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Dairy Queen

Review

Dairy Queen

Fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk wants more than anything not to be a cow. Cows just "go along doing what they're supposed to do without complaining or even really noticing, until they die." And if anyone should know about cows, it's D.J. Schwenk. D.J. has pretty much been running her family's Wisconsin farm for the past six months. Her father has a back injury, her mother works full-time as a teacher/temporary principal, her two older brothers are away playing football at college, and her younger brother Curtis is too young and mute to take control. There's no one else to run the farm but D.J.

So, despite the fact that she's a high school girl, D.J. finds herself spreading manure, bailing hay, and milking cows daily. At the start of summer, she gets an unexpected helper. Jimmy Ott, an old friend of the family who also happens to coach the neighboring town's football team, sends over Brian Nelson, his team's quarterback, to assist the Schwenks. Now, the Schwenk family is good at two things in the world:
farming and football. D.J.'s older brothers, Win and Bill, were the stars of Red Bend's teams. Her father used to coach and names all his cows after football players and managers.

Brian Nelson is "the very worst that a lazy, stuck-up, spoiled Hawley quarterback could be." Despite the fact that D.J. desperately needs help on the farm, she's not sure if she's so desperate as to want his help. And then, Coach Jimmy Ott has an even crazier idea. Since D.J. knows so much about football herself, maybe she could be Brian's summer trainer. Although Brian and D.J. both find the idea insane at first, they agree to try it out.

D.J. and Brian have a very heated relationship. What starts out as annoyance with one another turns into friendship. Talking to Brian makes D.J. see things about herself and her family that she never realized before. Brian comments how D.J. doesn't say too much and keeps her thoughts and feelings locked inside. D.J. realizes that her entire family is like this. Her brother Curtis is so mute that the teachers at school keep giving him tests to make sure he's not disabled. And her parents had a huge fight with her brothers and haven't talked to them for months. (Or so she thinks.)

Talking to Brian makes D.J. vow not to be a cow. She's tired of keeping the true D.J. locked up. And what does the true D.J. want to do? In true Schwenk nature, of course, she wants to play football on her high school team. Little does she realize the ruckus that will ensue when she follows her heart.

DAIRY QUEEN is a wonderful first novel from author Catherine Gilbert Murdock. D.J.'s unique voice makes the story engaging and fresh. Not only is D.J. a highly likable character, her wry wit and humor make her a tomboy with heart and a great heroine for the YA genre. The Schwenk family life is at times heartbreaking, but is so realistic that I can't believe the author isn't really a football-playing farm girl from Wisconsin.

Reviewed by Kristi Olson on May 22, 2006

Dairy Queen
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

  • Publication Date: June 4, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Graphia
  • ISBN-10: 0618863354
  • ISBN-13: 9780618863358