable character in DJ Schwenk and captures her perfectly in the conversational tone of the book. DJ speaks to the reader, in a casual and chatty manner, sometimes irritating you and other times making you want to just hug her.
DJ Schwenk is 15 (almost 16), the only girl in her football-loving family, and is single-handedly running her family’s dairy farm. Her father (himself a former football player and coach) had a huge blowout with her older brothers currently playing college ball, and they haven’t been home since. Coupled with his hip injury, that leaves just DJ to run the farm. It’s been a miserable year for her, and she even managed to fail English. That failure would keep her from playing basketball and running track in the next school year if there were any chance at all that she could get away from the farm. But knowing that won’t happen, DJ has very little motivation to finish her incomplete work and pass the class over the summer.
Just when she thinks shoveling manure and baling hay (with her family’s ancient baler) is the worst she will deal with that summer, family friend and rival high school football coach Jimmy Ott tells DJ he wants her to train his quarterback. Brian turns out to be snobby, rich, and quite a wuss when it comes to both farm work and football training. However, both Brian and DJ grow over the summer…..leading to DJ’s decision to finally do something that makes her happy- trying out for the boys’ football team. Her decision has many unintended consequences, some of which alter her life in ways she never could have imagined.
DJ is a strong female character, which I am always on the lookout for. She is self-aware, but not unrealistically so. She may complain sometimes about her looks, her family, and her life but she has come to terms with her own reality and her complaints are more realistic than many of her contemporary novel heroines. I never got sick of her voice, which meant I never got tired of her thoughts. Murdock has done a great job of capturing a realistic and sympathetic female heroine.
For those who are worried, the book is definitely about football, but you don’t need to know a lot about it or even necessarily enjoy the sport in order to love this book. Catherine Gilbert Murdock has crafted a wonderful story and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Off Season.