Tuesday, August 14, 2007
In Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, we are introduced to DJ Schwenk, a 16 year old who lives with her family on their dairy farm in Red Bend, Wisconsin. With her two older brothers off at college and her father recovering from hip surgery, the burden of operating the farm falls on DJ. During the summer before her junior year of high school, DJ develops a friendship with Brian Ott, the quarterback of the rival town's football team, and helps him train for the upcoming football season. Over the course of the training, DJ decides that she wants to play football for her high school, which causes problems with her friends, family and the community. It also endangers her budding relationship with Brian, and DJ must figure out how to navigate through unfamiliar experiences and truly express herself to her friends and family, which doesn't come naturally to her.
Dairy Queen's story and characters felt completely fresh and held my interest all the way through. DJ is a complex, interesting character who is both inspiring and flawed at the same time. She is a strong, athletic girl who has no problem trying out for the football team despite the mixed reactions of her friends and family, but she is clueless when it comes to having meaningful interactions with even her closest friends and immediate family members. She learns a lot about herself and how to interact and communicate with others, but, endearingly, she still has a ways to go at the end of the book.
Dairy Queen is best suited for girls in middle and early high school, and I highly recommend it for that age group. I listened to the audiobook and thought it was very well done. The narrator, Natalie Moore, captures both the accent and spirit of a 16-year old from Wisconsin in a very appealing way. Moore seems to truly understand the characters and she does not turn them into charicatures, which I have noticed sometimes happens in audiobooks, especially those featuring teenagers. Moore also narrated The Off Season, the sequel to Dairy Queen, and I am eager to listen to that as well.