Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Dairy Queen
Catherine Gilbert Murdock
May 22, 2006
Borrowed from Library
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page
Grade: A

Summary (from Publisher): When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D.J. can't help admitting, maybe he's right. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn't so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won't even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

Review: Can I call this book adorable? Because it is in every positive sense of the word.

The responsibility for the family farm has been dumped upon 15 year old D.J. Schwenk's shoulders after her father's injury and her older brothers went off to play D1 football. She had to quit basketball and track and failed sophomore English due to the heavy load, and like any 15 year old non-saint, she resents every bit of it. However D.J.'s absolute commitment to her mostly silent family, the cows, and her grandfather's memory keeps her at it - with the unexpected help of the rival high school’s spoiled quarterback, Brian Nelson.

I love the fact that D.J. takes every opportunity at first to prove to this interloper that he doesn’t have what it takes to work a farm, let alone be a quarterback, and I love that she’s called on it, not by Brian who barely notices but by his coach, an old family friend. She and Brian settle into an uncomfortable football training regimen, and the disdain slowly turns to something different. This part is actually handled really well. There are no insta-friends, but as they run together and practice plays together, a mutual respect grows up and expands into friendship.

Which is when two things happen - D.J. realises she wants to go out for football too and she realises she has a crush on the new non-whiny Brian. Like everywhere else, football’s not a girls’ game in Red Bend, Wisconsin, and up to now, she’s been happy watching and cheering on her brothers, but the girl who’s sacrificed everything for her family suddenly needs something of her own, and football becomes that escape.

From there, the book really picks up steam with D.J. heading to tryouts without confiding in Brian, handling a sudden (to her) truth from her best friend, and trying, finally, to make some changes in the way her family works. The line that’s walked between sappy, obvious, and too easy is a fine one, but it’s done perfectly and in the spirit of a classic sports tale.

Don’t be fooled though, this isn’t just a story about football - like Friday Night Lights is a story of a town in Texas, Dairy Queen is the story of a girl and her family...and football.

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