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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dairy Queen Udderly Satisfying

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In a perfect world, 15-year old D.J. Schwenk wouldn't spend every waking hour milking cows. She wouldn't be too burdened by farmwork to study, play sports or hang out with her friends. In this blissful fantasy, she would still spend a reasonable amount of time helping out on her family's dairy farm - she would just get to have a life, too. But this isn't a perfect world. It's Wisconsin. Ever since D.J.'s dad messed up his hip moving the manure spreader, her mother got a second job to take up the slack, and her older brothers took off to pursue their football careers, it's been up to D.J. to keep the farm running. She's been doing a pretty good job of it, thank you very much, not that anyone ever acknowledges her hard work. The Schwenks are too busy ignoring their problems to focus on hers.

Like the cows with whom she spends all her time, D.J. does what she's told. Until a football coach helps her come to a startling realization: Not only is she good at farming, she's got some serious football skills, too. She should - as Bill and Win Schwenk's younger sister, she's been watching and playing the game all her life. So, when the coach suggests that she help one of his athletes train, she decides to go for it. Her family wouldn't approve, so she doesn't tell them what she and Brian Nelson are really up to. It isn't just about training either. D.J.'s been crushing on Brian forever - as unbelievable as it sounds, it's starting to seem as if he might like her, too. Then, D.J. has her next big idea, one that's sure to rile up her family, turn Brian against her forever, and make her life about as pleasant as a cowpie in a flower garden. Making her dreams come true shouldn't be this difficult, should it?

Just to complicate matters, D.J. has to deal with her brothers, two of whom aren't speaking to the rest of the family, the other of whom has nearly stopped talking altogether. Then, there's her best friend, Amber, who's acting awfully strange and her mother, who's keeping a potentially explosive secret. D.J.'s not prone to chatter, but even she realizes that there's a whole lot of stuff that's going unsaid. The silent avoidance of, well, everything, is driving D.J. mad. Can she learn to speak up about things that are important to her? Or is she just another cow on a dairy farm, content to stay out of the way and keep chewing her cud?

Dairy Queen, Catherine Gilbert Murdock's debut novel, is about a lot of things - farming, football, friendship - but mostly it's about finding your voice. It's about speaking up, confronting your fears, and making your dreams come true. All of which makes the book sound more austere than it really is. Luckily, D.J. keeps things from getting too serious by employing her very charming brand of self-deprecating sarcasm. She's tough, funny, and entirely sympathetic. She's not the only character that marched right into my heart, either - I loved the whole quirky lot of them. I could have done without the Amber subplot, but all in all, Dairy Queen's a fresh, enjoyable read that's udderly satisfying (sorry, I had to do it).

(Readalikes: I haven't read the rest of the trilogy yet, but I'm sure The Off Season and Front and Center are similar.)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), depictions of underrage drinking, and references (not graphic) to homosexuality

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. I read this book and the sequel. Enjoyed both of them. D.J is completely unlike me (I am loud and dont hold anything back) its good to see how the other side lives.

  2. Very good review. I've seen this book around, but haven't committed to it yet, but I'm always intrigued. I'm just gonna have to find it now. :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  3. I loved this series. I think the middle one was my favorite of the three. So fun!

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog! :]

    And lovely review. I haven't actually heard of this novel, but I'm interested now. It'll be going on my TBR list.

  5. Wow - what a great review... at first I had to re-read the top of the post that it wasn't a blurb from Amazon or Barnes and Noble! This novel sounds like a fun, enjoyable novel - thank for recommending! :)

  6. Thanks for checking out my blog! I'm a new follower. Have a great week!

  7. OH yes! I loved this series, so much D.J.'s voice was so new and fresh I couldn't help but to fall in love with her story as well as the whole quirky schwenk fam :D lovely review!


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