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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Moo-ving Sequel Has A Richness That's Satisfyingly Farm-Fresh

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain any spoilers for The Off Season, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from Dairy Queen. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Growing up on a crumbling Wisconsin dairy farm has taught 16-year-old D.J. Schwenk a few things: Constant, back-breaking physical labor is murder on a person's G.P.A. and social life; dominating on the football field tends to intimidate guys, especially when the one doing the dominating is an "oversized girl dairy farmer" (134); and if anything can go wrong, it will. In a big way. D.J.'s spent enough time shoveling poop to know that eventually, the cow pie always hits the fan and it's never, ever pretty.

Knowing this, she's naturally suspicious about how well her life seems to be going at the moment. Everyone's buzzing about her skills on the field; gorgeous Brian Nelson's always around to help with milking (as well as some clandestine fooling around); and her family seems to be mending after a bitter feud that's kept D.J.'s older brothers away from home for years. It's all good. Until suddenly, it's not. An injury in practice forces D.J. into a tough choice; Brian, who's so into her in private, seems embarrassed of her in public; and D.J.'s best friend, Amber, is taking off with her new girlfriend. Frustrated and lonely, she thinks things can't get any worse, but, of course, they do. More health problems hit the Schwenks, the farm's plummeting into bankruptcy, and D.J.'s frantic with worry for her older brother. Once again, it's up to her to keep it all together. Just like last year, she'll fight her way through, learning some valuable lessons about what she's made of, who her true friends are, and what really matters.

Although I didn't like The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock quite as much as Dairy Queen, I still find this series immensely enjoyable. It's original, funny, and filled with an optimism that's often lacking in YA literature. This book gets a little melodramatic, but it also pulls the story in a surprising new direction. Still, it remains a compelling and worthy companion to the widely-loved Dairy Queen. I'm anxious to see how the last book, Front and Center, pulls it all together. Although I'm still not wild about the Amber storyline (it seems a little contrived, as if it's there simply to keep things P.C.), I truly love reading about solid, farm-fresh D.J. Somehow, she manages to be both unique and utterly recognizable. A winner in every sense, she makes this series what it is - absolutely delightful.

(Readalikes: Dairy Queen and Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock; the parts about D.J.'s brother also reminded me of Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), mild sexual content, and depictions of homosexuality (more thoughtful than graphic)

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. Sounds like something I might like so added it to my TBR list.

  2. I didnt know there was a 3rd book. Is it out yet?

  3. K & G - The series really is unique and enjoyable.

    Laura H - Yep - It's called FRONT AND CENTER. I'm not sure how long it's been out, but I got it from my library.


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